Saturday, November 17, 2007

Lesson learned: Don't spread rumors

I could kick myself. When I received an e-mail alert last Sunday that Nancy Pelosi would put impeachment back on the table if she received 10,000 hand-written letters, I passed this on in my post after determining that the source was credible by reviewing many previous e-mail alerts from her. I also stated that it might be a rumor but that it was probably a good idea anyway.

Why didn’t I wait until Monday and call Nancy Pelosi’s office to verify the information?

Reason: Since November 6th, I’ve devoted a lot of energy* to alerting people about the need to support H.R. 333, now H. Res. 799, Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s resolution to impeach Cheney, introduced as a privileged motion that day.

The miracle was that it didn’t die an ignoble death; it was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. The committee has been sitting on the resolution for months, but gee whiz, if we could get a huge calling and letter-writing campaign going, maybe the committee will send it back to the House with a recommendation to impeach.

So why wait? I felt a tremendous sense of urgency to do anything I could to support impeaching Cheney.

The result of not checking first: Yesterday I posted that the 10,000 hand-written letters = Pelosi putting impeachment back on the table has been verified as a rumor.

I learned today that on November 15th, Raw Story posted "Speakers office denies 10,000 letter rumor" and gives my blog credit for spreading it. Double gee whiz: I’ve always assumed that only a few people read my posts. I’m not on RSS, Digg, or any other blog feeds. Is this the “viral” spread of information that until now I had only heard about?

Today I also learned that not all people who support impeachment agree with me that we shouldn’t use rumors as a tactic or take advantange of them when they mysteriously appear.

It would have saved me a lot of time and grief to have verified the information first.

*I posted about it on November 5th, 7th, 9th, and 10th.

(graphic of telephone:


Chris Borland said...

If I were you, I wouldn't feel bad about what happened.

Here's what you wrote:

"I haven’t verified the information, but decided it’s a good idea no matter what."

I see nothing wrong in reporting the information you received in exactly the way you did. You stated that you'd received an email that made a particular claim, that you had not verified the claim, but thought the action proposed was a good thing to do, on its own, in any case.

That others read the information you presented in your post on 11/11/07, and re-reported the clearly unverified "Pelosi Promise" as a matter of established fact, is not your problem. You told the truth. That other's weren't similarly devoted to accuracy cannot be helped. When you found out the "Pelosi Promise" was a baseless rumor, you reported this in Thinking Out Loud, the original source of the information. As far as I can tell, at every stage, you did exactly what you should have done.

Those that embellished Gail's words were undoubtedly moved by desperation, wanting so badly to believe that impeachment (i.e. American democracy) has a real chance. This is understandable, and forgivable.

Still, those of us who know that particular information is less than absolutely factual, and nevertheless report it as such, are behaving irresponsibly, at best, and unethically, at worst.

ThePoliticalCat said...

Hi, Gail,

I think you did a good thing posting about that rumour. It put impeachment back in the minds of various people. And 10,000 handwritten letters to Nancy would not be a bad idea at all. It might remind her of why she holds her current office. Just my two cents, from your reader known as Kalimao.

Anonymous said...


Maybe Pelosi would like to hear about this in one of those many letters to Cindy: Congressional candidate has announced support for effort to remove Pelosi as Speaker, clearing way for impeachment: Contact information.

Anonymous said...

It's hard for me to imagine why people can get so worked up over whether or not Nancy Pelosi agreed to consider impeachment only if she were to get 10,000 handwritten letters.

I can easily imagine someone saying, "Our goal is to get 10,000 handwritten letters to Pelosi and then she won't be able to ignore the sentiment for impeachment."

Unfortunately, she could get 10 million handwritten letters (or even 10 million written in blood) and still "Impeachment would be Off the Table."

There, now I've done it: the replacement rumor is that if Pelosi received 10 million letters written in blood she would consider impeachment. Oh yeah.

The problem is Nancy Pelosi; not letter writing.