Currently in wide circulation on the Internet is an anti-Obama email, "Snopes, Soros and the Supreme Court's Kagan," that was discredited nearly two years ago. From the comments on websites where the email has frequently been posted, a great many recipients are gullible enough to have been taken in by this deceptive political trick. Savvy recipients would immediately go to Snopes urban legend website to check its authenticity. But Snopes is the real target of this attack.
The scurrilous email originated after the president nominated Elena Kagan for a seat on the Supreme Court. It suggests that Kagan's appointment was pay-back for her successful effort as solicitor general in getting the high court to refuse to hear cases challenging President Obama's citizenship. Ah, and we thought the birthplace issue was dead. Well, from the number of sites devoted to this phony email, the president didn't satisfy many Americans when he produced his long-form birth certificate.
The email seemingly clinches its argument by citing numerous Supreme Court cases that, it suggests, would have raised the birth issue before the justices. But Kagan, good soldier that she is, persuaded the court to reject the call to examine Obama's citizenship.
The author then argues that Snopes, which it claims is run by two lefties, incorrectly declared the email bogus despite the overwhelming evidence in the form of the nine legal cases that Kagan had opposed. The conclusion of the author is that Snopes cannot be trusted.
Although Snopes proved that the court cases cited in the email had nothing to do with Obama's citizenship, this revised version of the original email lambastes Snopes for ignoring the "proof." Apparently few, if any, of those who swallow the falsehood of the email have bothered to check out what those nine court cases dealt with. Instead, their comments indicate they have naively accepted the statement of the author as true. Whatever happened to "trust, but verify?"
With the 2012 presidential race narrowing down, such bogus emails will increase in number. There will be legitimate criticism of either candidate but those ought to be checked for authenticity, too. Despite the widespread view among the gullible on the far right that Snopes can't be trusted, that site remains the best source for verification of the veracity of accusations. The site not only gives an opinion on the truth or falsity of a charge, but repeats substantial portions of the email in question and, at great length, dissects the content.
But beware! If the email you receive says Snopes verified the accuracy of the email, don't trust that until you have Snopesed it yourself. The latest dirty trick is that the sender claims that Snopes confirmed the authenticity of the email, but upon Snopsing you may find out that Snopes most certainly did not authenticate it.
Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly Pomona. Norma Jeanne Strobel is professor, retired, at Santa Ana College.