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Can you Squelch a Paranoid Rumor on the Internet? [IS]

December 12, 2013

This op-ed has been posted at

“This Maggot is an Obama Lover”
— said about me for calling “bullshit” a claim that US troops were confiscating guns and phones in a 500-mile radius around Galveston Texas.

Last night, around 7 pm, a guy named Lazaro (last name withheld) sent a Facebook message to thirty-odd people, including Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Alex Jones, and me, Mark Levine. (As a nationally syndicated progressive radio talk show host and TV pundit, I am occasionally confused with right-wing radio talk show host named “Mark Levin”.) The message read:
500 miles? Galveston? 2:30 EST?
How oddly specific!
And a very large territory.
The area where “troops” were supposedly confiscating Guns – and Phones(!) – and “ect”(!!) – would include most of Texas; all of Louisiana; most of Mississippi, Arkansas, and Oklahoma; the suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee, and a chunk of Alabama, the Florida Pandhandle, and even Mexico. (Woe to the residents of Monterrey.) This large territory would easily include tens of millions of Americans living in an area with large concentrations of Obama-Haters and fringe conspiracy believers.
If Lazaro was right, Government troops must have acted fast. The alleged “Galveston Gun Confiscation” (and Phone Confiscation…and “Ect” Confiscation) was reported as occurring around 2:30 EST (an announced time which, in and of itself, was unusual since the entire 500-mile radial area is located within the Central Time Zone). Within five hours, troops must have attacked millions of God-fearing Americans in this vast area, but weirdly, no one except Lazaro had the cojones to report it or seek verification in the media or on the Web by 7:08 pm EST. Not even the most rabid conspiratorial websites mentioned any hint of this secret military attack on Texas and surrounding states. But Lazaro demanded we STOP THE PRESSES! to verify if the Obamapocalypse had in fact began.
Now, being a long-time Internet user, I, like most of you, often see ridiculous notions spread around freely. But unlike the Nigerian Prince who has yet to give me the $50 MILLION ($50,000,000) he repeatedly promises me, the Massive Galveston Confiscation sent by my dear non-friend Lazaro was apparently being taken seriously by at least some of the thirty-odd people to whom he sent it.
Apparently, despite my liberal views, I had stumbled on a radical right-wing conspiracy list, presumably because of the similarity of my name with Mark Levin. The “e” at the end of my last name – not to mention our disparate views — should distinguish me from the other radio talk show host, but sometimes it does not. And, because I want my listening audience to know when I’m on the air, I allow anyone (except spammers) to be my Facebook friend, like my Facebook page, and/or message me. I don’t censor on the basis of political ideology. Or sanity. So I sometimes get messages like these.
When I saw what was going on, I decided that some of these people needed a reality check. What follows may or may not amuse you. You may think what I did was warranted or that I was too harsh. Either way, it should give you some insight into the extreme Government-hating paranoia, ignorance, and weird juvenile homophobia of some of your fellow Americans. Nothing has been edited from the conversation except the last names and thumbnails of the people involved.
Please note: the Michael and Alex whose last names I’ve removed are not Michael Savage or Alex Jones. Although these two radio hosts ostensibly received the exchanges, neither of them participated in this conversation. The reference to Yale being a “small University” comes from the fact that my Facebook profile mentions I graduated from Yale Law School. Not sure how the “fire would come to me” there though. Yale is in Connecticut. I live in the Washington DC area, and I graduated years ago.
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