The Douglas Archives

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Chain mail - an example of why I dislike it.

This morning, I received one of those emails that circulates around the hinternet and blogosphere asking me to "Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world" telling me "This e-mail is intended to reach 400 million people". The email came to me via South Africa, so it is travelling. But why 400 million people?

As a rule, I do not pass on snowball* type emails. Sometimes I just delete them; sometimes I point out that the unfortunate child who needs our help in now 22 - or dead; sometimes I comment that their helpful virus warning could just be circulating it further.

But today, I decided to dig a little deeper behind the message. Now, I am not going to repeat what was, in my view, essentally racist hate mail, but it can easily be found.

This was the headline: "The following is a copy of an article written by Spanish writer Sebastian Vilar Rodriguez and published in a Spanish newspaper on Jan. 15, 2008". If you want to read it, you can do so by Googleing:
Sebastian Vilar Rodriguez , returning around 6,640,000 results, or
Sebastian Vivar Rodriguez, which has 11,700,000 results
Mix in Rodrigez and/or Villar and the numbers just go up.

So, who is Sebastian Vilar Rodrigez? He appears to only exist in this and similarly repeated posts, circulating since 2004. 2004? Yes, 2004! So was the article re-printed in a Spanish newspaper four years later? Apparently not. No trace can be found in 2004 or 2008. Almost 20 million search results on Google, and not one identifies this supposed Spanish writer.

One version, apparently dated November 21, 2004 12:08, (Do newspaper articles show publication times?) begins: "I was walking along the Rambla del Raval (Barcelona) and I saw it clearly: "The truth marries no one." (Spanish proverb)". The version emailed to me starts: "I walked down the street in Barcelona , and suddenly discovered a terrible truth.." Differences in translation, perhaps, but what else has been changed? My email contained pages of additional information not contained in earlier translations.

Circulation of this 'article' is reported to be particulaly popular amongst the Jewish community. One of the earliest repeaters was, in his FrontPage Magazine, David Horowitz. It is worth reading his entry in Wikipedia to see why he might have done so, without adding any comment, something he is normally good at.

Because I do not want to repeat the content of the email, I am unable to question some of the thinking behind why it might have been sent to me. However, although I am conscious that I have drawn attention to it, I will not be passing it along.

* Sometimes referred to as chain emails, snowballs grow as they roll.

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