I got an email at work the other day that really ticked me off. It was some sort of email petition to let our various congressmen and women know that we Americans are not pleased about them giving social security benefits to illegal immigrants. It had a little blurb in the beginning that laid out the "details" that we're all supposed to be enraged about, and asked the readers of it to add their name to the list and send it to all of their friends. Then it said something about when the list gets to 1000 people to send it on to some White House email address so this issue gets the attention it deserves...
So there's the basic premise. I'm an inquisitive guy, and I hadn't heard about illegal immigrants getting social security money, so I decided to research this a little bit to see if the various guys and gals in Washington had really done this and why. A quick bit of googling lead me to snopes.com, which if you somehow haven't heard of is the mythbusters of the Internet world. After a bit of reading there, I was completely unsurprised to see that this was in fact if not completely false, at least very misleading.
In case you are actually interested in this like I was, here are a couple of the pages I read while looking into this:
The upshot here is that email petitions are obviously not an effective way to get anything done other than reveal what an idiot you are to your various friends, family, and coworkers. I wonder how many "petitions" like this are received by the White House on a daily basis, and then what happens to them. Since there's no way to verify that the people whose names are listed actually did the "signing", I bet they just send these straight to the trash. Even if that's not what they do, the huge amount of name duplication that this would result in would probably make them invalid anyway. Either way I'm guessing whoever monitors the White House email inbox probably has their share of automatic deletion rules set up.
Then there's the issue that the email itself is discussing which is basically false. The deal is that in order for an immigrant (illegal or otherwise) to get a job and get paid officially, someone needs to have a social security number. Apparently lots of illegals somehow get their hands on bogus social security numbers, and then off they go. What this means is that even though these SSNs are fake, these people are actually paying into the social security system with them. The ruling in question here was to say that people who fit this criteria and have now been legalized (by that other very controversial ruling from a little while back), should get benefits from that money when they retire. No matter what your thoughts are on immigration policies in this country, the email was misleading.
Anyway, the main point here is to look this stuff up people! When I get stupid emails like this or any other kind of chain thing or ridiculous pictures or whatever, I check it out on Snopes and send a link back to the sender. Maybe I'm a big fat fun-spoiling jerk, but way too many people take things at face value just because someone's taken the time to write an email about it and click Send. As Smokey the Bear would say if he was in any way related to this topic, "Only you can prevent stupid emails from spreading".