"Religion of Peace Demonstration Hoax" Photos
In the past few months, a set of photographs has been passed around on the internet, purporting to be from a "Religion of Peace Demonstration in London".The purpose of sending these photographs is not clear, perhaps they just want to use the shocking content to fool as many people as possible or maybe they want to spur people - on either side of the fence - into action.
What is clear is that those photos were not taken in the past week. It is also clear that this story has been doing the rounds for several months. It could be that it is now in the hands of enough people that it is unstoppable - but I will try.
Almost all of the photographs (that we saw) are copyright to the Associated Press. They were taken in February, in London, during a demonstration against the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad. They were taken near several different european embassies in London - not yesterday - and not at a "Religion of Peace Demonstration". I can find no evidence of such a demonstration.
Similarly, there has been a story circulating with the false headline "Australia Boots God Out of the Country". Not only is that story untrue, it changes every time I see it. Some people apparently love to embelish it before sending it on. I received several slightly different versions over the past few months.
One of the "Religion of Peace Demonstration" photos that are part of an email hoax. This photo from the email is an AP Photo - taken by Lefteris Pitarakis
These hoaxes are becoming more prevalent and unfortunately, more people are believing them. The purpose of a hoax, generally is to attempt to fool - and later embarrass - as many people as possible and as more unsophisticated people join the internet every day, this is probably going to increase.
I can't tell you the number of times that otherwise intelligent people I know personally have sent me things they think are true. A few seconds of investigation usually proves them untrue. Besides writing stories, I manage some very large email systems and that gives me access to all of these scams and hoaxes almost as soon as they begin to appear. That doesn't mean I will never be tricked - it just means I try to verify before taking action.
The message here is clear. If you are upset by an email such as the one containing these protests, and feel the urge to pass it on, just pause for a few minutes and do some research. Invariably, you will discover that your friend sent you a hoax without bothering to do any research. Let your friend be the dummy. Don't forward it on "to everyone you know", as some of the messages urge you to do, because you will wind up with egg on your face, You will also have been responsible for causing some of your other friends to blindly follow what you started and egg is messy to clean up.
Hoaxers like nothing more than winding up gullible people. Their aim is to cause the maximum damage by making it as realistic as possible. I thought we were becoming more sophisticated, more investigative, more intelligent over time. It seems that is not the case. There really is a sucker born every minute.
How can we stop this? Well there is is one way, but I hesitate to say it. It is called education. The good thing is it doesn't cost anything to implement.
Instead of doing nothing after reading this story, tell a friend about it. Yes, that friend who keeps blindly sending you those hoaxes, the dummy friend who thinks some Nigerian princess actually has 27 Million dollars hidden away in a trunk that she is willing to share with them.
You can also send it to the friends you fowarded those hoaxes to - think of it as your mea culpa. If you send it, please don't send bulk mail. Send them one at a time using the "Send to a Friend" feature.
There are some very simple ways to investigate a hoax or a scam. Several useful and trustworthy websites are very good at debunking Nigerian scams, employment scams, lottery scams and hoaxes like the "Religion of Peace Demonstration" hoax.
Look for trustworthy or "authority sites". First of all, if the demonstration story was true, the AP and the BBC and the British papers would be carrying it - they aren't. Barbara and David P. Mikkelson run a great site called Snopes, that is a great "Urban Legend" buster, amongst other things. You can trust what they say about a story - you'll have to take my word on that.
For information about Nigerian - and other scams involving the transfer of large amounts of money or gold bars, lottery scams, auction scams, puppy scams or employment scams, go to Scamdex.com and the Scamdex forum.
To my friends who I called dummies above - sorry guys, but you keep doing it to yourselves - please, do some research before sending me the next sensational scoop, because emails have little or no authority.
First of all, please be aware that I wrote this story in 2006. If you received the photos after that - it is now 2012 as I write this part - there are people still modifying that email and sending it around as though it just happened yesterday.
Yes, those photographs are real. The original demonstrations were real. The hoax part was the way those real photographs were used to fabricate another event, which did not take place. Another part of the hoax was to smear the mainstream media by saying they didn't report it. They did report the real demonstrations. Of course they didn't report the hoax because it was untrue.
This story is about one thing - standing up for the truth. No matter where you stand on the demonstrations and the banners, we cannot allow truth and lies to be mixed together like salt and water. Lies cannot be allowed to stand without exposure. If you allow a single lie to stand because you agree with the truthful part, then you stand for mixing lies with truth at any time. This has the awful downside that at a time in the future, it will not be possible to tell the difference between lies and truth. If ever lies are mixed with truth about you, you will understand the reason that a lie must be shown up for what it is, as soon as it is discovered.
It has been reported that although there were no arrests at the time of the mohammad cartoon demonstration, police later arrested five demonstrators.
In july 2007, after the Glasgow and London bombings, the British newspaper "The Independent" reported a statement from Muhammed Abdul Bari, of the Muslim Council of Britain.
"In a direct message to extremists, Mr Bari said: "There is no cause whatsoever that could possibly justify such barbarity. Those who engage in such murderous actions and those that provide support for them are the enemies of all, Muslims and non-Muslims, and they stand against our shared values in the UK."
Editor's Note: This story was written in 2006. The original multiple demonstrations were in 2006. That makes this an old hoax, probably updated to make it appear to have happened this year. With age, a hoax can gain credence because it is embellished in such a way that it reinforces what we think. The fact remains that you can add several truthful facts, that are slightly related, throw in a few lies that seen plausible, and that is the recipe for fooling people into believing almost anything.
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