Lying is common in American politics. Both political parties do it, and they do it often. Political lies are especially common on the Internet, where emails and blog entries are frequently inaccurate or outright fabrications. As a committed skeptic I usually take politicians’ claims with a healthy grain of salt (hmm … not a “grain” exactly … maybe “a large truckload”!), and routinely ignore political emails telling me about the latest outrage allegedly committed by some politician or other.

Fortunately there are now tools available to set the record straight — particularly FactCheck.Org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. They claim to be non-partisan and, so far as I can tell, they are — just in the past week they’ve ruled as non-factual claims made by both the major candidates.

They have a special page devoted to political emails which — in almost all cases — are wrong or deceitful:

I’ve noticed that chain e-mails, particularly those about politics, have a lot of things in common: urgent and frightening messages; spelling errors; a tendency to blame mainstream media for not telling the real story; and false, misleading, utterly bogus, and completely off-base claims.

If there was ever a case where readers should apply a guilty-until-proven-innocent standard, this is it. We at ask the public to be skeptical about politicians’ claims. With these e-mails, outright cynicism is justified. Assume all such messages are wrong, and you’ll be right most of the time.

So do yourself, and the rest of the planet, a favor and stop forwarding these outrages to everyone you know! Check them out first and discover for yourself that they’re nothing but bullshit.

Unfortunately this is advice that few Americans are willing to take, which FactCheck concedes:

It seems that no matter the facts, the desire to believe some of this stuff is just too strong.

Americans choose to believe the lies, because they want to believe the lies, and they don’t want to find out they’re not true. This is a pretty immature reason for propagating falsehood, but there you are.

If for some reason FactCheck doesn’t fill the bill for you, try PolitiFact (a service of the St Petersburg Times). Snopes is also a good place to get tall tales (not only of the political sort) checked out, too.

Update: If you must know my political and ideological affiliation, please understand that I have none. I am neither Republican nor Democrat, neither Rightist nor Leftist. Rather, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool tried-&-true Cynicalist who shuns all ideologies of every sort. Many of you will not believe that, but too bad — it’s still the truth.

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