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September 23, 2007

Crying wolf

I must apologise to my readers. Yesterday I fell for a hoax and published an appeal for a missing young man. It turns out that this, far from originating, as I was led to believe in my own home town, comes from the US and was originated as a joke by Evan Trembley himself. It seems he composed the email, using phrases lifted from other similar hoax mails and adding the details of his home town police department - missing from the version forwarded to me - sending it to a small number of his friends. They in turn forwarded it to their friends .....

I checked back with my sources in South Africa before composing that post, and they too believed it to be a genuine appeal launched for a missing boy from my former home town. Had we checked Google we might have learned otherwise. None of us did.

That said, we do live in a world where children "vanish" every day, and in some countries are much more likely to do so than in others. Africa has a big problem with this, so do several South American countries and even in Europe it is not that uncommon. We should not let this hoax, started as a joke among friends, blind us to the fact that there are children and young adults out there who are in danger, who are being abducted, kidnapped, raped and murdered.

What I have learned from this, is to do a bit more digging before passing something like that on in future, but I would hope that I will never let it cause me to turn away from a genuine cry for help. That is the unfortunate result of "crying wolf" too often - when the wolf does come, no one believes that he has. I hope that no one ever turns away from a genuine cry as a result of these hoax messages circulating in among the genuine.

Posted by The Gray Monk at September 23, 2007 08:24 AM

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