Beware of hoaxes

Thursday, July 3, 2008

It was almost believable, but not quite.

The Chronicle Times was a recipient of a fax from the Jimmy Breaux for President campaign.

The mass faxing from Jimmy Breaux, who claims to be a U.S. Senator from Louisiana, will no doubt be regarded by some people as a serious political announcement of a campaign for "a true alternative; a candidate that isn't old, black or a woman."

The bogus biography describes Breaux as a former Baton Rouge police officer who took out the "Downtown Sniper" -- a gunman who killed 17 people from a Baton Rouge rooftop. He reportedly went on to be elected to the city council, the Louisiana state senate and then the U.S. senate.

There was never a mass killing from a rooftop in Baton Rouge. There is no U.S. Senator from Louisiana named Breaux.

What makes the Breaux fax hard to immediately recognize as a hoax is that most of it isn't that funny. There is humor in his purported comment on Civil Rights -- "I'm all for it. America is a place where people, women and negroes can all be judged as equal." This strikes us something that a southern politician might carelessly say, although it is doubtful that a campaign manager would be careless enough to allow such a statement to appear in promotional literature.

Such spoofs are generally harmless. We have checked out the website of the phony campaign and there is no appeal for funds from the public.

Perhaps it will help keep people skeptical about information coming from a source they are not familiar with.