Sometimes misinformation is deliberate and diabolical. Other times it is accidental. This should raise the question, “How do you know that?”(More)

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On last night’s Campus Question, Crissie brought up the idea of Mitt Romney as a vulture capitalist. In the spirit of vultures, I looked through my photos from Kruger National Park in South Africa and posted what I thought was a photo of a vulture. Norbrook’s correction led me to emails and Google and a realization that my ‘vulture’ was really a Marabou Stork.

I thought I knew because I was with a native of South Africa and had showed my photos to her friends and family. They all said, “Great shot of a vulture.” It turns out that the South Africans use the term “vulture” generically for any bird that eats the dead, dying and leftovers. For nine years I have been misinforming people.

I unfortunately have peddled worse bits of misinformation in my life. When I was in college I got a ride from my future B-I-L from the twin cities to rural Wisconsin for a family gathering. He was an engineer and an attorney and four years older. I thought at the time he was brilliant. He told me that “clouds were flat over water.” He gave several examples. I do remember questioning him about various cloud formations and being told about lakes that we couldn’t see from the freeway. The conversation moved on but I filed away the new piece of information that clouds were indeed flat over water. I shared this with several other people over the years and I’m sure, given the ‘story’ I spun, that they probably shared it with more people.

Minnesotans love talking about the weather. I delivered my ‘wisdom’ about the flat bottomed clouds and one of my high school aged sons burst out laughing.

“Where in the hell did you hear that?” he asked.

“Well from your uncle,” I said.

By then said uncle had been in federal prison twice for financial cons. I do wish I had thought harder about the flat bottomed clouds. I might have seen the other cons for what they were.

“How do you know?” may be the most important question one can ask. This is advice from a sometimes very gullible, slow learner. My apologies to all those who may have thought they were shown a photo of a vulture in the bush.

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