Tonawanda News


January 24, 2013

KEPPELER: For Te'o, the crime is naivety


Tonawanda News — Or maybe it’s worse. Maybe it’s dreck from those who believe that the Sandy Hook shootings were a hoax, or the president is a Muslim or that Bill O’Reilly was arrested for assaulting a department store Santa. Some of it’s wish-fulfillment, some just an innocent attempt to pass on news, but it’s all utterly without a basis in reality. Much like Lennay Kekua.

But there’s a difference, you say, between reposting something silly on Facebook and believing that a woman who doesn’t exist was in love with you. But how likely is it, really, that Bill Gates is going to send you cash for forwarding an email message? And you believed that.

Falling for the story of someone who doesn’t exist isn’t as rare as you might think.

Visit any online forum, whether it’s a place to talk about a hobby, or a television show, or politics. Almost anywhere, long-timers will tell you about a poster who claimed a rare and devastating illness, or spun fascinating, sometimes outlandish stories before being exposed as a hoax. 

Maybe they started off fairly normal and built up to the point where disbelief started to creep in. Maybe they gave themselves away before they started to ask for money. But almost everyone’s encountered them. And to some extent, almost everyone’s fallen for them. (At least until the money point, and sometimes even past.)

It’s human nature, I think. No one wants to believe that someone is spinning you a yarn, especially when they seem like such a nice person. I mean, why would anyone do such a thing?

Why, indeed.

Now, the Te’o story takes this to extremes. But I wonder. Just how much is a person capable of believing in exactly what they want to believe? And at what point do you realize things are out of control?

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