Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How it Happens

The other day, while reading online (you know what they say…) I saw a perfect example of how it happens. We all know what it is; it is the Internet’s version of the game of telephone and it is far worse.

Someone reads something, they interpret it, then they post their interpretation, someone reads their interpretation, links to it as gospel and the original piece of news is lost forever. The comments in the blog post that follow reflect the anger and disgust – or joy, happy, joy, joy – at the grand “news” that is conveyed. Unfortunately, we cannot always believe everything that we read on the Internet.

The other day I read this headline to my husband:

Land of the Free? As of February 10, 2009 it will be illegal to re-sell children's toys and clothing

My reaction, as was my husband’s, was WTF? How would we survive if it weren’t for thrift stores? And, there are millions more people like us. Not to mention that kids outgrow their clothing so quickly that in thrift stores/second hand stores/consignment shops the children’s clothing is quite often brand new or nearly new.

I investigated further. The blog post linked to this article:

New law restricts re-sale of kid's products

OK, “restricts” is better than “makes it illegal.” The article goes on to clarify,

A new law which takes effect next month requires testing for lead and other chemicals on any kid products made before February 10th.

Members of the Consumer Product Safety Commission tentatively agreed that clothing and toys made from natural materials like cotton and wood will be exempt.

Now I am starting to see a more clear picture of what is going on…testing for lead levels and other illegal chemicals…cotton and wood products exempt. This seems a little more reasonable. It still seems a tad excessive and I am still a little outraged at the restrictions, but it is sounding far more reasonable than the original headline. I investigate further – going directly to the source.

CPSC Clarifies Requirements of New Children’s Product Safety Laws Taking Effect in February
Guidance Intended for Resellers of Children’s Products, Thrift and Consignment Store

The new law requires that domestic manufacturers and importers certify that children’s products made after February 10 meet all the new safety standards and the lead ban. Sellers of used children’s products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards.

When the CPSIA was signed into law on August 14, 2008, it became unlawful to sell recalled products.

While this might be slightly inconvenient for consignment shops and thrift stores, that they have to confirm that the toys that they are reselling have not been recalled and they have to confirm that their products do not have excessive amounts of lead in them, it seems perfectly reasonable and it is a far cry from the original headline.

This was such a clear example to me of how it happens on the ‘Nets. How the rumors get started and how easy that it is for misunderstandings to occur and tempers to flare. While reading some of the comments following the two posts, the first, inflammatory one at Newsvine and the second, less severe one at KVUE (an “actual” news source) I was struck at how easy it is to cement in someone’s mind a misconception.

The commentors were furious, one going so far as to put out a call for massive civil disobedience. I was heartened to read some more tempered comments, including someone telling the original poster that he should research his information a little more before posting such an inflammatory headline – but the damage had already been done.

Now there is a counter movement against this regulation. The law, as I understand it, was fairly well thought out and supported by environmental organizations and consumer safety advocates. It makes sense to me – don’t sell shit that has been recalled or has enough lead in it to poison our children. Straight forward and reasonable - especially when we remember the outrage when the toys with lead in them were discovered; the law was an outgrowth of this lack of oversight. However, the inflammatory headlines and BS flowing around the Intertubes has created public outrage and ignorance.

And this is how it happens.


iamcoyote said...

Nice post, Anjha. It's rather sad that blogs that used to be reputable are falling prey to this kind of sensational, lazy reporting. It was bound to happen, I guess; even the best intentions will get sidetracked by biases. Caveat Emptor.

Judith said...

Anjha, interesting post. Dangerous, especially if your intent is to spread something with no truth or no verifiable truth.

idiosynchronic said...

Dangerous, especially if your intent is to spread something with no truth or no verifiable truth.

And that folks, wraps up the current Senate nomination hearings in a nutshell - in regards to both The Clintons (GOP) and Iran (Obama).