Laughing just to keep from crying.

I don't mean to suggest that there isn't truth in jokes. Quite the opposite. Often a joke, even one transmitted via e-mail, is an accurate and precise way of touching the truth. It is, however, a question of expectations. If we've gotten used to our inboxes filling up with jokes and legends, with junk mail and with chain letters, it becomes difficult to identify the truth even when it confronts us face to face. I receive about six PowerPoint presentations a month. These are basically collections of semi-inspiring truisms embellished with quaint photographs (or even worse, non-descript clip art) that make what was once a 4KB joke a 250KB bother to download.

During the hey-day of the Al Aksa intifada, when suicide bombings were almost a daily occurrence, political PowerPoint presentations started arriving along with the more common sort. Some of these were actually very well done. But they were arriving in a format, and from people, that carried associations of jokes and of urban legends. Since many of the claims in these presentations went against the grain of the (anyway biased) international media, sometimes it became difficult to decide to whom to believe. And in a situation such as that, knowing that the mail arrived from someone who traditionally doesn't check his sources didn't really enhance the trustworthiness of those claims.

Go to: Believe me when I tell you ...