'Slow Dance' Chain Letter
Netlore Archive: Can saving a dying child's life really be as simple as forwarding a treacly chain letter to everyone you know?
Description: Email hoax / Chain letter
Circulating since: 1998
Status: False (see details below)
Email text contributed by a reader in 1998:
PLEASE READ ALL OF THIS MESSAGE........
Have you ever watched kids
Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight
Do you run through each day
When the day is done,
You'd better slow down
Ever told your child,
Ever lost touch,
You'd better slow down
When you run so fast to get somewhere
Life is not a race.
PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO HELP THIS LITTLE GIRL
Analysis: First sighted in its present form in November 1998, this chain letter has a history going back to early 1997, when the Jessica Mydek hoax first appeared. Seven-year-old Jessica, we were then told, was suffering from a "very rare case of cerebral carcinoma" and had only six months to live, which probably explains why the fictional little girl's name was dropped from most versions of the letter after a year or so of circulation.
Something else had been added, however: the authoritative-sounding name and title of a professor of medicine at Yeshiva University in New York, Dr. Dennis Shields. It has been established that this poor man did not create the chain letter he (or someone in his office) merely forwarded it but his signature file, because it lent credibility to the message, became a permanent feature and can still be found on most copies.
The poem, "Slow Dance," was inserted into the message in November 1998, with a version appearing soon thereafter claiming the "dying girl" had authored the verses herself (in fact, the poem was written by David L. Weatherford and published under his name in 1991, long before the chain letter existed). Little else in the message has changed over time. It still contains the glaringly false claim that the American Cancer Society will donate 3 cents per forward (see the ACS statement disclaiming any involvement in chain letter schemes) and still lacks any apparent means of tracking its progress. One wonders what people are thinking when they send it off to all their friends or if they've given it any thought at all.
Of course, the chain letter wouldn't be doing its job if it gave us a chance to reflect. The emotional hooks are there expressly to short-circuit our brains and manipulate us into reproducing the message. We're led to feel sympathetic, then obligated, then we're offered a quick and painless way to ease our conscience click the "Forward" button, and our good deed for the day is done. As with every successful chain letter, the key to this one's longevity is that it offers us something for nothing.
How long do you suppose it would last if it begged us to write out a check?
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Last updated 02/17/12