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Don't forward that email -- John Wayne's daughter didn't write it

Oh fine. Now the wackos have hijacked John Wayne’s good name to shore up their nonsense.

A new version of an already discredited 2011 anti-Obama email is rolling the Internet again. It claims that President Obama’s Social Security number actually belonged to a dead French immigrant named Jean Paul Ludwig, and that Obama’s Kansas grandmother pored over probate records to find a likely number and then stole it for her Kenyan-or-Indonesian-but-not-American grandson.

Now, most of these excursions into delusion are unsigned; the writers may be crazy but they’re not stupid. But this one is attributed to a lawyer, and not just any lawyer but Aissa Wayne, daughter of the actor who’s often put right alongside Ronald Reagan in the pantheon of conservative heroes.

So I found her law firm’s website and emailed her, and she answered me right away. And what do you know? It’s a fraud. Here’s what she told me:

“Hi there! Thanks so much for checking with me; it’s a complete hoax! Please pass this info along if possible.... My office phone went nuts and I get tons of emails every day. Ugh.”

The cynical and brazen use of the Wayne name is matched by the rest of the malarkey the writer uses to try to burnish the email. The 2011 version referred to “an investigation” that found “information.” By 2014 it was “an intensive investigation” that turned up an “unusual discovery.”

The original email faked a tone of authority and immediacy by claiming that “all nine U.S. Supreme Court justices are scheduled to discuss this anomaly today.”

Why, with the world’s knowledge literally at our fingertips, do people believe flabbergasting absurdities like this?

It’s so easy to check. Look at the Supreme Court docket. Go to factcheck.org, or to the Pulitzer Prize-winning website politifact.com, or to the indispensable urban legends truth-check site, snopes.com, which should have won a MacArthur genius grant by now.

In under a minute, you’d find that by the time the French immigrant died, in 1981 — a death that was duly noted by the Social Security Administration — Obama had had his own Social Security number for several years. And his grandmother, as a court observer, arbitrator and probate aide for the Oahu Circuit Court’s juvenile monetary restitution program, had volunteered in the probate court five years after Ludwig died.

The fact-checking sites go on and on, but there’s no point knocking down the points in this fantasy of an email. Had facts mattered, the writer wouldn’t have ginned it up in the first place, and certainly not exploited the name of so prominent an American family. Proving the falsehood of such claptrap to the purveyors is like trying to blow out those trick inextinguishable birthday candles.

What these emails share is a wink to the reader about the mainstream media “hiding the truth.” This is invariably hilarious because we in the “mainstream media” are too bumptious even among ourselves to organize a trip to lunch, much less a conspiracy. And any one of us would cut off the other’s appendages to get a Watergate-sized, Pulitzer-caliber story like this — if it were true. Which, QED, it is not.

What might John Wayne have told these traducers of his family name? Probably something along the lines of what he said in the 1971 movie “Big Jake”:

“You’re short on ears and long on mouth.”

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Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes

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