Origins: We often come across people who sound earnest, write well, and have strings of letters after their names, but expend a great deal of effort propagating ideas both absurd and harmful. Unfortunately, one such case has been drawing a great deal of attention lately.
Robert Koontz, who describes himself as an "experimental nuclear physicist" and a "former National Security Agency instructor" (and a part-time extraterrestrial researcher to boot) has decided that several oil paintings by 34-year-old Muzaffar Wandawi, a Baghdad-born web developer now living in Amsterdam, contain "embedded images" which reveal plans for a "massive germ attack on the U.S."
The key (and only) piece of evidence in this bizarre conspiracy is the fact that both Mr. Wandawi and someone with the same name as one of the United Flight 175 hijackers (Ahmed Alghamdi) both posted messages to a fan site for Lebanese singer Fairuz. That's it, but apparently that's good enough for Mr. Koontz. Never mind that:
Some of Mr. Wandawi's paintings date from well over a decade ago, during the Iran-Iraq war.
His artwork represents the city of Baghdad and the destruction caused by the lengthy war with Iran, not terrorist attacks on New York City and other American cities.
Mr. Koontz's page cites the accidental inclusion of the muppet Bert on posters of Osama bin Laden as another "signal" of the upcoming attack.
Mr. Koontz has actually altered some of Mr. Wandawi's artwork in order to demonstrate his point.
We wish we could dismiss this item as the work of yet another prankster out to have one over on us, feigning sincerity to see how many people will fall for something completely foolish, but unfortunately Mr. Koontz appears to be genuinely earnest about his claims. This is, in the words of Detroit Free Press writer Mike Wendland:
[A]nother example of why the Internet’s unrestrained ability to let anyone gain a worldwide audience to say anything about anyone and anything has a dark side as disturbing as what Koontz thought he saw in Wandawi’s drawings.
See the full version of Mr. Wendland's article through "Additional information" link below for an excellent overview.
David Mikkelson founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
Thank you for writing to us! Although we receive hundreds of e-mails every day, we really and truly read them all, and your comments, suggestions, and questions are most welcome. Unfortunately, we can manage to answer only a small fraction of our incoming mail.
Our site covers many of the items currently being plopped into inboxes everywhere, so if you were writing to ask us about something you just received, our search engine can probably help you find the very article you want.
Choose a few key words from the item you're looking for and click here to go to the search engine.
(Searching on whole phrases will often fail to produce matches because the text of many items is quite variable, so picking out one or two key words is the best strategy.)
We do reserve the right to use non-confidential material sent to us via this form on our site, but only after it has been stripped of any information that might identify the sender or any other individuals not party to this communication.