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[This is a slightly revised version of a diary first posted on November 30, 2006.  Unfortunately, it seems necessary again.]

DailyKos is one of the most well-intentioned communities there is -- whether you consider it merely virtual or wholly real, this is a place where people come together because we believe in our collective power to change the world.

But sometimes those good intentions can be taken advantage of, and as the holiday season rolls in, I feel compelled to drop a note urging skepticism towards those who may seek your aid this season.

Lord knows, we've had good reason to be skeptical.  Back in 2006, when I first wrote this diary, it was inspired by a user posting a sob story about his family and his alleged firing from his job for on-site political activism -- he was able to raise (he claims) $3200 from 80 users in one night.  But when I and others expressed skepticism towards his claims, he acted with hostility rather than understanding -- not once, but again in a diary days later -- and then disappeared from the site altogether.  And this had been just weeks after the wrenching B.O. situation in Boston, about which the less said the better.  

Just this weekend, the admins busted another fundraising scam on behalf of an allegedly homeless user, upon realizing that the "friend" posting on behalf of the allegedly reluctant recipient of aid was, in fact, a sockpuppet of the recipient himself.  And earlier this year, of course, there was the "family drama" in Florida which left many here confused and hurt.

[Note: I'm not going to link to any of the diaries in question, because I feel weird about directly attacking people who are no longer here defend themselves.]

We know for sure that some have taken advantage of to goodness of this community. We know that these situations demonstrate how alluring and gratifying it is to believe that we can help strangers while sitting at our computers, that the Internet has brought us closer into personal dramas which might otherwise have been suffered quietly and in isolation from us all, but that powerful desire to be helpful is not always the same as actually being helpful. Nothing disturbs me more in these diaries than the occasionally expressed attitude that I don't care whether he's legitimate -- being able to give proves that I'm a good person or I'd rather be a person who trusts and gives, because it comes from a pure place.  

To me, that's narcissism, not charity.  It has to be more about the recipients than it is about us.  This is a time when we open our hearts and demonstrate what's best about ourselves, but we shouldn't be closing our brains in the process.

So, what are we to do?

It's simple: use the same analytic and research tools you use to dissect Republicans to determine the validity of anyone here who asks you for money -- individual, candidate or organization.  I personally would recommend that you never give to an individual through this website, unless the individual and her story has been vetted by longtime users of the site or one of the longstanding caring communities which have been established here.  And there's always going to be a demonstrably legitimate local organization to which you can donate your support with confidence that your money will be used in an efficient way to help actual people.

It is not fun being the asshole who says don't be nice to strangers. But it's a reminder I feel compelled to offer. Or as some of us learned in the late 1980s, Доверяй, но проверяй.

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