The hacking and online vigilante collective Anonymous has tremendous pull on this here internet.
Case in point: On Friday, Anonymous posted a video telling its version of the story of Jay Nygard, an Orono, Minnesota man, and his recent feud with local authorities over the construction of a windmill on Nygard's property.
The Anonymous video has, in four days, been shared nearly 83,000 times, and viewed more than 5 million times on Facebook. Jay Nygard is, to these people, a martyr in the world of self-sustaining practices that might just take a man and his family off the grid... and out of the clutches of The Man.
City Pages (among other local outlets) wrote extensively about the matter of Jay Nygard v. Orono and his stickler Orono neighbors. Here's chapters one, two, three, and four of that saga, which spanned 2014 and 2015.
Anonymous uses as its reference point a mid-2015 Fox 9 story on Nygard's plight. As that report explained it, Orono sued Nygard over the turbine. A judge ordered the man to take the turbine down. He refused.
The court had ordered Nygard's family to remove not just the turbine, but the base of the structure; he and his wife contended that would threaten the foundation of their home. Nygard was held in contempt of court for his refusal, and given six months in jail.
This is all true. But Anonymous' video caption says Nygard was "sentenced to 6 months in prison for installing a wind turbine on his own property." This is not true. Contempt of court -- simply, not following the judge's orders -- is its own separate matter, and rarely involves a wind turbine.
At least Anonymous' short video doesn't go as far as a story from The Mind Unleashed, an online something or other that says it "seeks to disseminate and inspire out-of-the-box thinking and act as a catalyst for people to discover the limitless potential that exists inside us all."
More than 7 million people on Facebook are relying on Mind Unleashed to tap their inner limitless potential.
Here's what they would've learned about Jay Nygard's turbine tumult:
"Nygard has the right to do whatever he wants with his own property, but unfortunately in a democracy such as the United States, the property rights of an individual can be overridden according to the whims of politicians and the demands of uninvolved third parties. Please share this story with your friends and family in hopes of keeping a good man, whose only 'crime' was self-sustainability, out of jail."
Again, people. Contempt of court. Even if you are 100 percent on Jay Nygard's side, and hate city NIMBY-ism and protective covenants, and government overreach, and want people to find their own path toward sustainable energy... contempt of court is illegal.
Thankfully, in this murky world of online info-splainment, there's Snopes.com, noted debunkers of myths in the making. Snopes confirms that yes, Nygard went to jail in late 2015 for a case related to the installation of a windmill near his home. But no, he wasn't charged with the crime of windmill installation, and he didn't serve six months for it. For this reason, the claims made by Anonymous and the Mind Unleashed are rated "mostly false."
"Although Nygard was briefly jailed in October 2015, it was not for the crime of 'self-sustainability.' By that point Nygard, Orono, and several other residents had spent many years and thousands of dollars fighting over the windmill. Nygard indicated refusal to comply with the order numerous times over the years, and was jailed only after months of failure to comply with an order to remove the base of the illegal structure from his property (and years of fighting the initial denied application to install it). While the family maintained that removing the windmill's base was impossible, the task was accomplished over a weekend in October 2015 during Nygard's brief stay in jail."
So, problem solved. Nothing to worry about here. The internet's got enough bullshit. Some of it might have helped swing this last election. The less out there, the better.
Meanwhile, as City Pages went about investigating the Anonymous claim, the following ad was displayed on the Snopes.com website.
And we can promise you: Whatever information is contained on the other side of that link, you must believe it.