The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

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The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by Trebor » Thu Oct 15, 2009 11:30 pm

I'm posting this in "Firearms" rather then in "off topic" because it directly relates to the recent "Did Mattel make M-16's?" thread.

Bruce Canfield is one of the leading collectors and authorities on U.S. military weapons, especially who made what, when, where, and who provided the parts. He wrote and posted this on his website at:

http://www.brucecanfield.com/cc-article.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; (About 2/3 down the page).

The three part article is too long to repost completely, but here are some good excerpts. The whole article is worth a read. Note that similiar legends are around about who made the M3 "Grease gun" in WWII.

Bruce Canfield: The “I vividly remember something that never happened” Syndrome. (Posted July 9, 2009)

As I’ve researched my books and articles over the years or have interviewed veterans regarding the weapons they may have used while in service, there is one phenomenon that I’ve encountered with surprising frequency. Basically, this “Syndrome” involves veterans insisting that they saw, or were issued, weapons that never existed. Are they lying? I don’t think so. In virtually all cases, I am absolutely convinced that the gentlemen in question sincerely believe what they are saying is true. I may have touched on this topic in a posting on one of my previous “Canfield’s Corner” columns but I am prompted to revisit it again because of recent events.

I recently did a “Q&A” in American Rifleman regarding an inquiry about a M3 submachine gun purportedly made by American Can Company. As I explained in this article, the ONLY makers of the M3 and M3A1 submachine guns were the Guide Lamp Division of General Motors (M3 and M3A1 in World War II) and the Ithaca Gun Company (M3A1 in the mid-1950s). The American Can Company (or any other entity) did not make the weapon for the U.S. military or anyone else. I casually mentioned in the Q&A that such claims are akin to the urban legend about Mattel Toy Company making M16 rifles during the Vietnam War.

I initially thought I had conclusively made the point I was trying to make but, boy, was I wrong. The American Rifleman staff forwarded me several letters from readers who wanted to “correct” my mistakes. One gentleman absolutely insisted that he had a M3 submachine gun in Korea made by the “American Canning Company” and that I obviously needed to do more research on the subject. A couple of others insisted that I didn’t know beans about the M16 rifle because the U.S. Army used lots of them in Vietnam made by the Mattel Company. One respondent stated that Mattel may not have made the complete rifle, but they did manufacture the plastic stocks and forends and he saw packing cases with the Mattel name on them. I could go on, but you get the idea.

In the course of a subsequent conversation with Mark Keefe, editor of American Rifleman, we discussed this phenomenon and found it to be a bit puzzling and somewhat amusing. Mark had the former head of Colt’s M16 program (who unquestionably knows more than anyone else about the subject) write a brief letter stating, unequivocally, that the Mattel company most assuredly did not manufacture M16 rifles or any parts for the weapon.

He pointed out that Mattel did make a really neat toy M16 rifle in the late 1960s and postulated that was perhaps what got some people confused! That's probably not going to go over very well with some of these guys when Mark prints it in the magazine.

...snip...

The “I vividly remember something that never happened syndrome” – Part Deux (Posted 7-27-09)

... A gentleman who stated he served in the Marines in the late 70s attempted to take me to task about my (as he put it) “…blowing off a fascinating piece of history…” by my "erroneous" assertions that the Mattel Company never made the M16 rifle or any parts for the weapon. He also apparently felt that my use of the term “syndrome” to describe this phenomenon meant that I believe such persons are “senile” or “nuts” (his words) despite my prior explanations to the contrary. I politely responded to his e-mail and suggested that he take a look at the current issue of American Rifleman magazine as it contained the brief article I alluded to previously written by the former head of Colt’s M16 production program who, in no uncertain terms, confirmed my initial “Q&A” response in the magazine. I thought this would probably satisfy the gentleman and give him pause to reconsider his opinions but he responded by stating that such a “…summary dismissal ” was exactly the attitude he didn’t like and closed by saying that “…It seems that I am going to have to put this one together somehow. Not my imagination.”

It appears that this situation regarding vivid memories of non-events may be even deeper-rooted than I realized. Perhaps this “syndrome” is old hat to the psychologist or psychiatrist but, as a layman, I still find it a bit surprising that some individuals are absolutely 100% convinced that they saw something that could not, and did not, exist. I know we all have, at times, thought something was correct and later discovered we were in error. In such cases, when presented with evidence to the contrary, we realized we were incorrect and chalked it up as a learning experience. This has certainly happened to me on numerous occasions. However, for the guys who swear they saw something that is actually mythical in nature, all the proof in the world often won’t convince them of their faulty memories. The human mind is an amazingly complex mechanism and contains mysteries we have not yet fathomed.


EDIT:

Canfield also offered one possible explanation as to why the Mattel/M16 legend is so persistent:

The I Vividly Remember Something that Never Happened Syndrome” – Part Trois (Posted 8-3-09)

I was going to make my previous posting the last one on this subject, but I just learned something that may, at least partially, explain the origins of the surprisingly widespread myth that Mattel made M16 rifles during the Vietnam War. Two different guys (who both state they are Vietnam veterans) said that it was not uncommon for soldiers to write home to their dad or younger brother to peel a sticker or remove a decal from a Mattel toy and it mail to them. They would then affix the sticker or decal to their M16 rifle which undoubtedly was good for a few laughs with some of the guys in their unit. It would also explain why some former vets are absolutely convinced they saw “Mattel M16” rifles in Vietnam. I don’t know how widespread this practical joke was at the time but, if you think about it, is actually pretty funny. This still doesn’t explain why there are claims made about seeing Mattel M16 rifles in the 1980s or later but may partially account for some of the Vietnam tales (which seem to be heard with much more frequency).


Here are a couple unrelated posts from other places where vets talk about adding a Mattel sticker from a toy to a GI M16. This fits well with what Canfield told him that two vets reported:

http://forums.gunbroker.com/post.asp?me ... FORUM_ID=2" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

hicap47 Posted - 08/17/2006 : 10:40:20 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A guy in my section (1970) had one of the little red stickers (IF IT'S MADE BY MATTEL, IT'S SWELL) stuck on the stock of his M-16. I don't remember where he got it, but it was pretty funny....One of the lifers finally made him get rid of it.....


And here's another post, from a different person, on a different forum. (You have to read the cached version)

http://74.125.153.132/search?q=cache:K5 ... clnk&gl=us" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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When my unit was first issued the M16, we pasted "Mattel, it's swell" on them from
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by misanthropist » Fri Oct 16, 2009 11:53 am

I have often thought that a lot of the steadfast refusal to believe in the actual version of events is related to a combination of ego and secret knowledge that their incorrect version of events is not true.

There are also people who will throw all of their money on a bad hand of cards because they can't stand the challenge to their ego that another bettor is making.

The people who believe with absolute - and often angry - certainty in some fake version of events usually make me think they've just spent so much time mouthing off to the world about some issue (such as the perceived suckness of the m16 compared to the M14) that they NEED to win this hand for the sake of their ego. It is too late for them to fold; they are 100% tied up in the failing hand of cards that they overplayed.

Interesting article.
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by Kommander » Fri Oct 16, 2009 12:01 pm

misanthropist wrote:...such as the perceived suckness of the m16 compared to the M14...
Well to be fair if you offered me the choice between an M-14 and an early M-16 with no chrome lined anything and the wrong powder I would choose the M-14. Sometimes it's not so much that these guys are wrong as it is that their knowledge is stuck in the past.
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by TDW586 » Fri Oct 16, 2009 12:14 pm

Cool article. Part of the problem may be the amount of faith we in the military tend to place in our senior enlisted and officers. If a young PFC or Lance Corporal hears his Gunny/Top/SFC/Lt or whatever saying something like "these plastic POS Mattel rifles" he's more than likely going to take that as canon, and then his "real-world experience" for him overrules all the legitimate research on whatever subject it is.
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by misanthropist » Fri Oct 16, 2009 12:16 pm

Kommander wrote:
misanthropist wrote:...such as the perceived suckness of the m16 compared to the M14...
Well to be fair if you offered me the choice between an M-14 and an early M-16 with no chrome lined anything and the wrong powder I would choose the M-14. Sometimes it's not so much that these guys are wrong as it is that their knowledge is stuck in the past.
No doubt...also if you like mighty, manly calibers, not poodle-wounding .22s. Kidding...

But I own a bunch of M14s and 0 ARs, so I can understand some of the objections, even though I don't necessarily share them.
DocGKR wrote:.45 ACP is much easier to stop with armor than the smaller, faster 9 mm. On the other hand, the larger mass of .45 ACP allows it to do much better against windshields than 9 mm. What is optimal all depends on your likely engagement scenarios.

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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by Jeriah » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:54 pm

Trebor,

Thanks so much for starting this new thread, since as you predicted, my original was locked and buried. The articles you've quoted are what got me thinking about this topic originally.

The recent resurrection of that thread, which led to its demise, is pretty directly related to this extrapolation of that topic.
moose1954 wrote:To those who say Mattel did not make an m16. DON"T BET ON IT. I was issued an M16 in 1972 in basic training. I qualified with it. It did not have a Mattel logo on the stock or any other plastic. The Mattel name was directly ON THE MAG WELL. There was absolutely no COlT markings on this gun. The legend started because we were using them. End of discussion. End of legend crap. If you want to discuss post response with phone number or email.
AIRCAV
I'll refrain from posting my original question again larger and in bold (sorry about that, Hoppy), but I WILL now perform a magic trick...

Moose1954, picture me here in a Madame Blavatsky outfit and a crystal ball in front of me, because I am about to read your mind like a goddamned illithid up in this shit...watch! (Queue spooky psychic music...)

This M16 you were issued in 1972...you did not ever take a picture of it. Plenty of people took pictures of themselves and their service weapons back then (as they do now), and many did not, and I know, for stone cold fact, like the word of some supreme being brought down to me from on high, that you were one of the latter. I KNOW, for absolutely solid fact, that you never photographed yourself with this weapon...or, at least, that if you did, that the mag well isn't visible in the photo.

How do I know this? I wasn't there. I'm not really psychic. But you're saying the same thing every single person who suffers from IRSTNHS says: "End of discussion, this is fact, etc." But you have no evidence, and ask us to a.) take your word for it, and b.) prove a negative. It doesn't end anything. You haven't proved anything. You've got the syndrome, man.

Love,

jeriah (dot) hildwine (at) gmail (dot) com

P.S. If you post or email me a photo of the magwell of your service weapon and it really does have Mattell on it, I will write "I was wrong, Moose1954 was right" on one cheek with a sharpie, and on the other, I will draw a dick going into my mouth, and make it my signature block for one year from the date I receive that picture.
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The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by tonytwotimes » Sun Dec 18, 2011 10:43 pm

Lol, it's funny that all of this came back up when it did. One of my co workers on Friday swore to me that m-16 rifles were not only made by Mattel, but designed by the toy maker as well. I tried briefly to explain to him otherwise but was quickly told that I couldn't know because I wasn't there. Point taken, I am wrong, and my age is a certain indicator of naiveté. Some people will never believe otherwise. I choose to let these people continue along with their misinformation.
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by RickOShea » Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:11 pm

Not trying to be a dick, but has anyone heard the Mattel thing along with the words "When I was an armorer" or "When I was a Drill Instructor".....?

Everytime I've heard it (from my own 1st cousin) or read it, it was "When I was in boot" or "When I went through Basic".
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by Bunsen » Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:14 pm

Jeriah wrote:P.S. If you post or email me a photo of the magwell of your service weapon and it really does have Mattell on it, I will write "I was wrong, Moose1954 was right" on one cheek with a sharpie, and on the other, I will draw a dick going into my mouth, and make it my signature block for one year from the date I receive that picture.
'Scuse me while I fire up Photoshop... :twisted:

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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by RickOShea » Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:20 pm

Bunsen wrote:
Jeriah wrote:P.S. If you post or email me a photo of the magwell of your service weapon and it really does have Mattell on it, I will write "I was wrong, Moose1954 was right" on one cheek with a sharpie, and on the other, I will draw a dick going into my mouth, and make it my signature block for one year from the date I receive that picture.
'Scuse me while I fire up Photoshop... :twisted:
There's a few custom shops that will engrave whatever you want on a lower receiver. :wink:


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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by Doctorr Fabulous » Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:27 pm

Seen this before. Stress, trauma, or pressure (even something as simple as the pressure to memorize something right) can force the brain to "print" memories that never happened.

All of this is based purekly on personal experiences and observations, not any shrink-journals, analysis, or studies that I know of or can link you to.

Everything from guys remembering mortar strikes that never happened to to vividly remembering a serial number wrong. It happens all the time. I'm sure Mattel receivers and American canning company M3's are the same way.

http://pullig.dyndns.org/retroblackrifl ... rManu.html
Both "Hydra Matic" and "M16 A1" could easily be mis-remembered as "Mattel" if one never looked too closely, and heard the Mattel thing as well as having a Mattel sticker on the rifle.

Also, this little tool http://www.billricca.com/m3a1m.htm may have started the "American Canning Co" myth about the Grease Gun, since they had the same nomenclature. Again, some poorly stamped or worn off markings, plus a misheard conversation could start a bad rumor.

Like when someone heard em refer to the M249 as the "Minimi," prompting Pvt. Numbnutz to tell everyone that there was going to be a mini-gun shoot on the range. See also, rumors of XYZ supplement containing methamphetamines, with stories of the guy there buddy works with who popped on a piss-test for it.

In all actuality, someguy ingested 2000mg+ of caffeine, had a heart attack, and started an investigaion. The rumors started, and the next guy to pop for meth claimed it was the supplement he was taking, not the meth they found in his car.
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by Jeriah » Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:36 pm

Doc Torr wrote:Seen this before. Stress, trauma, or pressure (even something as simple as the pressure to memorize something right) can force the brain to "print" memories that never happened.

All of this is based purekly on personal experiences and observations, not any shrink-journals, analysis, or studies that I know of or can link you to.

Everything from guys remembering mortar strikes that never happened to to vividly remembering a serial number wrong. It happens all the time. I'm sure Mattel receivers and American canning company M3's are the same way.

http://pullig.dyndns.org/retroblackrifl ... rManu.html
Both "Hydra Matic" and "M16 A1" could easily be mis-remembered as "Mattel" if one never looked too closely, and heard the Mattel thing as well as having a Mattel sticker on the rifle.

Also, this little tool http://www.billricca.com/m3a1m.htm may have started the "American Canning Co" myth about the Grease Gun, since they had the same nomenclature. Again, some poorly stamped or worn off markings, plus a misheard conversation could start a bad rumor.

Like when someone heard em refer to the M249 as the "Minimi," prompting Pvt. Numbnutz to tell everyone that there was going to be a mini-gun shoot on the range. See also, rumors of XYZ supplement containing methamphetamines, with stories of the guy there buddy works with who popped on a piss-test for it.

In all actuality, someguy ingested 2000mg+ of caffeine, had a heart attack, and started an investigaion. The rumors started, and the next guy to pop for meth claimed it was the supplement he was taking, not the meth they found in his car.
Reminds me of how I believed, for YEARS, that Olaf_yahoo had "I AM GAY" stamped on the ricasso of his M9 bayonet...

http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopi ... 33&t=62943" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by Jeriah » Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:41 pm

RickOShea wrote:
Bunsen wrote:
Jeriah wrote:P.S. If you post or email me a photo of the magwell of your service weapon and it really does have Mattell on it, I will write "I was wrong, Moose1954 was right" on one cheek with a sharpie, and on the other, I will draw a dick going into my mouth, and make it my signature block for one year from the date I receive that picture.
'Scuse me while I fire up Photoshop... :twisted:
There's a few custom shops that will engrave whatever you want on a lower receiver. :wink:


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Crap. Not that I really mind drawing a dick on my cheek, but I'd really prefer to do it legitimately...
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by MacAttack » Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:22 am

Mattel has been asked MANY times if they have EVER made M16's or even parts for them and each time they flatly state that they have NEVER EVER in any moment in their history have they EVER made anything for the government. No parts and definitely no firearms.



Fact can become myth but myth can NEVER become fact.

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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by Liff » Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:36 am

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v3/ ... _1316.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Memory is one of the worst sources of knowledge or fact. Forget the Mattel thing for a bit, just focus on the variability of memory. How many times have you re-told a story and a friend says, "That's not what happened"?

There are even some medicines out there that affect your memory.

Some people on Ambien can eat, talk to others, drive a car, and even have sex without remembering anything at all.
http://products.sanofi.us/ambien/ambien.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Propranolol (a blood pressure medicine) can and does affect how you remember certain events.
http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/conten ... 40/10/1109" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


So it really comes down to what you want to believe. You can believe that Nessie is hiding out in the bottom of the loch, because no one can dis-prove it. You can believe that ET beings guided the construction of the pyramids, because no one can dis-prove it. You can believe that there were 3 more shooters on the grassy knoll, because no one can dis-prove it. You can believe that Mattel made AR stocks or complete rifles. I don't know about that last one, but I happen to know Mattel made FAL parts. I remember seeing the stocks.

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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by Gingerbread Man » Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:55 am

TDW586 wrote:Cool article. Part of the problem may be the amount of faith we in the military tend to place in our senior enlisted and officers. If a young PFC or Lance Corporal hears his Gunny/Top/SFC/Lt or whatever saying something like "these plastic POS Mattel rifles" he's more than likely going to take that as canon, and then his "real-world experience" for him overrules all the legitimate research on whatever subject it is.
^^^This and I saw a lot of Sgts compelling at E1s and E2 telling them that they have to refer to one tool/gun by another name. They would force a brand new E1 to refer to a hammer as a cock adjuster. So, the E1 one would go to the tool room for a cock adjuster and everyone got a good laugh. I really didn't see what was so damn funny but there it is. Some Sgts had names for everything and would make their noobs refer to all the tools/equipment by another name. I don't get it but I could see this permeating recall memory.
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by Necrodamus » Mon Dec 19, 2011 9:28 am

I actually owned a Mattel M-16
I remember it, and it is fact.




















I was 6 years old and had the coolest TOY in the neighborhood!

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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by fourway » Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:16 am

People also imprint false memories by repeating other people's stories... a lot of "this actually happened to me" stories are sort of like urban legends with a couple of degrees of separation removed.
People are especially susceptible to memory modification as kids and in early adulthood. You hand an 18 year old in a high stress low comfort environment a weapon and say "these used to come from Mattel, you're lucky, the first one I got sucked" and subject him to a barrage of stories about the older ones from Mattel and then a year later put him in the position of talking to some brand new kid... and he looks around for something to say and comes up with "these used to come from Mattel, you're lucky, the first one I got sucked". pretty soon its his memory, his story, it really happened to him.
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by thesupremeking » Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:47 am

:lol: I absolutely LOVE the m16 mattel arguments! Although I always in the back of my mind hope and pray for the day someone comes forward with one; just like the little boy in you hopes and prays someone will eventually shoot a bigfoot. You don't believe it, but you want it to be true SO BAD! :D
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by raptor » Mon Dec 19, 2011 12:14 pm

The human memory is notoriously unreliable. This has been proven time and time again under many circumstances and situation.

IMO the Mattel Toy connection to the M-16 has been debunked as myth, practical joke or simply a story that should be true but is not.

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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by nimdabew » Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:38 pm

Thanks Anianna!
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by FrANkNstEin » Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:22 pm

The human memory is notoriously unreliable.
My mother´s the best proof for this.

You would tell her something, and 20 minutes later when she relents the story to someone else you´ll hear a lot of bullshit and get words put in your mouth that you never said. And she´ll vividly "remember" that you actually said just that and swear by all that is holy that it´s the truth. :roll:

Even if you tell her two or three times: "i actually said XXXXXXX" ....she´ll stubbornly stay by HER bullshit version...

Idjits... sometimes they´re your kinfolk... :roll:

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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by Jeriah » Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:55 pm

A great science experiment that has been performed: Shoot a video looking out the window of a car driving down the street. Now play it for one group of people. Ask them, "Did you see a stop sign?" Record the number of "yes" vs. "no" responses. Now play it for a second group, and ask them, "Did you see THE stop sign?" Compare the results. :lol:

Here's another one:

View the "basketball" video
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RickOShea
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Re: The "I remember something that never happened" syndrome

Post by RickOShea » Mon Dec 19, 2011 5:18 pm

Jeriah wrote:
Here's another one:

View the "basketball" video
They showed us that one a couple years ago at work...I totally missed "it" the first time. :oops:
whisk.e.rebellion wrote: It's not what you say anymore. It's how you say it.

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