In what has to be a first in U.S. history, a House committee voted last week to kill a bill that didn't exist. In fact, the bill had never even been proposed. Yet it had a sponsor, Rep. Tony Schnell, and a number, H.B. 602-P.
If Schnell's measure did exist - which, of course, it didn't because there's no such person as Rep. Schnell - it would call for a mind-boggling $20 to $40 federal surcharge per month on all Internet services.
Confused? Well, so were House Commerce Committee members. They were inundated with e-mails demanding the defeat of 602-P.
And that's putting it mildly. Communications on Schnell's bill, said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., exceeded that of all other hot-button issues, including abortion, Elian, gas prices and China trade.
So great was the public outrage that Upton drafted the proposal to "block" Schnell's nefarious legislation. But it wasn't real legislation he was blocking; it was a hoax, the product of an Internet Web site's practical joke that was angering or scaring Internet users nationwide out of their rational minds.
This shows just how rapidly cyberspace communication travels and how politically potent the Internet can be; never mind if the data being transmitted is totally false.
One would be hard put to find a better example of perception becoming reality than this. So great was the outrage that House members felt they couldn't afford to ignore it.
The only way to bring peace, and stop the deluge of mail, was to act to kill the imaginary legislation. In other words, a virtual vote to defeat a virtual bill. It's virtually enough to drive some of us to the virtual nut house.