Urban myths. Urban myths are stories that are fictional stories that are told with such conviction that they can easily be believed. There was one that went around a few years ago. A hospital was quite concerned that every Friday, the person who was in one particular bed in the ICU, would die. The patients all had different illnesses but Friday, the patient in bed 3 died. After four or five weeks, the hospital decided to investigate. It was discovered that one of the cleaners would unplug one of the respirators and plug in her floor polisher. When she was done she would plug back in the respirator, but by this time the patient had died. What gave this away as an urban myth was that even though I heard the story from 6 or 7 different sources, each time the story was told, the location of the hospital was changed. Oh it happened in Mississauga, North York, Scarborough, or in Toronto. Because the story was so good, the details of the story were always quite alike (hospital, ICU, cleaner, Friday, plugs). However the changing location meant that this was most likely fiction rather than fact- or else there were several careless cleaners all around.
I had lived in Australia for a couple of years already. I was vacationing in Queensland when I saw a short documentary on the Flat Earth Society. It centered on one of their conventions which was held somewhere in the southern US. The reporter was asking the Flat earthers why they believed the way that they did. One came on and said that Australia was all a myth. There was no such place. The pilots and NASA had all contrived the idea of Australia just in order to pull a gigantic hoax on the gullible. And all the people who claimed to be from Australia were paid actors. I looked at my surroundings and shook my head. If there was no Australia then why was it plus 32 degrees Celsius in January? Why were the daylight hours longer in January then in July? It also amazed me that so many actors had been hired to pull off this ruse of living in a country down under. And where was my check for being one of these Australian actors. The Flat earthers would have us believe that it was impossible to fly east from Australia and end up in North and South America. The Japanese could not have attacked Pearl Harbour because they could not have flown from Japan to Hawaii without going through Europe and North America first. The Flat earthers and their anti-science, anti-Nasa views, see conspiracies everywhere to keep their beliefs alive.
I think there has always been skepticism of science in the world. Scientific theories always have to be replicated in order to be considered a fact. But there have always been people who have been slow to believe. Why? Some people don't trust authority figures. Some don't understand basic scientific facts. Some are overly cautious about change- it worked for grandma and so it should be good enough for me.
Facebook though has added to the power of the naysayers. Years ago you might have one isolated person refusing to believe in gravity (to use an example). Her story would not go very far. Now thanks to social media it is possible for that one person to find others who share her view. And suddenly you have a community who can give voice to wacky ideas. The story grows and like the cleaner unplugging the respirator, suddenly it looks like thousands don't believe in gravity (it's there my friends- I let go of a pencil and it fell to the earth). It is still the same wacky idea that only a few people had but because of social media it becomes a movement.
I read an article last year. A reporter had tracked down the author of several fake news reports. When asked why, the fake news maker said he did it for the readership and to push his own political agenda. He was not concerned about facts. He was not concerned about the truth. He was not concerned about hurting innocent people or misleading the gullible. He was more concerned about getting read and twisting public opinion. Social media gave him an easy platform to spread his misinformation. Just like readers of the tabloids, this fake news doctor knew people were more concerned about headlines, true or not, than content of the stories.
In the midst of the COVID outbreak, the downturn of the economy, racial unrest, growing numbers of conspiracy theorists, and an upcoming US election, I implore everyone to check the truth behind every article you read. What did that health official really say? What did the politician really say? Is it true that this person said this? Does the person have any expertise on the subject that they are speaking about? Look behind the headlines. Check the stories. Otherwise we will all be telling the stories of cleaning women who pulled the plug in the ICU. Blessings.