Flat Earth Society
Uncle Bill Warner
you have heard of the Flat Earth
Society? They refuse to accept the scientific evidence that
they are inhabiting a sphere, and offer evidence of their own that
the earth is really shaped like a pentagonal pancake. "Its
flat where I live!" What happens to planes and ships that are
lost? They just went off the edge and disappeared. It is an obvious,
albeit clever, put on.
There are a
lot of distortions of the truth that have been making the rounds
for years that are not so obvious. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister
of propaganda, is purported to have said, "If you repeat a
big lie often enough, people will come to believe it." Now
if you accept the big lie theory, how do you enlighten people who,
when presented with evidence that what they have come to believe
by hearing it over and over is spurious?
in his book "The True Believer" made a good case for a
certain kind of personality (which we might call a fanatic) who
will continue to believe something even after there is overwhelming
evidence that it is a falsehood or, even more dangerous, a half-truth.
Believing fulfills a need with them, and in their minds attacking
a false belief is the same as attacking them personally. I'm sure
you know someone like this. "Don't confuse me with the facts!"
however, less obvious hoaxes out there which can cause a lot of
mischief among us. These are usually concocted to advance political
agendas, and are everywhere these days on the Internet: faked-up
photos show John Kerry and Jane Fonda together, Tom Daschle with
his left hand over his heart saying the pledge, or maybe just a
faked-up snapshot of an iceberg supposedly taken by a diver. You
can't really believe your eyes anymore, even if you are from Missouri.
are all of the hoaxes involving Hillary Clinton snubbing Gold Star
Mothers, Congressmen not paying into Social Security, Jane Fonda
passing confidential notes from prisoners to their North Vietnamese
captors, Target stores funding Gay and Lesbian Causes, or Captain
Kangaroo saving Lee Marvin's life on Mount Suribachi. Check out
these and many others at www.snopes.com,
which gives the background on hundreds of dubious stories and either
labels them true, false, or not proven one way or the other. It
is hard to find the truth these days, but a good rule of thumb is
"If it looks like BS, sounds like BS, and smells like BS, it
may well be BS." Look it up on Snopes. If their research does
not jibe with your faith, it won't make any difference, now will
have achieved world-class success are often planted stories that
have made the rounds many times, like US 7th Cavalry soldiers throwing
Indian children into the air and catching them on their bayonets
(revived in the 30's, but with Japanese soldiers and Chinese babies).
Many people even today still believe the politically-motivated claim
that Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Repeat a lie often enough
and it passes into the realm of "folk knowledge."
first Gulf war, many people believed President Bush when he told
our servicemen the story that Iraqi soldiers invading Kuwait pulled
312 premature babies from the incubators and threw them on the floor
to die. Even after the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the
U.S., the source of this hoax, admitted it was all made up, and
that she had been in Washington DC at the time she was supposed
to have witnessed it, some people continue to this day to believe
the discredited story! What started as a hoax, for a number of true
believers, is "fact."
There are people
who still believe Iraq today has weapons of mass destruction, well-hidden
of course, because they have heard it repeated so often by the media
and the President. During the Vietnam War, the folks trying to discredit
the peace movement circulated a story about how anti-war demonstrators
were spitting on returning servicemen, even though there was never
a shred of evidence to support the story. A lot of people still
believe this hoax because they WANT to believe it to help justify
their feelings about the peace movement. And then there are all
the myths about the Jews planted by the Nazis in the 30's and 40's.
I think that
anti-hoax sites like Snopes provide a great service, as it makes
it easy to check out stories that push credibility to the limit.
The true believers, of course, will always believe, despite any
evidence to the contrary. The many people who have not yet become
emotionally attached to the modern urban legends (hoaxes) will be
able to check out their doubts easily. Pull up www.snopes.com
on your browser for some really interesting examinations of what
so many of us think we know for sure as "fact". Be skeptical.
And try not to sail off the edge of the earth....
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