Internet can spread rumors faster than wildfire

Dennis DalmanEditorial, Sartell – St. StephenLeave a Comment

Misinformation and rumors, which used to spread rather slowly, can now spread like wildfire literally around the world in a split second.

Internet social media are like vast gossip clubs where anything said is believed. A current example of that is the so-called “zombie virus.”

According to a story on “Care2,” an increasing number of gullible, eager-to-believe people are espousing a theory that a virus is spreading that turns people into zombie-like creatures that crave human flesh. They point to the recent appalling case of a man in Miami who literally chewed the face off of a helpless homeless man. A policeman had to shoot the perpetrator dead.

Such a crime was so hideous, so bizarre that of course it spread instantly via the Internet. At the same time, there have been reports of ghastly cannibalistic-type crimes elsewhere in the world. Add to that a series of mysterious rashes that have affected groups of people throughout Florida, and, of course, imaginative minds put them all together and call it all the coming “Zombie Apocalypse.”

One blog entry about the virus was meant to be a joke, but thousands of bloggers took it seriously and spread the story as fact, embellishing the story the way kindergartners do in the circle game when a student says something and by the time it gets back around the circle, lips to ear, lips to ear, the original statement does not even remotely resemble what was said at the last link of the circle.

The “zombie disease” even has a scientific-sounding nickname: LQP-79.

This zombie-disease rumor became so rampant the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention felt compelled to issue a statement saying there is no such virus known that could “re-animate the dead or cause people to exhibit zombie-like symptoms.”

That professional, accurate information did not detract the zombie adherents. Oh, no! Not even for a second. In fact, a conspiracy theory – go figure! – rapidly developed and began spreading faster than any zombie virus ever could. Now, the zombie virus is not only “real,” but it’s being denied by official agencies, including the government. Those denials, of course, are PROOF the virus is out there and that it’s spreading. Sure enough!

So many silly rumors are pepetuated in that same way. It’s the same with flying-saucer sightings. The more the government denies they happened, the more people are convinced they MUST have happened.

This growing occurrence of rampant Internet rumors and conspiracy theories should cause all of us to pause and exclaim, “Whoa!” It’s so obvious people are all too willing to believe scary things. It is sometimes “fun” to get scared, as when listening to ghost stories around a campfire. But, really, folks, let’s grow up. Let’s develop a healthy sense of skepticism, and let’s not so quickly believe anything and everything, especially not just because it’s on the Internet.

Author: Dennis Dalman

news@thenewsleaders.com

Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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