Barrie Doesn't Like Kermit The Frog

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Rampant rumors: a giant game of telephone.

hide captionRampant rumors: a giant game of telephone.

Source: Leo Reynolds

There. I've done it. I've started a rumor — a vile, despicable rumor about my own prejudice against frogs, Jim Henson, and possibly the color green, which, as we all know, it ain't easy bein'. Now, this rumor is a lie. I love Kermit — and can sing the Rainbow Connection from beginning to end with no mistakes and much feeling. But here's the thing that's kind of amazing — if I continue to send around the title of this blog post enough, people will believe it. Worse, if I debunk it entirely, they're more likely to believe it. This is why outright falsehoods — such as the Obama-as-Muslim rumor — are so dangerous. Today — at the speed of rumor — we're taking you on a trip through Rumorville. From the first mention, to the campaign to discredit it — it's all rumor on Talk of the Nation. And I LOVE Kermit. Spread that.

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I've gone out of my way to send the link to the Obama rumor at least once, and the Bob KLeeshan at Iwo Jima one at least twice, and on and on. But one of my acquaintances continues to automatically forward every email rumor she gets (especially the right wing ones), right after Joke of the Day. Drives me crazy!

Sent by Karen Funk Blocher | 3:13 PM | 3-25-2008

Who care is Sen Obama IS a Muslim? And yes, I know that he is not. But I thought this was a free country, where no one could dictate our personal religions, and could care less if he was a Muslim. Since when is it required by law (or anything else but popular culture) to be a Christian to be a politician?

Sent by Jan Groh in Portland, OR | 3:13 PM | 3-25-2008

In regards to the email being circulated about Obama's religion, I was quite disappointed when my I received it from my younger sister and Dad. These are two people who claim to be very scrupulous about things they read and discuss, and so for them to send out the email that was not truth, as only a source of trying to sway their friend's/family's opinions about politics (they are both Repub, while my Mom and I vote for those whom we believe are best suited for the job). Anyway, I was appalled and offended by the spreading of the email, especially from my own family who claims to be so "up" on politics and history.

Sent by Crystal Bowles (bowls) | 3:14 PM | 3-25-2008

Rumors stay in force because the Mainstream Media keeps them in play. Note Al Gore inventing the Internet and/or Love Canel. I have heard NPR reporters repeat these rumors as facts.

Sent by John C | 3:18 PM | 3-25-2008

Arrgh! Should have proofread! I meant to say that the link I passed on for these rumors was the Snopes.com page debunking them. I routinely check any email rumors I get - if I even bother to open the emails.

Sent by Karen Funk Blocher | 3:21 PM | 3-25-2008

I use the website Urban Legends to check out the validity of questionable emails I receive. It's a great help. When incorrect, as they often are, I will return the email to the sender with the link to the Urban Legends remarks.

Sent by Nancy Firlik | 3:22 PM | 3-25-2008

Hello and thank you for having this discussion. Here is how I dealt with the chain email rumor about Barack Obama - the one alleging Muslim radicalism in his family. At the time I received it, I had no candidate allegiance, however I am proud to say that since then I have done research and Barack Obama has my vote. Read on:
I mean no disrespect to anyone whom this message reaches. If anyone takes offense to what I have written, be assured that is not my intention.

If you are interested in facts, then I suggest you do check this out on Snopes.com. If the link doesn't take you directly
to the article related to this forwarded email, then type "Barack Obama" in the search field on Snopes.com
and look for this specific article. You might be surprised by what you find.

I personally do not endorse any one candidate at this point, but I do consider it extremely important to research facts
about each -- including and especially messages like this which are so incendiary and therefore travel like crazy.
Plenty of people are more than willing to smear any one of the presidential candidates with mistruths and distortions of fact. Electing the next President of the United States is too important a task to take alarming gossip at face value.

Sent by Rachel | 3:23 PM | 3-25-2008

By the way I neglected to mention that I used the Reply All function, sending my message to everyone, including people I didn't know, who received the initial email rumor about Barack Obama's alleged radical Muslim status. sorry, I hope this isn't too disconnected from my original post to be meaningful to my point...

Sent by Rachel | 3:25 PM | 3-25-2008

Every time you mention 'chain-emails' I think you're saying 'Cheney-mail' and it seems to fit the idiocy!

Sent by Donna J | 3:27 PM | 3-25-2008

Wasn't there some Senator who took the oath of office on something other than the bible this last election? when I heard the Obama rumor that thought came into my mind.

Sent by Mike | 3:29 PM | 3-25-2008

The people who believe the rumor WANT to believe the rumor...it speaks to what they already believe. I've tried debunking rumors...sites like Snopes cover just about all of them...I'm either ignored or accused or accused of having a bias. So now i don't bother.

Sent by Laurie Pfisterer | 3:31 PM | 3-25-2008

Who are "They?" I always ask my friends. They being the ones responsible for 9/11, they being the ones feeding prescription drugs into our water, "they" the ones who faked the moon landing. Once I ask who is "they?" My friends usually give up.

Sent by Joey | 3:32 PM | 3-25-2008

When I get these email lies, (let's call them that, not "rumors") I do a "reply to all" and add all the other names that are listed in the email with the refutation and a caution to be careful about spreading lies.

Sent by Lou Ann in Alameda | 3:34 PM | 3-25-2008

Rumors start almost without trying. I worked as a nurse on a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, once when we were having a quiet day and someone commented that it was boring. I replied, "We could always start a rumor that you are pregnant." Within the hour another nurse came up and asked her if she was pregnant.

Sent by Margaret K | 3:36 PM | 3-25-2008

I've been the victim of a series of rumors for the last several years on Usenet (Internet) newsgroups.

They were started by a couple of people who have no interest in disseminating "information," unless you would include vicious lies in that category. There's no point it trying to negate the rumors or of even acknowledging them, since this just gives these hateful people more incentive to persist.

The result of these rumors have been a flood of hate email, 10s of 1000s of spam, "joe jobs" (faking my return address so that I get a lot of angry emails telling me to take people off my list), and even in a few cases US postal mail that can't be described in polite company and late-night threatening phone calls, both of which required an official investigation by the authorities.

Sent by Steve in Colorado | 3:38 PM | 3-25-2008

People believe what they want to believe. "Don't confuse me with the facts". How can intelligent people believe that Israel was behind 911? Easy, they don't want to believe that devout middle class, muslims could commit such an act. Along comes a rumor that places the blame on a group they already dislike: it must be true.

Sent by Seth | 3:41 PM | 3-25-2008

I've run into the mentioned problem of 'warring internet sites' recently where I had a user (I'm an IT person) forward a chain mail to me wondering if it was true or not. It was about email 'ecard' greetings spreading viruses, and contained the note that it was confirmed by Snopes (this is true), but a later recipient had added in their own link to an about.com article on the same or a similar rumor saying it was false. Both sites are supposedly objective information sources, but they disagreed.

The situation was further confounded by the fact that the base of the rumor (viruses spread by ecard links) was in fact true at that time (Storm was using them to spread), but the rumor was embellished by saying that the virus would erase your hard drive (laughably false information).

I always hate having to try to explain something like that to somebody, because I'm always worried that they will only remember that I said it was true, not that it was only true to a degree. Also, being an IT guy, sometimes I think in the long haul the world might be a better place if people wrongly believe these security rumor emails and so become more careful in how they use their computers.

Sent by Jared | 3:42 PM | 3-25-2008

I can see the motivation behind the political type rumors, but the sick kid type chain mails: People might believe these because there seems to be no reason for someone to artifically create them. Can anyone tell me what the incentive might be? They are usually not asking for $, only prayers and forwarding and it does not seem like there is ever a program attached which might be a virus. So what is the gain, if any, I wonder for these fake stories? Are we risking a virus/identity theft when we read them? And does no one ever recognize the (perfectly safe & healthy) kid pictured?

Sent by Leah | 3:45 PM | 3-25-2008

Concerning rumors and hearsay:

A mentally healthy person is in a state of congruence; that is, the individual's behavior conforms to his or her beliefs and values.

Unfortunately, many of us, instead of striving for true congruence by getting our behavior in line with our values when inconsistencies occur, or by changing our viewpoints about an issue when we are proven wrong, will settle for a counterfeit peace of mind through rationalization.

If we keep rationalizing, we can become psychologically unhealthy and removed from reality.

The more we give up our critical thinking abilities, the harder it becomes to face our errors in judgment, and personal and social tragedies can be the result.

Sent by Justin Askew | 3:49 PM | 3-25-2008

The comment about the benevolent rumor hit home. I have repeatedly been the recipient of a number of well intentioned rumors from family members and friends who felt the need to "inform" me about something that has been patently untrue. One of the rumors that seems to make the rounds is the one about pop can tabs being collected to benefit some deserving child who needs dialysis. From looking at this at face value and not even having to do much research, this doesn't seem credible and raises a number questions like, how would any redemption facility be able to tell which brand of soda was consumed, why would the companies give up millions of dollars (likely in excess of any tax benefit that they could use), how the amount could be determined (which would likely be many times in excess of the monetary value of the value of the metal used to produce the pop tab, etc. This is a rumor that often is posted in the lunch rooms in workplaces and recently sent home in the form of a flyer printed by my son's homeroom teacher. Even a local chapter of the Kidney Foundation got into the act. I checked this out with the chapter and acknowledged that they did promote this, although couldn't give me any information as to how they planned to redeem them or who was reimbursing them. Another rumor that seems to persist, the rumor about a child being kidnapped at Wal-Mart while his mother retrieved a gallon of milk (or other product in a refrigerator case), having his head shaved, his clothing changed, and found in a back room after the Code Adam alert was activated and the store locked down. It seems that this and other rumors like it persist because someone heard this from a friend or family member, they perceive them as being credible, and want to believe them. Probability of these rumors even being true be damned and the fact that these rumors have been recirculated several times, people believe them.

Sent by Michael Stranathan | 3:50 PM | 3-25-2008

I am not a political activist but when I received the Obama email I just had to say something. I am not an Obama support but am fed up with my mail box getting flooded with viral email. After listening to a part of the broadcast I am not sure whether I made a difference or not about the rumor BUT I sure did get responses back when I used words like LAZY, Un-American and BIGOT to tell everyone to just take the time and research these emails yourself and stop spreading rumors. Thanks for listening -Jenny C

Sent by Jenny Conejo | 3:54 PM | 3-25-2008

This is for Mike. It was Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, not a Senator, who took the oath of office by swearing in on a copy of the Koran that was once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Sent by Carline | 4:45 PM | 3-25-2008

The biggest rumor of all is the official story (MYTH) of the 9/11 attacks. And it has been repeated ad nauseum.

Maybe we can all agree that the Pentagon should now release all of the surveillance videos showing what atually hit the Pentagon, so we can all see with our own eyes.

Then we won't need to rely on any rumors anymore will we?

Sent by Bill Enyart | 7:44 PM | 3-25-2008

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