7 Bullshit Rumors That Caused Real World Catastrophes

Everybody loves a good rumor. Already today you've probably passed on some juicy bit of information you heard, without first rigorously tracking down its source. Who cares, right?

But sometimes, a tiny scrap of bullshit can result in fortunes lost... and sometimes much, much worse.

#7. The Five-Billion Dollar Steve Jobs Rumor

The Rumor:

Apple CEO Steve Jobs had a heart attack!

The Damage:

As soon as word hit the internet that Jobs had been rushed to the hospital with a failing heart, this happened to Apple stock:

In the first hour of trading the stock lost 10% of its value ($4.8 billion motherfucking dollars), spurred by panicked investors who apparently believe that Apple Computer Inc. is made up entirely of Steve Jobs working alone in his garage.

How It Got Started:

A teenager and a keyboard.

Authorities say the whole thing was just some random 18-year-old posting the rumor to CNN's iReport website, which boasts at the top of its page, "... The stories submitted by users are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they post."

Man, how could they have known anything would go wrong with that?

#6. Corona Tastes Like Piss for a Reason

The Rumor:

Corona beer literally has urine in it!

The Damage:

In 1987, Corona was the number two selling imported beer in America, when this nasty rumor started. Sales plummeted, and didn't recover until years later.

How It Got Started:

Everybody's heard someone use the expression "This beer tastes like piss!" or, if the beer isn't cold enough, "This beer tastes like warm piss!" or, if the beer is Corona, "This beer tastes like warm piss that also has a lime in it!" (There are several variations.) Maybe it's the fact that Corona is yellow, frothy and comes in a clear bottle, or maybe because some Americans still distrust anything brewed in Mexico, in 1987 when someone said "Corona IS piss!", people believed it.

Snopes says the rumor was started by a rival distributor of Heineken. Before it was over, the public had added bullshit confessions by the piss contaminators (written in Spanish) and vague references to either a 60 minute or 20/20 report, neither of which exist. What is more, the collective American bullshit hive-brain estimated that the urine content of Corona ranged from 2 to 20 percent.


It's actually a fairly complex process.

A few disgruntled workers couldn't achieve that level of urine concentration. The implication is that the American public believed that Corona hired professional pissers whose sole job was to drink lots of water and urinate into their product. It is unclear what the purpose of this would have been. It is also unclear whether they would top-up bottles on the conveyor belt, or pee as a group into a large vat, dramatically throwing their ponchos over their shoulders before letting loose.

#5. Does This Banana Taste Like SARS To You?

The Rumor:

Bananas give you SARS!

The Damage:

In China, the banana market utterly collapsed after a bizarre rumor made the rounds that the fruit was giving people SARS somehow. Banana prices plummeted 90%, bankrupting growers.

How It Got Started:

China, like the rest of the world, has gotten addicted to affordable text-messaging. One side effect is it's allowing rumors to spread like wildfire.

Keep in mind, getting reliable information in a totalitarian state like China can be tough. When a pandemic hits, the government can keep a lid on things until they finally get out of control (like SARS, for instance). Texting has allowed a black market for news that circumvents government control but, as we have found out, rumor mills like to fill information voids with bullshit.

So, some random dude punches in "BANANAS GIVE YOU SARS PLZ FORWARD" with his thumbs and, a few million forwarded messages later, some very unhappy farmers are sitting on a shitload of rotting bananas.

#4. Procter & Gamble & Lucifer

The Rumor:

When you buy Procter & Gamble products, you're supporting Satan worship!

The Damage:

If you were feeling superior to the primitive Chinese up there, here's one right from the enlightened west. For years calls for a Procter & Gamble boycott circulated in the US, claiming the company had ties to the Church of Satan.

The exact loss of revenue to the company is unclear, but in March 2007, Procter & Gamble was awarded $19 million in damages, finally winning a lawsuit against people who were spreading the rumors.

How It Got Started:

This rumor has lived on for several decades, in the form of chain mail and then chain e-mails saying:


"The President of Procter & Gamble appeared on the Phil Donahue Show on March 1, 1994. He announced that due to the openness of our society, he was coming out of the closet about his association with the church of Satan... When asked by Donahue if stating this on t.v. would hurt his business, he replied, 'THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH CHRISTIANS IN THE UNITED STATES TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.'"


It goes on to claim that "a large portion" of Procter & Gamble's profits were going to support the Church of Satan (which must have raised some questions with shareholders) though it also spread the crazy around to other companies:


"LIZ CLAIRBORNE ALSO PROFESSES TO WORSHIP SATAN AND RECENTLY OPENLY ADMITTED ON THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW THAT HALF OF HER PROFITS GO TOWARDS THE CHURCH OF SATAN."


Obviously, those supposed admissions on national television never happened. Though, since Procter & Gamble does $84 billion a year in revenue, if they were sending most of their profit Satan's way it's safe to say the dark lord would be able to pay to keep us quiet about it.

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