7 Bullshit Rumors That Caused Real World Catastrophes

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.

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?

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.

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.

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:


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.

That Soccer Player is a Little Too Good

The Rumor:

One of the soccer players is a witch! Get him!

The Damage:

In September 2008, a soccer riot killed 13 Congolese people after accusations of on-the-field witchcraft enraged the crowd.

How It Got Started:

It's not clear what completely awesome soccer move this player performed, but what we do know is it was so badass that rumors the player was using witchcraft to aid his performance quickly spread through the crowd.

Naturally, this angered the supporters of the other team (as well as anyone who had bet on the match, we'd presume). The crowd became violent.

In an attempt to control the violence, police fired warning shots into the air. Now, normally firing a gun into an angry crowd is a great way to get them to calm down and peacefully return to their seats. In this case the gunfire created a stampede, and the deaths were caused by the violent surge toward the exits.

It's just fucking soccer.

If you're thinking that Congo appears to exist on an entirely different planet than the rest of us, get a load of this...

Magic Penis Theft

The Rumor:

Penis-stealing sorcerers are loose in the town!

The Damage:

Yes, we're back in Congo, where rumors of penis thievery are taken a whole lot more seriously than they probably are in your hometown. Mobs attack and sometimes kill people accused of cock-theft via witchcraft.

In a recent case, 13 people suspected of penile sorcery were arrested by Congolese police and back in 1997, seven people were lynched for suspected penis-stealing/shrinking offenses.

"I'm sorry, you're accusing me of what?"

How It Got Started:

In certain parts of Africa, they've never met a magic dick-stealing or dick-shrinking rumor they didn't believe immediately. Laugh all you want, but two people who won't be joining you include these two Kenyan boys who actually did have their penises cut off by a sorcerer who was concocting an anti-HIV cocktail-potion.

"Maybe if I added some Kenyan Boy Penis..."

Given this climate, it isn't surprising that guys walk around clutching their genitals and unsubstantiated public accusations get people killed.

A (Fake) Story of Child Abuse Sparks the Harlem Riots

The Rumor:

An innocent Puerto Rican boy was beaten to death by the white man!

The Damage:

That story hit the streets in 1935 and sparked the Harlem riots, the first race riot in the area which killed three people, wounded hundreds and damaged property to the tune of roughly $2 million dollars. Adjusted for inflation, those figures work out to $200 trillion worth of property damage and 300 thousand casualties.

How It Got Started:

The kernel of truth behind this story is that a 16-year-old Puerto Rican boy named Lino Rivera was caught shoplifting a 10-cent penknife. A store employee apprehended the thief, and got his hand bitten for his troubles. Long story short, the police were called and Rivera was arrested and later released.

While all this was happening, a crowd had collected outside the store. The trouble started when a woman who witnessed the initial confrontation began shrieking that the boy had been beaten.

Naturally, when an ambulance showed up to treat the store employee for his bite wound--lest he turn Puerto Rican during the next full moon--the crowd assumed that it was there to pick up the boy. When they noticed a hearse parked nearby, the shrewd crowd applied Occam's razor to the situation, concluding that the boy must have been beaten to death.

"Nope, I just like hanging out with my hearse in Harlem."

That evening, demonstrations were organized in front of the store during which printed handbills and pamphlets, the blogs of their time, were passed around reading "CHILD BRUTALLY BEATEN." The prestige and credibility of printed media pushed the crowd over the edge: a rock was thrown through the store's window, and city-wide carnage ensued.

"According to this, I beat a Puerto Rican boy to death today. Curious."

Things only calmed down once pictures of the boy standing beside a police officer were passed around, disproving the rumor. As per their retraction policy, the rabble-rousing pamphleteers shouted at their recently-looted Jenkins JD-30 TV/Radio receivers a few hastily-worded apologies, which were cruelly ignored by the newsreaders inside the box.

Read more of Glenn at Scenic Anemica or check out his novel in progress right here.

For more bizarre myths that people think are true, check out 7 Retarded Food Myths the Internet Thinks Are True. Or check out the logical explanations behind your favorite sex myths in 6 Sex Myths as Explained by Science. And be sure to visit Cracked.com's Top Picks to see what we're looking at instead of working.

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