4 Exaggerated Dangers Everyone Loves to Hype
Not to shatter your youthful idealism or anything, but the world is kind of a scary place. We at Cracked have done our best to make sure you know just how movies, the legal system, and even hospitals are trying to gut you and wear your skin as a crudely made Batman costume (or "Ferret Man," depending on your skin tone).
So let's change it up a bit, because as terrifying as the daily grind can be, some of the hot-button, fashionable bogeymen are a lot less scary than you've been told. For example ...
Genetically Modified Foods Aren't Going to Kill You
What You've Been Told:
Look out, everyone -- it's frankenfood! Someone made the damn-fool decision to give the world's scientists unfettered access to our refrigerators, and those eggheads immediately started squirting scorpion venom into our cabbage and conspiring to make us allergic to everything. The only solution is to go COMPLETELY ORGANIC on all fronts.
The broccoli would later get an asterisk next to all its recipes after failing a urine test.
Let's get one thing straight here: Science has been messing with your food since the dawn of agriculture, because just by putting it on a farm, we change the way it grows. The only difference now is that we're testing that stuff out in a lab instead of just sticking food in someone's mouth and making a note if they immediately puke out a lung or start pooping upward or something.
But what about the "scorpion cabbage"? That sounds terrifying, right? Sure, but only because we gave it a stupid name that implies it's some kind of insect/plant hybrid. I don't want to brag, but if a scorpion ever fucked a cabbage, I'd be the guy who knew about it first, so when I tell you it never happened, that means it never goddamn happened. Even if it did, you wouldn't be eating their babies, because reproduction doesn't work that way. What scientists actually did is take one tiny piece of the chemical ingredients that make up scorpion venom, one they had carefully determined to be deadly to insects but not humans, and then inserted it into cabbage. According to Bryan Andrews, an actual GMO scientist I interviewed because I thought a nucleotide was something Godzilla fought, this is a .00001 percent change to that crop's cabbagehood.
Not this. Sadly. Because this is rad.
I don't have room to debunk every little rumor (it's not causing allergies either! OK, I'm done), so let's skip to the cool stuff: hepatitis B vaccines. Normally, they need to be refrigerated, and some parts of the world plagued by hep. B are almost impossible to get to with a mini-fridge. Luckily, scientists (like Bryan Andrews, cool dude that he is) are developing a way to hide the hepatitis B vaccine inside corn wafers, making them immune to the heat and available to way, way more people. And this isn't the first time GMOs have revolutionized medicine: They are why we now have safer, better insulin, which absolutely no one can say is a bad thing.
Obviously, we should keep an eye on what goes into making our food, because we put it in our bodies and it's best to be safe about that stuff. And we absolutely shouldn't just default to trusting major corporations, because they're gigantic currency monsters that feed on our weakness. But GMOs are the way we're going to feed the future, so let's maybe get our facts straight before we write them off just because our hearts tell us to.
People Aren't Mindless Drones, Helplessly Obeying Their Superiors
What You've Been Told:
All of our favorite movie heroes are the ones who went against the herd and took a stand. Batman sought justice in a broken system when no one else would; Oskar Schindler bravely went against the oppressors alone to save lives; Atticus Finch also sought justice in a broken system when no one else would, just with much less fanfare. We look up to heroes like this German dude who stands up to Loki in The Avengers because we know that's our biggest weakness: orders. We're pack animals, and although we have our adorable little convictions, at the end of the day we do what we're told. For proof, look no further than the famous Milgram experiment: Subjects were asked to electrocute people on the other side of a one-way mirror, and 65 percent got their zap on and continued a-zappin' even after the person they were shocking appeared to die. Basically, human nature is fucked: We might not go around giving random nut shots to strangers, but that's just because no one has politely asked us to yet.
But seriously, if one person asks me to, I'm on it, yes sir, 100 percent.
When we ran that article about Milgram that I just linked to, that was the truth as everyone in the world knew it -- but in the meantime an entire book was written about how every detail of Milgram's results are a lie. It turns out the 65 percent statistic only applies to one 40-person subgroup in an experiment involving 700 subjects. When you look at all his findings, you'll see that only half the people involved thought the experiment was real. Of the people fooled, two-thirds refused to continue with the zap-attack. If you're keeping track, that's the exact opposite of the statistic Milgram published.
And it's not just the results that are wrong: The whole experiment was more rigged than your student loan repayment plan. Milgram said that anyone who refused to go all Jamie-Foxx-in-Amazing-Spider-Man-2 on those fools would be classified as "disobedient," but he started ignoring that rule as soon as his subjects stopped electrocuting dudes. In one presumably awkward instance, he had the actor playing the doctor give the "kill" order to one woman 26 times before giving up.
"We'll give you caaaaake."
"If I murder someone? Yeah, still no."
So why did Milgram lie? Hey, look, the answer is money: The results were released shortly after Nazi Adolf Eichmann's trial for crimes against humanity, and the general public was desperate for some kind of explanation as to how someone could end up being such a dick. Meanwhile, Milgram was desperate for everyone in the world to pay attention to him and give him money. The end result was a major win for everyone except the scientific method.
Related: Drones Aren't Weird Anymore!
Hate Groups Kinda Suck at Everything
What You've Been Told:
Hate groups are the last vestige of American racism, a terrifying glimpse into the dark side of the American subconscious. While the Westboro Baptist Church protests the funeral of every American soldier killed in action, the KKK rides through the South, roasting marshmallows on burning crosses and talking their moms into patching up their costumes. Wait, shit, I'm still supposed to be pretending these guys are intimidating.
"Rarr! I'm a Grand Dragon!" See? Scary.
Meanwhile, Stormfront rules the Internet. Is there anywhere in the world left for people who are just too goddamn busy to be racist?
Remember when Christina H told you that it was time to start making fun of terrorists? We should do that with hate groups, too. In fact, we should've started doing this forever ago, because they are silly as shit. Take the Ku Klux Klan: The most famous hate group in the contemporary world is today down to between 5,000 and 8,000 members. That's barely enough to fill a WoW server, and even that paltry number is scattered into bickering factions. I don't know what their disagreements are, so I'm going to assume it's red-faced bitch fits about whether "Wizards" should outrank "Dragons."
No word on where "Grand Santa" ranks.
But the Westboro Baptist Church is newer and more intimidating, right? Nope -- they are, somehow, even more of a joke. After less than a single generation of relevancy, already the younger members are dropping out one by one -- sometimes specifically to go into gay rights advocacy work. Even people who've been indoctrinated by hate literally from birth get to a certain point in their life where they look around at all the "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "You're Going to Hell" signs and say "Fuck this. That other parade has naked dancing."
Drug Addiction Doesn't Work How You Think
What You've Been Told:
Drugs (especially "hard" drugs like crack) are cockroach traps, but for humans: If we get too close to them, we are drawn inside, then trapped in a sticky substance as we helplessly watch our family and life dissolve around us. We've been explaining this concept in kitchens for quite a while now, with ads best known for giving 12-year-old me his first boner.
Which is why I can't get aroused unless someone is breaking all my stuff. Ladies.
The point is, of course, that drugs are uncontrollably addictive (aside from alcohol, which is legal and therefore harmless). You've all read that one study: When rats are given the choice between cocaine and food, they will continuously choose cocaine over food until they literally starve to death.
Crack and heroin (and actually anything that makes your brain function differently) are bad for you. Obviously. But they're not unstoppable Addiction Terminators: Between 80 and 90 percent of the people who use meth and crack never get addicted. Human beings aren't such fragile little snowflakes that exposure to a single "good feeling" chemical can immediately wreck their lives. As a species, we're actually pretty tough.
I mean, we've kinda made this planet our bitch.
So what's the deal with that study with the rats? Bad science, basically: The rats in that study were kept isolated and denied stimulation. Their whole world was a little tube with drugs and food in it, and they were going for the drugs because they were bored out of their tiny rat minds. If you let the rats run around, have sex with each other, and play the rat equivalent of touch football, their drug use plummeted.
And it's the same with people: A guy named Dr. Carl Hart became something of a crack Santa Claus when he invited a bunch of junkies to smoke medical-grade crack (a thing that exists, apparently) in a hospital. Every morning, he'd give them a free (large or small) dose of crack, and then give them a choice periodically throughout the day: either the same dose of crack again, or $5. If the initial dose was small, the subjects would choose the five bucks -- and remember, these guys were already addicted to crack when they came in. The stereotypical movie-version addict would've been offering to fellate everything in the room for even the tiniest taste, but the real-life version decided that they weren't getting a solid high, so an afternoon with a pinball machine (or whatever) seemed like a better option. They made the "economical decision."
"Plus the shakes give me the perfect amount of bump without getting a tilt."
The reason we keep hearing about drugs as some monster that's eating neighborhoods alive, rather than a symptom of a far more complicated problem, is money: Hart says that it's harder to market studies that say "Well, this all comes back to wealth disparity and social pressure." You can't make a melodramatic PSA about systemic poverty and problems with our mental health care system.
Again, don't take this as me saying "Go do hard drugs, you'll be fine," because you won't be. A lot of people are spending their lives at the bottom of dark shit pits, and drugs are helping to keep them there. But in a lot of cases, drugs didn't actually dig that hole. We should probably be focusing on what did.
JF Sargent would like to thank Carmen Burana for providing extra research on the Milgram experiment. He's also writing a sci-fi adventure story you can read for free! And he does the Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr thing. Pretty much the only thing he won't do is shut up.