4 Recurring Myths We Apparently Really Want to Believe
A lot of people like to think of the Internet as a savvy, cynical place where a girl can't even pretend to be slightly better looking than she is before amateur stalkers hunt down her other photos and "expose" the secret. (Secret: Girls do some things in between waking up and having photos taken.)
But there's a lot of pretty obviously fake stories the supposedly hard-boiled Internet will just swallow as easily as your grandma will fall for that "poor man from Nigeria that needs someone to help him get his money." Stories like:
Job Quitting Fantasies
The Internet jumps on elaborate job-quitting stories like a dog on sardines. (Dogs really like sardines. Try it if you don't believe me.) In August of last year, people went crazy about the "Whiteboard Girl," who supposedly stayed really late at work one day taking 33 goddamned photos of herself with whiteboard messages in order to embarrass her sexist boss and then quit. He allegedly called her a "HOPA," which was supposed to be "HPOA" aka "hot piece of ass." Now, she is remembered in most top Google searches as the "HOPA" girl, showing that there are more dyslexics out there than you would think.
This was of course a publicity-generating hoax by a site that milked it for a ton of traffic (6 million visitors in 24 hours), and the actress playing the girl started getting calls from agents and scored interviews on CBS News and Askmen.com. After word got out that it was a fake, disappointed people started clinging on to the Steven Slater story instead.
A day before the HPOA/HOPA hoax, JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater lost his shit at a difficult customer, said goodbye over the plane's PA system and exited the plane on an emergency slide. The plane had already landed, or it would have been more badass.
"I have the weirdest feeling like I've forgotten something."
People everywhere adopted him as a folk hero. They ignored the fact that releasing the safety slide was dangerous and kind of inconvenient to all the other passengers who weren't being assholes and cost the company tens of thousands of dollars, and the fact that he apparently had a substance abuse problem, and was suffering from depression.
Because that gets in the way of what we need this story for, and what we need all stories of this type for. We can't make a hero out of a guy who was making poor decisions because he was having trouble coping with his dad dying and his mother getting cancer and was drinking to deal with it. We wanted a quipping action-movie hero who made a clever bon mot over the loudspeaker and slid offscreen with a smirk on his face and a beer in his hand while the huffy passenger (probably a fat woman) watched in shock and the rest of the passengers applauded with a slow clap.
Every urban legend needs a slow clap.
Because work can be a bitch in the best of times, and in these shitty times, more of us than ever are stuck in jobs we want to get out of in some kind of clever, movie-like way, but can't, because the only other choice is no job at all. Believing someone else did it is the next best thing. That or making up your own fake story and posting it on a forum.
Unbelievably Spoiled Brats
Another story no one can resist is the incredibly spoiled brat. Like this girl who got a red Saab convertible for her birthday when she totally told her dad she wanted a blue one, oh my God.
Despite the poor acting, everyone swallowed it hook, line and sinker, leaving comments like, "Die, bitch," and longer, more expansive and colorful versions of, "Die, bitch." The same sort of comments continued on a five-video follow up series under the account MacKenzieheartsu, supposedly created by "MacKenzie," the spoiled rich girl, to defend herself and continue the story of how her dad finally bought her the blue Saab, and how she was going to sell the red Saab on eBay for $9.99. The final video, which I guess nobody watched, finished with a punchline where MacKenzie explained there was an even better deal where you could get a Domino's pizza for $9.99.
They didn't actually show the pizza in the commercial, smart move probably.
That's right, it was a Domino's viral marketing campaign, probably the first pizza marketing campaign to get an almost unanimous response of, "Die, bitch."
The male equivalent seems to be the "spoiled gamer freakout," in such staged videos as "Angry German Kid" (previously mentioned on Cracked) and the canceled WoW account freakout, where a "WoW addicted" kid was so distraught over having his account canceled that he waved his hands around as if he was trying to figure out what a person would do if they were really freaking out, sweating frantically about precious webcam seconds ticking away, and then finally took off his clothes and tried to stick a remote up his ass in an attempt to substitute effort for quality. A visit to the uploader's account shows a series of 13 increasingly fake freakout videos.
Like his totally real audition for TheHappiestCompany.com
So why can't anyone see through these things? Because we don't want to. For the same reason people watch Jersey Shore or Real Housewives or follow the gossip about the latest drunk starlet (or football star) -- we need someone who is worse than us; who is more spoiled and entitled than we could ever be. That way, our minor little foibles of cutting in line or whining about a game on our favorite platform costing $59.99 instead of $49.99 or insisting that you "deserve" free downloaded music seem quite reasonable.
Sure, those behaviors sound kind of whiny when you put it that way, but when you compare it to "wrong color Saab girl," you're practically a saint!
Political Correctness Gone Wrong
Last year, on Cinco de Mayo, five high school students were sent home for wearing "American flag T-shirts." You know, like this one.
It was an outrage. Five kids just happened to come to school wearing Old Navy shirts or something that happened to have the American flag on them somewhere, and they got sent home by a touchy feely principal scared of offending the slightest sensibilities of Hispanic students. What better example of political correctness gone wrong? Headlines and blogs started blaring that it was now illegal to wear American flags in our own country.Well, the five kids didn't show up dressed that way by coincidence, nor was it subtle.
According to some witnesses, the kids were yelling, "We live in America!" during the brunch break. The school had already seen trouble on Cinco de Mayo the year before and had actually asked students ahead of time to not wear flag clothes this year.
OK, you might think, those kids weren't innocent flag wearers who just happened to want to show American patriotism on that day by coincidence, but it's not illegal! It sure isn't! Not only did the kids never face any legal jeopardy, but the school board immediately overturned the principal's decision, so even the school discipline was reversed. So they weren't patriotic kids minding their own business who paid the price, they were jackholes who didn't end up facing any consequences. So don't worry! It is still A-OK to stir shit up and offend people in this country and play innocent. Hopefully people will think less of you, but you won't go to jail!
First Amendment. Love it or leave it.
While the mainstream news mostly deals in overblowing threats to our national identity and freedoms, email forwards and internet urban legends are free to just make up completely fake threats. One of the most treasured classics is the old "FCC Planning To Ban Religious Broadcasting" email forward.
When I first got this forward back in 1996 or something, I was pretty sure it was fake because the woman behind this ban was the obviously fake and badly spelled "Madalyn Murray O'Hair," but it turns out that's the most real thing about the story. Back when this story was invented, which was actually in the 70s, she was actually a notorious atheist activist and a great name to attach to this kind of story for an extra scare.
A truly terrifying figure.
O'Hair has been dead for at least 10 years and not only does that make it difficult for her to be the driving force behind an FCC ban on religious broadcasting, but there was never a ban proposed by anyone to begin with. "Petition 2493," that official sounding case number that makes the email sound so authentic, was a 1974 petition to stop religious institutions from using channels set aside for education, that's it, and even that was turned down in 1975. Despite all that, the story keeps evolving, albeit really slowly, as stories circulated by mostly old people will do, and over the years has worked in Touched By An Angel (they were going to ban it) and the election of Barack Obama (apparently they finally found a replacement to play the part of O'Hair after 34 years).
Facts be damned, though, people keep circulating it, because they know our freedoms are under attack and our government is a bunch of namby pamby concessionists always taking the side of People Who Aren't Like Us. If we tell our own personal anecdotes about why this is true, like how outraged we are that they are selling taco shells in the supermarket, our stories sound a little lame and petty. That's why we're happy to swallow someone else's extreme, outrageous stories to better justify our sense of persecution, even if they are only minimally plausible.
Everyone Is Trying To Kill Women
A quick browse of Snopes shows a good amount of creative horror stories about new trends in rape, like did you know
"Congratulations, ma'am! We also have some bad news ..."
And it's not just rapists that are after women, it's also tampon companies, that supposedly
Hey, if Tom Brady can do it ...
So a whole bunch of advice and support has sprung up to help women be smart and keep safe -- advice that started out as reasonable, practical tips, like, "Try to avoid walking alone when possible," and "Keep alert to your surroundings." Then they started getting more aggressive, with special women's self-defense classes and suggestions to carry pepper spray or a gun, and then just spiraled into paranoia, with
Are these supposed to be rapists or Batman villains?
Most stories people tell to get attention get scrutinized a bit, at least enough that laughably fake ones won't work. But if the story isn't a self-aggrandizing tale but told out of "concern" to "help your fellow women," people's defenses go down. You don't use the same critical eye you use on a story, because it's not a "story," it's a "helpful tip."Maybe none of these types of stories push your buttons, but everybody's got a weak spot. If you ever run into a news story that gets you physically excited, make sure to take a step back and ask why you want it to be true so bad, and see if it's clouding your judgment. And then clean yourself up.
For more on ridiculous self-defense, check out The 13 Most Irresponsible Self Defense Gadgets Money Can Buy. And get more from Christina in The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women (Like Me!) Make On The Internet.