SOME eRUMORS MAY HAVE A LINK WITH SOMETHING TRUE
Many false stories are simply corrupted versions of true stories. For example, one of the most enduring rumors of the last 20 years is that the famous American atheist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, is trying to get religious programming banned from radio and television. Each version of the rumor includes what is said to be the number of the petition that she has brought to the Federal Communications Commission, RM-2493. The story is untrue and Madalyn Murray O’Hair has never made such a request to the FCC. Case number RM-2493 does exist, however, and involved a complaint filed by two gentlemen who felt that a church should not have been granted a radio license reserved for educational use. The FCC turned down their challenge and ruled in favor of the church, but somewhere along the way, Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s name got attached and the FCC has received tens of millions of letters and phone calls.
SOME eRUMORS ARE OUTRIGHT HOAXES
Many false stories have been intentionally written and distributed by what I call “truth terrorists.” They enjoy fabricating something, then sending it as far and wide as possible.
For some, the motive is to cause harm to a specific person or group by spreading misinformation.
For others, there is an emotional pay-off from creating something they think may trigger some kind of reaction and mushroom into something big.
MANY eRUMORS ARE EITHER CREATED OR EMBELLISHED BY A PART OF US THAT WISHES THEY WERE TRUE
Some false tales have been created by people who have a sincere desire to emphasize something they think is true, but which they can’t document. So they make up a story they think sounds appropriate. Or they change or add some details to a story that has been passed along to them in order to give it a little more “sizzle. I personally think this is a factor in a large number of false tales.
One common urban legend, for example, is about a store clerk in Hawaii who contracted a serious virus by coming into contact with soft-drink cans with dried rat urine on them. The story is not true and the virus could not be contracted that way, but somebody who has an obsession with cleanliness or who feels creepy about rodents would find it satisfactory to create or repeat the story as a way of saying, “So there!” to people who don’t seem to have the same intensity.
SOME ARE JUST CREATIVE WRITING
There are a few eRumors that are passed around that the writer never intended be taken seriously as a real account. This is especially true of some of the inspirational stories. Many fictional writings are valuable because of the point they make, not because they are true. Some folks, however, put them on the Internet and preface them by saying, “This is a true story,” or “I heard Paul Harvey say this on the radio.”
SOME HAVE JUST BEEN AROUND FOR A LONG, LONG TIME
Urban legends are false stories that have either been circulating long enough or have been spread widely enough to have become classics.
It’s virtually impossible to know where they came from, but they have all the right ingredients to remain stubbornly alive. They are the kind of tales that frequently get told around a campfire when people are trying to top one another with the funniest, scariest, or most bizarre story.