No smoke without fire…
We have all heard the saying, “there is no smoke, without fire, ” and it usually applies to rumours. It isn’t that simple though. If the smoke is coming from your house, you may not believe that your house is on fire but it gets your undivided attention, because that is your worst fear. If the smoke is coming from your enemies house, you believe it because you want to believe it and maybe think they deserves it! Rumours are mainly believed when people want to believe them and it is worth bearing this in mind. If you want to send something viral on the internet like a blog; make it about something that people really want to believe.
People usually want to believe the best in other people or the worst; tell them the banks are ripping them off or the government is corrupt and they want to believe it! Tell them you have the best get rich and famous scheme ever devised; people want to believe you and may buy into your scheme even though it’s a load of rubbish. Not everyone is greedy of course and so not everyone buys into money making ‘get rich schemes’ but there are a lot of people who do. This is usually the dreamless ones; they are not only stupid, they also tend to be greedy.
People believe things simply because they are in the news or in the newspaper and yet they know that newspapers don’t always tell the truth. If it’s a newspaper that they subscribe to they want to believe what the newspaper says and that makes a difference. Many people believe everything they hear from the BBC; other people believe the BBC is left wing and believe nothing that comes out of the BBC. If the BBC say their comedy programs are funny just because of the canned laughter – I don’t believe that. Most of the news is reasonably accurate; although their opinion can be biased. The more influential the source of the gossip, the more believable it is. If someone is brought up to the words It said in the paper this morning then they are more likely to believe what the morning paper says; they have been effectively brain washed throughout childhood by one or both parents – because they are influential and they make the morning newspaper influential by proxy.
Scammers often pretend to be influential when they send me emails, they say they are from a bank or the President of Nigeria; I often wonder if his name really is Jonathan Goodluck? I had a scam email, supposedly from my ISP this morning. I think the scammer got my email from their talk centre in Bangalore. No one uses that email address, I tend to keep it for emails from my router showing it’s status. These call centres have more leaks than Wikileaks.
We have to be careful what gossip we believe and a lot of news is little more than gossip; many ‘pop stars’ become ‘pop stars’ because of gossip in newspapers and magazines.
Imagination is a wonderful thing, it makes us creative. It can also turn a little smoke into a raging inferno in the minds of some people. The small rumour soon becomes a major disaster and worthy of warning the whole community about. The price of potatoes goes up in the supermarket and there is suddenly a shortage and vegetable prices are soaring. Inflation increases to 5% and its out of control. Interest rates increase by 0.5% and it is a major threat to jobs and millions could find themselves jobless and on the dole. We also open the floodgates to immigration if we let just one person in; we set a precedent. Exaggeration is a wonderful thing too, especially to newspaper editors who need a headline. They glorify some crimes in order to sell newspapers. They even rename serious illnesses to make them sound even more scary, cancer becomes the big C and even the very word cancer has been made scary by newspapers and old wives. Why is cancer more serious than any other killer disease that causes extensive suffering; what makes it so special?
Beliefs are passed down from one generation to another; parents to children, teachers to pupils and lecturers to students. I try to encourage young people to be critical of what I say and what I write. When I read something I look for bias and ask who wrote it, who do they work for, what are their politics, what class do they belong to, are they rich or poor, who do they represent, what motivates them? Universities usually require students to do some critical reading and understand how to be critical of scientific papers and new theories and this is obviously a good thing. They also need to be encouraged to be critical of what they are told and be critical of their peers and even parents. By critical I don’t mean being contrarian just for the sake of it but asking questions and not taking anything at face value just because there is a little smoke; it doesn’t follow that there is always fire!
You may like some of my other blogs – why not check out the Home Page. You can also ask questions and comment, subscribe or follow me on Twitter!