Rumors are basically hearsay, tell tales that are passed down from one person to the other. If you ever played a game called broken telephone as a child, then you know that a rumor gets more exaggerated the further down it gets. The game is played by forming a circle, where the player quickly whispers a phrase into the next player’s ear, that player whispers it to the next, and the act is repeated till the last player. By the time a phrase is whispered back into the first player’s ear, it’s usually nothing close to what they had said. You could try out the game just to see the impact of hearsay.
Hearing false information can have a drastic effect on people’s lives. In late 1700 in London, chaos broke out after a rumor that the city was set to be destroyed by a large earthquake. People rushed to get out of town, with those who couldn’t afford to get lodging, having to sleep out in country fields. Most would do a similar thing if we knew a natural disaster was about to happen. Back in 2012, when so many had predicted that the world was going to come to an end, several built bunkers, confessed their sins, and said their goodbyes while waiting for a ‘doomsday’ that never came. The rumor had spread out so wide that there was even a movie about it, ‘2012’.
If there is a juicy rumor about a president or leader, it would spread out like wildfire and impact their rule over the people. King Louis XV felt its effects firsthand when rumors were going around concerning him being the reason behind the disappearance of children in Paris. The rumors became more twisted with many claiming he was bathing in their blood, which is believed to be a cure for Leprosy. Sounds crazy but it rewrote the king’s history since not everyone might have believed that he was not the reason for their disappearance. The rumor is similar to the false information that albino body parts have magical powers.
It’s outrageous that people could believe these rumors even if we live in times of modern medicine. Back when there was misinformation on HIV, some thought that it could be spread from the human touch. Those infected were discriminated against until simple acts such as when Princess Diana shook hands with a patient, changed the world’s view. You may have heard about a similar rumor, but it’s important to stay educated to avoid false rumors.
Media and the internet are the main means of communication today, so if they offer false news, it would have a larger impact. You might not remember, but there was once a rumor on Twitter that the White House had been attacked. It raised panic among Americans, with most fearing for their safety. The rumor was later proven to be false. There have been widespread rumors about attacks from 1914 during World War 1, to recently when the US thought that China had cyberattacked their citizens’ phones. We say ‘when you see something, say something’ but never ‘when you hear something, tell everyone’. Be careful, words are powerful weapons.