Internet revs up with myths for November elections

Modern myths always have been around, and many, sad to say, were created by the news media.

But today the Internet seems to rank high on myths, which become more shrilled as the November election approaches.

Among the latest is the story that the Greek coastguard intercepted a boatload of guns headed for Muslim troublemakers in Europe. Few myths are without photos, and there were some showing officials taking long guns from boxes. In fact, the guns were illegal, but they were headed to Libya in 2015 and not to mainland Europe.

Costa Rica also got a bad rap internationally six years ago when internet users repeatedly circulated photos of residents taking eggs from the nests of olive ridley sea turtles at Ostional on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya peninsula. That is a legal activity, but the internet message claimed that this newspaper is deliberately keeping this shameful environmental tragedy secret.

Barack Obama has been the target of many myths, as have all politicians.

But some of the myths stick in the brain. Remember the missing children of the early 1980s. The claim was that millions of small American children were being kidnapped each year by strangers. Children’s photos began showing up on milk cartons.

Lou Kilzer, who more recently served as a senior editorial consultant here, looked into the situation with colleagues at The Denver Post. They found that the majority are runaways or are involved in custody disputes, according to the commentary for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1986.

Researchers at the Medical University of  Vienna, Austria, reported this week that chicknlittle082316people who watch a lot of television are more likely to be susceptible to everyday myths. The research was focused on that country, but they noted that this is an example of cultivation where the television shapes the opinions and beliefs of the viewers.

The same can be said for the Internet.

Of course, some myths are harmless. It does not hurt to believe space aliens have colonized Roswell, New Mexico, unless you are selling real estate there. Some myths reinforce political beliefs, like the one about the thousands of coffins being stockpiled by the federal government.

Others are vicious and might be designed to skew the U.S. presidential election. One false report this week said that Donald Trump was dropping out of the race due to illness. There have been plenty of vicious messages about Hillary Clinton and Obama, too.

True believers, though, just know the reason such news is suppressed is because of the giant conspiracy from the news media that declines to tell the real truth about . . . . (fill in the blank).

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