Posts Tagged “urban legends”

Jack-o-lantern Pumpkins, via PubliDomainPictures.NetFolks my age will remember the panics that kicked up, back in the ’70s and ’80s, about trick-or-treat candy being tampered with at Halloween. Either they were injected with poison or drugs, or had razor blades shoved in them. Every year, the media ran stories about this “danger” and advised parents to check their kids’ Halloween candy (as though the average parent would be able to easily detect any sabotage). That this annual scare was an urban legend with no basis in truth, didn’t matter; reporting on this danger was a reliable annual affair.

Over the last few years, with several states permitting the sale of marijuana, including what are called “edibles” containing the herb, the focus of this annual panic has shifted a bit. As reported, for example, in Philadelphia magazine, warnings are out that kids might be given marijuana treats (Archive.Is cached article):

New Jersey officials are warning parents to beware of a little “trick” this Halloween – marijuana-laced candy.…

According to the state Department of Health, there is “a significant presence of marijuana candy and other edible forms in New Jersey and nearby states.”

Wes Culp, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said the department “is on high alert for any number of things that could affect children” during this time of year, but the department hasn’t seen any issues with weed-laced candy yet.

I appreciate that Culp admits officials haven’t “seen any issues with weed-laced candy yet.” But that’s the real point here: There’s no evidence any children have ever gotten “edibles” in their trick-or-treat bags (cached). None!

People really need to stop with all of this bullshit. Yes, it’s at least plausible that, given the existence of pot-laced “edibles,” some idiot might give it out to a trick-or-treater. Yeah, it could happen. But that it’s plausible does not mean it will happen. It just doesn’t. Let’s stop panicking already over something that’s never even happened. OK?

Photo credit: PublicDomainPictures.Net.

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Faithful unto Death, by Herbert SchmalzThis is my second post today which relates to Thursday’s massacre in Roseburg, OR. It’s been widely reported, based on this CNN story, that the shooter had specifically targeted Christians (WebCite cached article):

Stacy Boylan, the father of Anastasia Boylan, who was wounded, said she told him the gunman singled out Christians.

She said the gunman entered her classroom firing, told the professor teaching the class, “I’ve been waiting to do this for years,” and shot him point blank, Stacy Boylan said.

While reloading his handgun, the man ordered the students to stand up and asked whether they were Christians, Boylan told her family.

“And they would stand up, and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,'” Stacy Boylan told CNN, relaying his daughter’s account. “And then he shot and killed them.”

From there, this martyrdom tale, spread by mindless mass media repetition, swept through the American Right like wildfire. In turn it triggered all sorts of things, such as a call to arms to defend Christendom, as I blogged earlier today.

But I had my suspicions about this. First of all, it’s just too fucking convenient, in light of Christianity’s delusional persecution complex. Christians are convinced there’s an effort underway to kill them all off and wipe Christianity off the face of the earth … and a lot of them actually think it could happen at any moment. For them, this tale is kind of a precursor to what they already think is just around the corner.

Second, it was reported not by an eyewitness to the massacre, but by someone who’d heard it second-hand. That, all by itself, ought to have raised reporters’ concerns and forced them to look for confirmation. But apparently this wasn’t done. At least, CNN hadn’t confirmed it … and other media outlets just ran with what they’d published.

It turns out I’d been right to question this martyrdom story. It might not be true after all. The Oregonian reports that another second-hand account says something a bit different (cached):

McGowan told family members that the gunman didn’t specifically target Christians but asked them about faith. The shooter, apparently planning to die during the massacre, told students: “I’ll see you soon” or “I’ll meet you soon.”

McGowan’s mother, Stephanie Salas, shared her son’s account Friday. The teenager, one of triplet boys, was shot in the right hand and released from Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg.…

“The shooter would call a person: ‘You, stand up,'” Salas said, recalling what her son told her. “And then he would ask them if they were a Christian, knew God, or had religion. And it wasn’t like it was stated on TV. It wasn’t about that he was just trying to pinpoint Christians, no.”

The shooter would tell them it wouldn’t hurt.

“And then he would shoot them,” she said.

McGowan told his mom he kept his head down among students crouched in the middle of the classroom, didn’t move and just tried to avoid looking at Harper-Mercer.

Now, let me be clear: I also am a bit suspicious about this second account, since as with the original version from CNN, it comes from a secondary source. So I can’t be much surer of it than the first account. But with that said, it’s a more nuanced version of a similar story, in that the killer asked his intended victims about their religion. It just doesn’t paint him to be as starkly anti-Christian.

What I can say about this is that a similar martyrdom tale had emerged from the Columbine massacre … but it turned out to be mythical, an altered version of what investigators determined had actually happened.

What really happened in that classroom at Umpqua Community College will take time to learn. Is it possible that the killer was, really, an anti-Christian crusader trying to slaughter each Christian in he came across? I suppose it might be. I certainly can’t rule it out, yet. Still, attacks of that sort, in the US, are unprecedented. At least, I’ve never heard of one. It’s just not something that happens. Given that Christians are known to have manufactured martyrdom stories in order to rationalize their paranoid delusions (cached), and there are conflicting accounts of what happened on Thursday, I’m going to need to be convinced.

I’ll close by saying that I get that the Roseburg community has been traumatized. The originator of the martyrdom story may not have intended to lie; perhaps he faithfully relayed what he’d been told, and that account had been given him by a shooting victim who was still in shock. It may well be that no one so far has intentionally lied about what happened. But with that said, as information is gathered, it’s important for everyone to focus on what’s discovered, and to winnow away anything that might not turn out to be true. Let’s not let a Columbine-style urban legend of martyrdom grow if the facts don’t actually support such a story. I’m sure it may pain Christians to have to admit another of their persecution stories isn’t true … assuming it comes to that … but too fucking bad. They should do so anyway. They’re not entitled to tell false stories just because those stories fit the delusional psychopathology of their religion.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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President Obama recently made some remarks about Islam, while on his international tour, as the Los Angeles Times reports:

President Barack Obama, making his first official visit to a Muslim-majority nation, declared today that the United States “is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.”

The ringing affirmation of partnership came during a speech to Turkey’s parliament but was clearly addressed to a far wider audience: the entire Muslim world. The speech was widely watched outside Turkey’s borders, with live coverage on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, the largest Arabic-language satellite channels. …

“Let me say this as clearly as I can,” Obama told lawmakers and assembled officials and dignitaries. “The United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical.”

On a personal note, the U.S. leader noted that many Americans had ties with Islam through family connections or by living in and visiting Muslim countries.

“I know, because I am one of them,” he said. Obama’s father was a Muslim from Kenya, and he lived for a time in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Gazing around the ornate chamber, the president said the relationship with the Muslim world must encompass more than the fight against terrorism.

While these remarks are exactly the sort one would expect of any US president, given the necessity of diplomacy and international relations — and are really not much different from other comments his predecessor has made on many occasions — Obama’s remarks will, unfortunately, be viewed by folks on the Right as an affirmation that he is, truly, a Muslim. It’s a claim they’ve been making for a couple of years now (e.g. by the immature, hyperreligious, raging Debbie Schlussel) and it continues to be sounded throughout the Right-wing world, even though it is not true. Many independent fact-checking organizations have reached the conclusion that the Right’s “Obama is a Muslim” mantra is false; these include Snopes, FactCheck, About.Com Urban Legends, WaPo FactChecker, and more. Even the conservative Washington Times referred to the belief that Obama is a Muslim as a “myth” that too many Americans refuse to part with.

Oh, and in case you aren’t clear on it, Obama also is, in fact, a “natural-born citizen” of the US. Really. Honest. No lie.

Sadly, there are just too many Americans these days who are too immature to accept certain truths that they would prefer to be so, when they aren’t. Especially on the Right. Irrational, even insane beliefs, are — in a perverse sense — comforting to people, and they will not part with them. Obama’s remarks about his father’s religious heritage, and America’s relations with Islamic nations, will be viewed by these people as confirmation of their (incorrect) belief. An emotional desire for something to be true, however, is not a justification for believing it, when it’s verifiably false.

In fact, incorrect beliefs about Obama’s nature and plans, can actually be deadly, as my next blog entry points out.

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