Thursday, February 22, 2018
Opinion

Column: Rumors contained, but not controlled (w/video)

Back when I was a kid (I swore I would never use that phrase; oh, well, it's too late now) the best place to get your unsubstantiated rumors was the church bulletin.

Invariably the secretary would end up with a couple of lines at the bottom of the last page, and to fill it she would dig out a letter from her cousin in Waxahachie, Texas, who shared a story on the back page of her church's bulletin. What a shock. Proctor & Gamble, the company that made all those wonderful cleaning products, had been taken over by witches. The proof was on each bottle — a crescent moon and stars. The Waxahachie cousin issued a call to boycott all P&G merchandise.

Soon thereafter a television news reporter contacted the company about the claim that was sweeping the country and the public relations officer explained that the corporate logo went back to the crescent moon and stars on an outhouse, where invariably all need for cleaning products originated. When the news team contacted the church that printed the rumor, it cited another church, which in turned, cited yet another church or a church member's trusted manicurist at the corner beauty shop, which went out of business six months ago and no one had seen any of the former employees since.

After a while, most church secretaries stopped believing letters from distant cousins who lived in remote spots in the Great Plains, and Proctor & Gamble didn't have to defend itself against charges of witchcraft.

Now in the modern technological age the church bulletin has been replaced by the Internet as the best source for rumors. Hardly a day goes by that a new scandal is not revealed through a chain email from that same obnoxious cousin from Waxahachie or the cyber back fence called Facebook.

Just consider the recent debate about fluoridating drinking water if you want to hear some unverifiable rumors. Or look to the sky and see the supposed poison being spewed out of commercial jet liners. That's a good one. Or listen for the frequent telltale sign, "Agenda 21,'' that is so often blamed for everything anybody finds disagreeable about government.

Another recent one involves public schools and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Did you know that children no longer say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning for fear of offending somebody? I have to admit I'm getting pretty old and even my children have been out of school for more than 10 years now. What do I know?

As any patriotic American would do, I sent an email to a teacher I know in the local school system and asked if there was even an outside chance that this allegation might be true.

Every morning they say it, she reassured me, and they keep in the part about "one nation under God.'' Not only is she a teacher, but her husband is a teacher in an adjoining county. They have maintained the same mailing address for more than five years and have relatives who will verify their employment.

Perhaps this compulsion in the common psyche to be outraged about something and to organize a protest about it comes through genetic mutation. Many of our relatives came here from Europe, where their native countries outraged them. After they got here they missed the adrenaline rush of outrage — like eating a Snickers bar every day. They're filled with nuts, nougat, caramel and chocolate into which you want to sink your teeth.

Now what was it that was outraging me? Oh, yes, rumors on the Internet. I want my friends and neighbors to join with me to find out who's really behind this conspiracy. Of course after we defeat this menace, there will be another one next week. Just like a Snickers, it will be filled with nuts.

Jerry Cowling is a storyteller and author living in Brooksville.

Comments
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18