This Week in Rumors: Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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Carly Bay Menacho

March 20, 2014

 

Everyone remembers when they were first hurt by a rumor. Whether it’s that person you had a crush on in high school or something more serious in your professional life, these rumors can cause a great deal of damage. Years ago, rumors like this spread mostly by word of mouth. Now, however, we have the Internet and social media, which act as a catalyst for their advancement, making these rumors that much more significant and harmful.

Driving a Wedge

We classify rumors like these as “wedge” type rumors. Aurelio Espinosa, the writer and curator of “RumorsWiki” defines these stories as “rumors that attempt to divide entities and/or persons.” A great example of a wedge type rumor is the very popular story, “President Obama was not born in the United States.” As you may recall, this rumor ran rampant in the United States during the 2008 presidential election. The rumor was designed to form a wedge between Obama and the American people. Espinosa says, “The rumor positions Obama as the villain, a foreigner who is trying to become the President of the U.S. even though he is ineligible. He is seen as deceiving the American public, who are the victims. The rumor perpetuates the narrative of suspicious foreigners.” Wedge rumors often incorporate a point of weakness that further perpetuates the story.

High Stakes

Wedge type rumors are one of the most serious and potentially influential rumor types. This is partially because of their malicious intent, and partially because of the settings in which these rumors appear. While they do appear in celebrity gossip, wedge type rumors are more often present in corporate environments, during election cycles, and times of war.  These rumors often surface as slander, in order to humiliate a person or degrade their reputation.

Below are three examples of well-known wedge type rumors.

 

1.    Osama Bin Laden secretly owns Snapple.

This rumor surfaced soon after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. It was designed to drive a wedge between the American people and the United States government.

Many variations of this rumor spread as well, all suggesting that the U.S. government was behind the terrorist attacks in New York.

2.    Russian diplomats helped Saddam Hussein escape from Iraq.

This rumor appeared in the early part of the war in Iraq. I speculate that it began in order to drive a wedge between The United States and Russia, and possibly Russia and the people of Iraq.

Many rumors suggesting different countries were giving aid to Saddam Hussein were present at this time. These are very common in times of war when tension between countries is high.

3.    President Obama is having an affair with Beyoncé Knowles.

This rumor, while it may appear outrageous, is a very serious wedge rumor. It may have started with the intent of driving a wedge between the President and the rest of America. It was successful by attacking his family values and lessening his credibility.

 

This concludes our five part “This Week in Rumors” series. Next week we will give you an inside look at how our engineering team operates and what they are working on!

 

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