Tall tales with Titanic implications

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, February 10, 2021

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There’s a meme going around which embodies much of the craziness that a few folks are willing to believe nowadays. But it’s more than just something to poke fun at. The lies have real world implications, and people will get hurt unless someone speaks up and tells the truth. The meme shows a sinking ocean liner and reads “If the Titanic were sinking today…” and details a few responses. At the high stern of the ship, folks are saying “It’s dry here, so the sinking is a hoax.” Someone else says “If I drink fuel, I won’t freeze.” A person boasts “Nobody can force me to wear a life jacket.” One comments “Only elders and non-swimmers will die.” A person in the water quips “My friend had diabetes, so technically that killed her, not the drowning.” One muses “1,500 dead? More people die from heart disease every year.” The final link reads “The lifeboat industry funded this.” They could have added “That wasn’t an iceberg. It was…Antifa!”

Joking aside, these arguments resemble quite a bit of what you’ll see out there. Not only do they come into my email account, but they are passed on verbally.

Someone on Facebook forwarded one of those SHARE THIS WITH EVERYONE YOU KNOW messages with an anti-Congress bent. I posted the falsehoods of the first three items on the list. The response I got was “Oh yeah, well what about the other seven?” If the engine don’t work on a car and the steering wheel and gear shift are gone, do you care how clean the windows are?

There are those who argue that the government should force social media companies to have all forms of hate speech and threats to commit terrorism and insurrection, and that such businesses must take it all, and standards or rebuttals allegedly violate the First Amendment. Or services should carry other social media companies, even those that violate the original terms of the agreement.

As I was getting medically examined, a health care worker told me she hadn’t been vaccinated because she learned the vaccine would sterilize her. I know that’s been debunked, but she claimed it was true because she saw it in a Youtube video “and he cited all kinds of articles and statistics.” The day that incident happened, I learned of a fellow writer, my age, who died suddenly of the coronavirus, lasting only a short time on the ventilator. It takes people younger than retirees.

Of course, by telling me halfway through the exam, her freedom to not take the vaccine clearly trumped my right to get a safer health care worker who had taken the vaccine. But haven’t you noticed that those who claim their rights are the most infringed upon tend to be the ones who have the least respect for your own?

In fact, that’s just it. And it transcends ideology too. A colleague did a study on those who believed in the most conspiracy theories, liberal and conservative ones. He found those folks scored the highest on the authoritarian scale, which shows a desire to dominate one’s own family, dictating how others in the household must behave. Those with such cravings of power were among those who stormed the U.S. Capitol, with little need for democracy, the U.S. Constitution, its institutions, or anyone else’s freedom. Unlike the tragedies of Europe and East Asia, most Americans resisted such totalitarian impulses, for now. But unless these conspiracy theories and those who traffic in them are confronted, we may not be so lucky the next time. And if that happens, our ship will be surely be sunk.