Mine Survivor: Perils Of Folklore

I just grabbed a cup of coffee at a c-store. On the way there I was hearing about the lone survivor on NPR and the huge issue of the "rumor" of 12 survivors. Imagine my surprise when I saw the USA Today headline: "12 SURVIVORS!"

I met many miners and their families when I worked in Kentucky. All are the bravest and hardest working peoples you will meet. My prayers are with those who lost their fathers and sons in this tragedy. With that said I feel some righteous indignation at how they have been misled with false hope and look at how it happened.

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As a student of what folklore is and how it operates let me tell you that this is one of the most harmful results possible. I am sure this will be a black eye on USA Today and cause someone to lose their job. The damage is already done though.

The timing was key to this paper's failure to get the story right. Printing deadlines ended before the correct information was put forward. The main sources of folklore are print media and the internet. The unfortunate aspect of this is the pain it is causing for those in this circumstance.

Folklore is exactly what the word means: "people information". Some references use folklore rather than a more apt application of "folklife" about remedies & techniques. In my education and use Folklore applies to any story that sounds just true enough to be real but actually is totally fabricated and disseminated through the available media. It usually sounds like "A friend of a friend told me X and I just know it's true!" Here are some examples you may have forwarded to your friends:
Heard the one about the girl slowly cooked in a tanning bed?
What about getting aids from a needle in the behind in a theatre?
Did you know that Saran Wrap in the microwave releases toxic chemicals into food?
Febreeze kills cats (personally tried that one at home, no luck).
Some foreign guys (insert nationality of bad guy of the day) selling perfume knocking women out at gas stations and robbing them?
Got a tracking email that Bill Gates will pay you $100 to forward?
All completely false.

In my tactless blunt nature I have peeved quite a few of my friends and family by pointing out that it isn't true. Why someone doesn't want to be told that some stupid scheme or horrific fabrication isn't real and they shouldn't spread it is way beyond my ability to comprehend.

Then we come to this situation: a supposed reliable source puts out information that is not true or confirmed. At this point we don't know where the rumor started, it reports to have started from the search and rescue office. Exactly typical of folklore, we have no exact named source of this information. The information spreads rapidly by word of mouth and is accepted as true. It even makes the print media before confirmation of the accuracy is made.

I despise the results of folkore, and work hard to help prevent it. You can read more about it and search folklore topics
  • urbanlegends.about.com.