Why rumour spreads

The tsunami, earthquake and nuclear plant explosions in Japan are devastating. But some relevant information that is spreading quickly is more shocking to me. The other day, I read an article on one of my net pal’s blog. He forwarded it from a person, declaring that the nuclear pollution is actually caused by Japan’s atomic bomb test. At the beginning of the article, the author gave the source of the news: PhoenixTV.

PhoenixTV is one of the most famous TV stations in Hong Kong which is considered one of the most relatively objective news sources in China. To confirm the information, I searched their news website.

Japan’s earthquake was on the front page and is presented as special coverage with lots of reports. I searched carefully, and did not find anything about Japan’s nuclear bomb test. I searched “Japan’s atomic bomb test” on google and found out the information and analysis of this “atomic test” are all from personal blogs, which none of the mainstream media has reported.

Dongsheng Li, one of my net pals, forwarded the article. “I swear I will never buy Japanese products,” He commented, “I will never need Japanese products, no matter whether I live or die.”

“PhoenixTV never reported that Japan is having atomic bomb tests. The source is wrong.” I texted Li.

“I have knowledge on military affairs. You need to know better.” Li said. He avoided my point.

“I am not a scientist, but I study journalism. I know how to distinguish false news from the truth according to its source.” I replied.

We started arguing. My point was this information is not from any reliable source, and actually, the person who wrote it lied about the source. I didn’t think a person that lied about the source in order to add credibility to themselves could be objective.

Li did not confront my question at all. All he said was that Japan definitely has the ambition to make their own atomic bombs. Li did not argue with me about the credibility of the source, but kept avoiding my question and only focusing on his assumption.

“The information is too sensitive. They will not let journalists know.” This is Li’s most shocking statement about why the mainstream media did not report it.

The article Li forwarded looks rational. The author used a lots of terminologies and pictures to illustrate his opinion. The thing is, ordinary citizens have no idea about these terminologies and science theories. That’s just like fictional story created in a imaginary context. In the context the author creates, things make sense, and yet they are not true.

Japan invaded China during the World War II. China built several museums to remember the war. In China, every student learns about the war in schools. The hatred from history still exists, and that leads to an important reason why rumor spreads.

One reason that rumor prevails is that it gives people what they want, or it confirms people’s imagination. As long as someone presents the information with the six elements of news, and it fits people’s appetite, it spreads quickly.

Critical thinking skills are important to individuals. Unfortunately, most people don’t think rationally and objectively because doing so requires energy, time, and may even cause anguish and exhaustion. However, without thinking rationally and independently, people will be always following their feelings, create false emotions and make bad decisions.

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