Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
I received this email from a friend who got a phone call from a close friend who attends Bishop T. D. Jakes' church in Dallas TX. She said President Bush contacted Bishop Jakes and wanted to meet with him. Bishop Jakes flew to D.C., met with President Bush and had this to report to his congregation.
He said he couldn't disclose the information the President shared with him, but he warned his congregation and told them to contact as many family members and friends they could and let them know to stock up on bottled water, canned foods, and nonperishable food items. Also, be sure to have flashlights, batteries and other items needed in an emergency on hand. The war, when it breaks out, will be a chemical war that will effect our water system, electricity and crops.
So, I'm sending out this email message to everyone in my address book and encourage you to spread the word. I know when the media gets hold of this, the supermarkets will have problems keeping their shelves stocked.
Origins: Even in calmer times, rumors abound concerning important information the government is withholding from the public in order to "prevent panic" — everything from knowledge of superweapons developed by enemy nations to the existence of UFOs and aliens.
Given current conditions, "the government isn't telling us everything" fever is bound to run high — especially since there is undoubtedly a good deal of information relating to the
The warning quoted above is one example of current "the government isn't telling us everything" rumors. How realistic is it? The U.S. government, including the president, has been fairly consistent in warning us to expect that future terrorist attacks are highly probable. They haven't provided any details about where or when or how these attacks might be launched, however, and persistent questioning by the press has brought the response that the government has no details about specific dangers, just information indicating that some general threat to America exists. Is it plausible that they know more but just aren't telling us?
If the goal is to "prevent panic," telling people to expect danger but not providing any details about what form that danger might take isn't a generally effective method. Uncertainty is the breeding ground for fear: We readily steel ourselves for the dangers we know, no matter how bad they might be, but we feel uncomfortably anxious and powerless when we have to contend with the unknown. Consider the example of the passengers on United Airlines
The message cited here posits that President Bush has credible information about a forthcoming "chemical war" to be waged on the United States, and that although he has chosen to keep this information secret from the general public, the president divulged it to
Even if we were to take this message seriously, a warning to anticipate a "chemical war" is a rather vague piece of information. What does this mean? The use of poison gas? The introduction of toxins into our food and water supplies? Bioterrorist attacks involving the deliberate spread of deadly diseases? If any of these scenarios were to play out, we'd need a lot more than a handy supply of bottled water and flashlight batteries to see us safely through — a stockpile of gas masks, protective suits, and antibiotics would be more the order of the day. In any case, the amount of credibility afforded this information should be consistent with its source: an anonymous forwarder who passed along an
Bishop Thomas D. Jakes, Sr., is a prominent religious figure in America, religion, the head of the 18,000-member Potter's House Pentecostal Church in Dallas and the subject of a recent Time magazine cover story which asked "Is this man the next Billy Graham?" President Bush knows Bishop Jakes, has attended his church, and has said he is often "spellbound" by Jakes' preaching; that the two men meet from time to time is not extraordinary. And not long after meeting with President Bush, Bishop Jakes did recommend to his congregation that they stock up on supplies of bottled water and canned goods (reasonably prudent advice given current circumstances), but the connection between the meeting and the warning were only weakly linked, as Bishop Jakes explained in a statement of
Delgado, Berta. "Scripture Scholars, Pastors Play Down End-Times Speculation." The Dallas Morning News. 29 September 2001 (p. G5). Nolan, Bruce. "America Blessed? Or Paradise Lost?; Notion of Divine Status Widespread." The [New Orleans] Times-Picayune. 22 September 2001 (p. 4). Turner, William H. "Is Man of Cloth's Concern for Souls or Dollars?" Winston-Salem Journal. 10 October 2001 (p. 17).