You can’t turn on the news right now without hearing about the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline operation that has disrupted gasoline deliveries in many eastern states. But why let facts get in the way of a good rumor, right? Just yesterday, I saw posts on Facebook saying that someone heard that President Biden had shut down the nation’s entire pipeline grid to force us to go green, while somebody else said they had heard a rumor that it was Antifa or Black Lives Matter causing the problem.
I was reminded of the time years ago when Terry and I were traveling in our MCI bus conversion and found ourselves at a Corps of Engineers campground in Fort Smith, Arkansas. This was back when we used a Hughes tripod internet dish for internet access, and the heavy tree cover prevented us from getting a signal. So we were not online for two or three days. When we left and finally did get online, our inbox was flooded with e-mails from people who had heard we had been killed or seriously injured in an accident. Apparently, somebody saw or heard of a bus conversion accident in Oklahoma and decided that it must be us since we were incommunicado.
How do rumors like this get started? It’s not hard at all, trust me. I know because I was behind a rumor that spread like wildfire across the United States Military Academy back during my Army days. At the time I was stationed at West Point, and it was June Week, which is when the cadets graduate with all sorts of fanfare. It was midmorning and I was walking past Buffalo Soldier Field, an athletic field on the post. At that time, West Point did not have a helicopter landing pad, and when a helicopter came in, they radioed ahead of time and the MPs blocked off the field so they could land there.
On this particular morning, that’s what they were doing. A civilian who was on post for June Week asked me what was happening and I told him a helicopter would be landing there soon. He asked me who was on the helicopter and I said I didn’t know. Then he said it must be somebody important. Again, I said I didn’t know. That’s when he asked, “Is President Nixon coming to address the graduating class?”
I looked him in the eye and said, “I never told you that.”
“He is, isn’t he? The President’s coming?”
I put my hand over my name tag and said, “Sergeant Russell never told you that,” and then I smiled at him and walked away.
When I went to the barracks for lunch a couple of hours later, people were running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off. The First Sergeant saw me and shouted, “Get your dress uniform on. The President’s here and he’s coming to inspect us!”
So I put on my monkey suit and we all stood around waiting on pins and needles for the next three or four hours. Finally, it was determined that the President was not on the post and we were told to stand down. My Commanding Officer, Captain Edgerton, said something about nobody had any idea how that rumor had started. I replied, “Who knows, sir? Somebody says something and somebody else takes it out of context and the next thing you know, the whole base is in an uproar. Crazy, isn’t it?”
That, my friends, is how rumors get started.
Thought For The Day – My wife says our house is haunted, but that’s just silly. I’ve lived here for 272 years and have never noticed anything weird going on.