Anyone who reads this space on a regular basis knows that the author is a skeptic. I am a serious skeptic; I don’t believe anything unless I see, read and hear the proof first. Many are the discussions I’ve had with a close friend about the evidence of the Loch Ness Monster, for example. The evidence is not deeply compelling.
Anyhoo, I find it really disappointing when I see friends and family believing clickbait garbage on the internet; it comes in many forms, ranging from phony Facebook stories to false headlines to chain emails.
One of the recent instances that not only disappointed me, but angered me, was a post on Facebook stating “Did you know green peppers have genders? This is how you check. Look at the bottom of the vegetable.” The message then went into great detail describing how you can tell your green pepper is male or female. One of my friends commented “I didn’t know this! You learn something new every day!”
So disappointing that an educated, intelligent person could believe something as inane as this.
Obviously, it’s not true. There isn’t space here to go into botanical detail about “genders” of green peppers, but suffice it to say you cannot tell the “gender” of a green pepper in any way because, technically, green peppers are “unisex.”
The urban legends website Snopes quoted David Karp, a pomologist (a fruit and vegetable scientist) at UC Riverside, in 2013 as he commented on the “green pepper” controversy:
“The supposition that there are male and female peppers is a common canard, but untrue. Peppers grow from flowers that have both male and female parts. The fruits do not have a gender.”
Whether the information in the Facebook post is true or not didn’t matter to the original writer. All they cared about was people reading the post, commenting, liking it and sharing it with their friends, as the most “clicks,” or “reads,” an item gets, the more valuable it becomes (advertising revenue on the internet is closely tied to the number of times a piece of content is viewed). Such posts, including exaggerated or outright false stories on certain websites, are sometimes referred to as “clickbait,” as misleading headlines or exaggerated claims attract interest.
Many people might say, “What’s the harm?” As far as green peppers go, people who buy that line end up looking foolish but not much else. But unquestioning credulity can cause a lot more harm as internet rumors affect decisions parents make for their children, for example.
A Facebook and website rumor circulating recently stated that medical workers giving vaccinations accidentally (or, some whisper, intentionally) gave people HIV instead. As we all know, people carrying HIV can spread the condition or develop AIDS.
The injection rumor isn’t true. I’m not sure where you would find healthcare workers who would be so inept as to do such a thing, or as evil to do this intentionally, but it’s obvious this is a bizarre attempt by the anti-vaccination movement to cause fear and distrust of the scientific establishment. It’s insanity to the effect, “A few people are injured by their seatbelts in a car crash, so you shouldn’t wear seatbelts.”
Do the research and you’ll find vaccines save lives although some people choose to stay ignorant; some of them want control over your decisions too.
Personally, I think a rational human being should question what they are told, what they see, what they read, and that includes everything in this and every other newspaper. Think for yourself, gentle reader. Just because Stu Salkeld, editor of The Pipestone Flyer, tells you that the Italian motorcycle helmet manufacturer Suomy is the best in the world doesn’t mean it’s true.
Stu Salkeld is editor of The Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.