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Bruce, Caroline

LJ Idol Week Six: Who Believes the Urban Legends?

Urban legends have been around for ages. While it's true that they've
become even more prevalent since the advent of the Internet and e-mail,
there is nothing new about these stories. But why do they work?

I think one of the main reasons we love urban legends is that, no matter
what our viewpoint, someone somewhere has an urban legend to support it.
If you're right-wing by nature, you can find all sorts of urban legends
that go into great detail about some of the evil exploits of those
horrid liberals. If you're left-wing by nature, you can find an equal
number of wonderful e-mails expounding on the nasty deeds of those
hateful conservatives. And of course if you're in the middle, you can
find support for the ill-will and threats to humanity of both sides.

Who forwards these things to you? You can almost always tell from the
messages themselves. A homophobe will forward you every piece of
anti-gay urban legend he or she can get their hands on, every statistic,
every detail, no matter how outrageous. A racist will deliberately pick
out anything he or she can get their paws on that displays someone of a
particular skin color or ethnicity in a bad light, while at the same
time ignoring all the other stuff that points out the equality, both
good and bad, of all races. A man-hating woman or a woman-hating man
will send you ruthless-man or idiot-woman stories, respectively. A
religious bigot, or a non-religious religion-hating bigot, for that matter, will send you everything he or she can find that proves
that all those devilish practitioners of that other religion, whatever
it may be, are out to get us (the good guys, whoever we represent). The
paranoid among us will send us every message talking about government
thought, financial, and media control. People in minorities who crave victimhood will find all manner of "proof" that "they're all out to get us". Of course all that happens in the above and other examples is that good people wind up looking bad, the guilty just get angrier and the innocent get hurt.

It all goes back to our selective believing of what we here. When we so
select based on an understanding of the situation, this is a good thing.
But when we select based on our leanings only, then we tend to
perpetuate those urban legends we like and poo-poo the others, which
someone somewhere else is probably busy perpetuating at that very moment. I believe the
perpetuation of urban legends is more of a reflection of our prejudices
and bigotry than anything else, in many cases. Of course, this doesn't
hold true for all urban legends. Some are just plain silly. Others are
clever ways for spammers to gain valid e-mail addresses. Some are
attempts by people who don't have a job to make money without trying.
And so on. But many urban legends are, I contend, expressions of
unhealthy stereotypes and prejudice.
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Comments

Nicely said!
Nicely Done and a different take on the topic. I like it.
While I like what you wrote (sans the typos and grammatical errors), I wholly and completely disagree. There's a difference between stereotypes and urban legends.
Yes, there is a difference between urban legends and stereotypes. I was not saying that they are the same, I was saying that the one perpetuates the other.
I suppose, but not all urban legends. In fact, I'd go so far as to say not even half. A more complete explanation for the perpetuation, in my opinion, would be the lack of understanding of something. The unknown, in a basic sense.
Again, I did make it clear that I was not refering to all urban legends. I also made it clear that this is my personal contention. But I do believe it is well over half. I do suggest you reread my entry if it would interest you to do so, as you clearly missed a great deal of what I said. I've fixed the typos and spelling mistakes (all typos). Whether you reread it or not, keep enjoying LJ Idol.
psst! It's spelled "bigot"

Other than that, great job here! I'm impressed with your turnaround!
thanks for the heads up. Serves me right for writing on the fly. Don't tell anyone I'm a proofreader, okay?

Edited at 2007-12-11 12:01 am (UTC)
I promise. ;-) Glad I could help!
Good job!

Some urban legends don't necessarily have to do with anything truly controversial. My personal favorite is this silly one.
Ahh, nice work! I considered writing on this, but you stole my thunder ; )
I believe the perpetuation of urban legends is more of a reflection of our prejudices and bigotry than anything else

That's a very astute observation, and something I hadn't really thought of before. Good post.
This is a very interesting read and a thoughtfully done analysis!
yeah, I started to write on this very subject -- exploring why people b elieve these things. Then I just folded that into 32 words of ... something else.

Interesting article, anyway, and points to you for brevity!
Nicely done...I thought about taking this tact but I couldn't muster the energy!
Oh yeah! I mean, the slew of legends which also basically warn you off the unknown e.g. the family who bring back a cute little dogggie from Mexico/Hong Kong/foreign parts which turns out to be a rat/polar bear/bunyip, all feeding into paranoia and fitting in with certain agendas.