It is hardly surprising, but hysteria has failed again. That is because hysteria rarely leads to encouraging solutions to real problems. Hysteria interferes with critical thinking.
Many Winnipeggers learned this lesson on Friday. As Maggie Macintosh reported in the Winnipeg Free Press,
More than 1,000 students — including nearly half of one elementary school’s population — were absent from classes in one Winnipeg school district Wednesday as misinformation spread online about its teachers distributing graphic sexual content.
Many Winnipeggers believed the nonsense they read about on social media that teachers planned to suddenly expose children to explicit and inappropriate information. That is typical of the stuff social media spreads, and unfortunately, many parents are inclined to believe such claims. People who are addicted to conspiracy theories believe stuff like this no matter how incredible it is. People living in what Kurt Anderson called “FantasyLand” are addicted to such absurdities.
Superintendent Brian O’Leary said “We had a lot of information circulating on social media, particularly within the South Asian community, telling parents that the schools were planning to hand out books with graphic sexual material to all students.”
As Macintosh reported, the Superintendent said,
“false and malicious fearmongering” on social media prompted hundreds of families in the Seven Oaks School Division to keep their elementary-aged children home from classes Sept. 20.
He also said the posts in Punjabi, Hindi and Arabic were “deliberately concocted to scare parents,” and were circulating on Facebook. The problem is that far too many parents, and others, believe everything they hear on social media, particularly if it aligns with their anti-government ideology. The problem is not gender ideology, it is the ideology of automatic distrust in government. Adherents to this ideology would much rather believe nonsense on the internet than government sources. And this is a big problem for society.
As Macintosh said,
“About 50 per cent of students enrolled at Arthur E. Wright Community School did not show up Wednesday. The absenteeism rate dropped to five per cent Thursday. The abnormal attendance levels were recorded on the same day as the “1MillionMarch4Children” — a protest organized by a conservative group that is “against gender ideology” and claims schools are sharing “sexually explicit content” with students — played out across the country.”
When hysterical parents hear lies this, particularly if they have a sexual element, they immediately move into high gear before they have a chance to think things through rationally. Hysteria is the mortal enemy of critical thinking.
I don’t think it is a coincidence either that this happened as hundreds of protesters showed up at the Manitoba Legislative Building the day before to call for more parental rights, even though they already have ample parental rights they rarely use. When parents are haunted by fantastical visions of children being sexually abused, their reactions are on hair-trigger mode.
The president of the Manitoba Teacher’s Society Nathanial Martindale was disappointed that parents had believed such nonsense that Manitoba teachers are out to harm children. As he said, “nothing could be further from the truth… Educators want the best for all learners and will never be onside with homophobic or transphobic hate.” But reasonable ordinary truth like that just does not cut it on the Internet when there are salacious lies instead.
Lies and Hate travel at warp speed on the internet compared to dull truth.