“This is the voice of our teacher, and he said the FSB” – why lie to mom from school chat

Panic distribution in the parent chats – another surge of so-called urban legends. As the black coach stealing children in the 19th century, turned into a black “Volga” and then became black “Lada Grant”, why there are waves of fake messages and how people convince each other to their credibility, says anthropologist and folklorist Alexander Arkhipov.

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  • Stop repost about a woman in the bushes!

And then this white woman with a camera!

– Tell about a woman who asked her children to take a picture of and under this pretext, took them somewhere into the bushes. This is a fresh story – this story had predecessors?

Alexander Arkhipov

In 1994 in the Venezuelan town was such a case. There were rumors that children are stealing the organs, and, as a rule, Americans. It was a small town, very poor, where children spent a lot of time unattended. This explains the panic: a sense that the kids are without proper supervision is bad reflexive sense of danger.

The city came environmental mission, and one American from the mission, an Amateur photographer, went around taking pictures of “beautiful” children from poor families. And for a couple of days before a local journalist wrote an article where he described the rumors about the theft of children as a reality and therefore, these legends were verified. And then this white woman with a camera!

Everyone understood: she is the very woman who is stealing children for organs. It began to beat, she tried to escape in a police station, a mob stormed the station and beat her to death. She survived, but the rest of days spent in critical condition. About the same story happened this year in Mexico there someone lynched because of the rumors about the theft of the organs.

– That is, the suspect is a man who does strange and unusual for others actions?

– Yes, and in Latin America, it is usually the Americans. But do the subjects of urban legends wander from country to country, from year to year and even from century to century. The history that black car stealing children, more than a hundred years – at least, at the end of the 18th century already knew about the “black coach”, which goes through the streets and steals children.

In Soviet times it was a black “Volga” (incidentally, not without reason: it is an echo of the ideas of 60-ies that the KGB is able to monitor the person remotely, following him to the black “Volga”), and now the “Lada Granta”, which steals children, using a stun gun or luring their dog and kitten.

Now, in September-October 2018 at parent chats spreading the story about the woman in blue who lured children into the bushes. And there, apparently, they either steal a kidney or waiting for the pedophiles. This story has two components – the story itself and why it occurs.

Let’s start with the content. It is typical in its structure is what is called an urban legend, urban legend. When we speak in Russian, the word “legend”, we usually seem to be well-structured large text on a historical theme: the legend of Stenka Razin or Pugachev legend, or the legend about the treasure in the Ural mountains.

The term urban legend refers to another: it is usually short and poorly structured message, which claims for validity and warns of the danger that surrounds people – so-and-so is dangerous, do not go there, do not buy something.

A classic example of the 70-ies in America, when there was formed the network of fast food, there are numerous legends about what the buyers find in hamburgers rat tails. And most of these urban legend is actually not as innocent as we think.

Photo: unsplash

– Why do they appear?

They appear in a situation when some social groups cease to believe the Newspapers or when they believe that some institutions are poorly struggling with the problem and something is being concealed from them.

And these urban legend perform the role of grassroots or, as scientists say, vernaculars warning that is coming not from the Institute, and from person to person. Back to the example about fast food chains. The system of fast food good and bad at the same time? The fact that it is on the one hand, very quickly, yet, on the other hand, is impersonal, and you don’t know who works there and who makes you a hamburger. You used to go to a restaurant for twenty years and knew that there were Joe and Mary, now do not know. For this reason you have a concern. Add to this the slightest suspicion that large corporations that are made worldwide this food – “Pepsi-Cola”, “Coca-Cola”, “McDonald’s” and so on – somewhat unfair, as there is a panic notion that it’s dangerous, and way of dealing with this threat is widespread, horizontal by such warnings. And thus arises a moral panic.

Moral panic is an English term meaning a condition in which a community of people begins to see a threat from some groups of persons, and the threat may be imaginary and the real. As a rule, it is fictional: “the Jews are poisoning the wells, take the money”, “Gypsies steal children” in the 30s in the Soviet Union it was “the pests that blew up the factories.” But the emergence of such fears is only the beginning.

Further, the threat is perceived so seriously that begins to demand a revision of moral standards in relation to this group. What led moral panic about the Jews in Nazi Germany, we all remember. The genocide of the Jews was sanctioned by the government, but the moral resolution of the society it was associated with moral panic. According to the same principle of developing moral panic over witches. Milk from the cows disappears, and because of the witches, because they are dealing with the devil. The next step is the belief that there is a group of women who are responsible for all the misery, because they have a contract with the devil and they pursue some Mercantile purpose.

And then there is a revision of moral standards, and society agrees that these women should be put to death, torture and exile. Typically, the mechanism that triggers this moral panic at the very grassroots level – this is an urban legend.

“Before, everything was safe, and now all pedophiles”

– Against any social group sent panic messages are sent to parent chats and groups?

– As we have said, as a rule, such stories appear when there is a feeling of some danger, but not necessarily about the organ theft. Why are so many of these stories – narcotic gum, poisoned needles, “pinned” bananas gang of pedophiles? Because in society today, in principle, there is a very strong feeling of danger.

All parents older than 35 years, in which we interview say the same thing: in our childhood everything was safe, I was walking in the yard, and everything was fine, and now all the pedophiles, “Blue whales”, the child sits on the Internet and I don’t know what he’s doing. We had a wonderful conversation with the administration of one village, which had been frightened by rumors about the “gasman”.

Legend has it that there are murderers who call the home phone when the child is home alone, and asked him to turn on the gas and go to sleep. In this village, so believe in it that some parents try children out of the house all the time to be with them at home.

Parents generally live with the feeling that the child is in unsafe space, and any such information only confirms this.

Add to this the generational gap in relation to the Internet: the child is given the mobile to the first class, so he was all the time under control and always able to contact him, and then it turns out that he sits on this phone, it is not clear which group, and it turns out that something you are in control, and there is a source of danger. The same contradiction in the fact that, on the one hand, the child seems to need to take a walk after school, and on the other the courtyard and the street seems like a dangerous space. And before it, in their opinion, such was not.

All of these sensations – a direct result of a long, painful collapse of the USSR, the collapse of neighborly relations, the collapse of the domestic culture. Had never had any issue walking your child after school. Lessons ended at two, the parents came home from work around seven, the child came off the street for dinner, and other options were just in case if was my grandmother. But there was no Internet, and the Soviet government was not fond of mass distribution of information, so people have a feeling that was safer.

The story of the gasman — an echo of the story about “Winx fairies”, which is very actively held in 2016 (emails, where children were invited to become a Winx fairy, for this it was necessary to open the gas in the apartment, and then you will fly).

– Were there real children who suffered from this?

– In the transmission on the First channel showed some girl who got burned. On other occasions it is unknown.

– Who the hell comes up with and starts?

– Who does it – interesting question. For example, the story of the Winx fairies arose, likely as a parody of a certain layer of culture: the ten year olds there are a huge number of texts about fairies Winx, they have their own folklore, girls play fairies, shoot it all on video and put on YouTube. Troll their Teens, and apparently that kind of trolling and raised this story about “turn on the gas to become a fairy”. Legends arise and updated at the time when there is a social problem, and we usually perceive it as real. Reality is not what really happens, and what we design.

“In the group playing a dangerous game – do not go there”

– It is always interesting to see if in reality what you tell these stories – for example, increased the number of teenage suicides with a story about “Blue whales”?

– Unfortunately, no one has the data nor the interior Ministry nor the Investigative Committee for 10 years in the public domain, as far as I understand, in different years were considered different cases of strange stories. For example, the child fell from the roof is considered or not considered a suicide attempt? And accounting of such situations greatly affects the data.

You have to understand that the accounting can affect the final figures. In the early 20th century in Russia there was a setting that suicide is a consequence of mental illness, and if up to this point, the Ministry of education did not record the suicide, then the Ministry sent circulars to schools with the requirement to report suicide attempts, they began to send replies.

And once they began to publish information about it, was a terrible cry, that in the public schools, a wave of suicides – say, it was not before, but now it is. And all began to blame the school: children learn a lot, they have a big load and so on. The Ministry tried to explain that just before this almost no thought, but to the officials, of course, listened a little.

– Maybe the smaller adults will promote themes such as “Blue whale”, the less children will be interested in this?

Yes, adult advertise them in full. In one class the teacher told the fifth graders: “Dear children, there are such groups – the “Blue whale”, #57 or #58. Do not go there. It is very dangerous. There, the curators invite you to play a dangerous game”. Naturally, the night the whole class wrote in Facebook: “Looking for the curator, where are you, “the blue whale”?”, etc., then the parent with square eyes ran to school.

– You conducted a major study of the “Blue whale”, introduced the researcher to these groups and have not found those who play it seriously, with incitement to suicide?

At least, our observer did not find any such case. Philip Fox, the organizer of one of the groups accused of hundreds of killings – the author of the “groups of death” in the “Novaya Gazeta” Galina mursalieva said more than 130 finishings before suicide. When he was arrested, he was charged with 15 counts but was indicted on the evidence provided by the parents of the two girls. That is all the power of the investigative Committee have not proved 15 finishings before suicide, and proved only that there were two strange content of correspondence, about which he said it was hype, and the parents argued that this aggression towards their children.

But see how it develops – no 130 cases were unable to prove, but all begin to send each other messages. I record interviews with those who do, and ask: “Why did you send them? Can you believe this?”

And any mother says “I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but now all the children is very dangerous – it turns out the baby in the yard, and who knows what will happen to him. And yesterday I read about a pedophile. So I guess I’ll put out”.

By clicking the button “forward”, the person who is experiencing the feeling of danger, like doing a good thing, spending a minimum of effort.

– Do you know anything about the alleged social networking games for teenagers “get out of the house and hang on 24 hours”? The media in recent years, often turning to the group “Liza Alert” about the runners, the question was whether the search is related to this game, but in the squad there is not one confirmed case.

– This is an old game that appeared after the release of the novel Seton-Thompson “Little savages” on friendship Indian boys and young white Americans. They passed the rites of initiation. For this it was necessary first day to be silent, on the second day without food, and in the third – to leave home and spend a day outside the home (for each test was given one feather).

Ten years ago actively, the students played a game of “three feathers” based on this book. Maybe she was reborn in the era of social networking, but is there any real confirmed cases, when teenagers left the house to “play” this game – the big question.

“This is the voice of our teacher, and he said the FSB”

Why are people accompany these template messages remark: “it happened in our school,” “it’s true – said my friend,” “this is the voice of our head teacher” and so on?

– The more you feel the danger, the more you want to convince that it is. And so you begin to say, “It was in our area”, “saw my friend”. This is the first of the three types of reliability of such reports – the grass roots: people feel in danger and begin to transmit information about it to each other – in today’s world make the distribution through instant messengers to friends to convince each other that the danger is real.

– But the people who do it, know that they’re lying?

– They do it with the best of intentions. They are not necessarily lying – it could “see” his girlfriend, and the girlfriend of a friend of his girlfriend, and he for the sake of brevity, says “my girlfriend”. Things like people pushing the sense of danger. This is called friend of a friend communication: when you say you heard it from a neighbor, neighbor – a man of the same level. So spread fakes during the tragedy in Kemerovo.

The second method of validation occurs when you feel that the risk is very big and deal with it in a simple way, by appealing to the opinion of a neighbor or friend, you can’t. Then those who convey information about risk, refer to the voice of authority.

For example, in the fall of 2016 in the suburban town of Krasnoznamensk, the head of the Department of education, culture, sports and youth work officer Vladimir Grishchenko received by messenger the message that the school is handing out bubble gum with a picture of Winnie the Pooh, and the inside heroin, and it costs 500 rubles. And he is so for this reason scared that I put this message on the official letterhead of your organization and on top he added a very important phrase “On the basis of the letter of the Main Department of the MIA of Russia in Moscow region report the following” – and then the text of the parent chat, with all the exclamation marks.

And it went to all the schools. To Grishchenko very quickly got very angry interior Ministry officers and journalists, and judging by the video, they explained to him that he should not have done that. He said something like: “I already the interior Ministry said it all, but I was so afraid that the children are in danger, so all wanted to believe.”

Is the second confidence level, and the third?

Tthird – that the people are not appealing to the voice of authority: “the husband works in the police”, “the FSB said,” and portray themselves confirm. This is rare, of course, but it happens. For example, in France, in the 80-ies, there was a wave of panic about the fact that the alleged digits of the barcode on the product means the instructions that the use of the product can lead to cancer. Panic and rejection of the use of the products was caused by the so-called “viliuiski” leaflet – a leaflet, printed on the letterhead of the hospitals of the city Villejuif with a warning about the dangers that were thrown in the mailboxes. The problem is that the hospital never a flyer did, someone made it.

We had an interesting case all the same “Blue whales”. The history of these groups began with the filing of Sergey Pestov: his adopted daughter committed suicide, and he and his wife and a few of the parents organized a group to protect children from cyber crimes. They had an obsession that their children are not just killed, and were killed. And the reason for that is the Internet.

And he went on different instances, found Mursaliyeva of “Novaya Gazeta”, and then things started to happen. But it was not enough. And in 2017, in February, he participated in two editions of the show Gordon’s “Men and women”, where he was told that these same curators who kill children, are under contract with the devil, and showed a contract for the sale of a talented soul. First, the soul of this child’s cost 20-something thousand, but during the week the price of the soul increased in two times – apparently, he became acquainted with the prices in Moscow. The third level of validation is the falsification of non-existent.

Why the census “just in case” is not harmless

Many say: why deny these reports – let the people be on the lookout for now so unsafe? Maybe it really is a harmless method to keep the parents in good shape?

– No, he’s not harmless. In America, one of the major holidays – Halloween, long a holiday with disguises, masquerades and other entertainment. One of its main practices – children going door to door collecting candy and other Goodies.

So, this holiday, previously was much longer and more fun in the 60-70-ies, and now he is curled to a minimum. Why? Because in 60-70 years in America occurs simultaneously several processes: the Vietnam war and the terrible national trauma for this reason; the rise of drug abuse; the disintegration of neighboring communities in small towns – before everyone was fed, was a neighbor’s mutual, and everyone knew everything about each other.

And suddenly, against this background, there was a story about what some anonymous villains in apples, which children get as a treat on Halloween, put needles, heroin and all sorts of stuff. Who launched the first information is unknown, panic about it in the papers.

But a single confirmed case not?

– No. Someone writes about it, the police makes the statement, comes to school, call parents, and they tell this to the kids. Children begin to go to the police apples with needles, they receive thanks and praise in school. But, as correctly wrote one of the officers in the report, it looks fake because all the apples brought by students, was intact, and there was not a single case that they imagine them missing something.

Then the following happened: in the midst of these fears in 1970 in Detroit five-year-old boy died from a heroin overdose. The parents immediately said that he was given heroin at Halloween Apple. Of course, a new wave of panic, so the ritual part of the celebration of Halloween have declined, and they began to take place under adult supervision. But an investigation into the lost boy found that, knowing the rumors about anonymous villains on Halloween, the child’s family to hide the fact that the heroin belonged to his uncle, sprinkled the Apple with heroin, and dumped everything on these villains.

There was also a second story, when in 1974, eight-year-old child fed chocolate laced with cyanide by his own father due to manipulation with insurance, who also tried to blame everything on those same baddies. This led is the fact that Halloween has ceased to be what was.

It’s called Ascensia – when people realize the legendary folk narrative for various reasons.

For example, last year there were several arrests of curators – people who read your article Mursalieva in “Novaya Gazeta” about the groups of death, studied all the questions and realized that the way to extort money from younger students. Or another option: high school students, having read this story, began to Troll at the same school for elementary school students with words that they are curators.

– What is the reason that people do it? I heard such version: people from the West trying to destabilisierung the situation, is check the speed of propagation of information in certain social groups, it’s the police doing such “stuffing” to keep the parents in good shape… What is your opinion?

– I believe that there is a social reason is a strong concern and feeling of insecurity. The solution to “forward/not forward” is accepted on the basis that the person probably sees the situation around him as a threat. In fact, it is a signal one thing: the parents who send these messages, sign for what’s real can’t control the safety of the children. They seem to say, “Increase their vigilance, watch for children, watch, nobody, except us, will not protect children”.

Pedophiles, unfortunately, has always been, and when we walked unattended through the streets, too. There’s a great article Elizabeth Tucker about the three stages of perception of the child. During the nineteenth century long, painful, up to the beginning of the XX century emerges the attitude to the child as a separate newsroom fact, appear toys, children’s clothing, appearing childhood and the idea that a child thinks differently, and so on.

Then there is a sharp change in relation to the events of the Columbine school, when in 1999 two high school students in the state of Colorado was badly wounded 36 people (13 of them fatally) and shot themselves. You receive an idea of what a teenager is dangerous, that we don’t understand it – in fact, it is still unclear why the two young boys killed a bunch of people. This leads to the suspension, which gradually increases, and a feeling of powerlessness and anxiety due to the fact that we are losing over a teenager control.

In the case of “Blue whales”, the woman asked to photograph a gang of pedophiles, drug strawberry, bananas and needles with AIDS there is no specific social group, which is directed against the fears of those who are each other forwards. It’s just the General anxiety and concern about the safety of children.

Photo: unsplash

And here’s another interesting story if legends are told about the dangers of Chinese food, fast food, and the Jews, to protect yourself from this is very simple – you just do not go to Chinese restaurants, do not eat hamburgers and don’t take anything from the hands of the Jews, to protect. People have the feeling that he can control the situation and to do something to protect themselves. And these legends us worse – they are aimed at tightening control, the fact that generally will not let a child to go to school under police escort and enjoyed the push-button phone because the pedophile is uncontrollable and unpredictable situation.

The unstable political situation, problems with the economy increase the nervousness.

Some sociological studies (for example, group Viktor Vakhshtein) show that in Russia now is increasing the confidence of people to their “horizontal” (“weak”) bonds to the structures of power. For example, I’ve lived in Sweden and in Cuba, and this difference was very clearly visible. In Sweden, if you have something there, you need to go to the city Committee, or where they provide the furniture, or where they will write down the courses.

Then there are problems of the human solve some of the designated state or near-state structures, and it shows the level of trust in these structures. Roughly speaking, in Sweden no one will run to the neighbors for salt, because there is a special structure. I’m exaggerating, of course, but a special structure that gives out pencils and pens to the students there.

And in Cuba there is no trust in public services, so there is very strong horizontal links between neighbors and the community. We have in the country right now is the credibility of the horizontal communication increases and the credibility of the vertical drops, therefore the person acquires the so-called weak ties. Weak communication – with our friends and acquaintances, through which we solve problems, and we feel them as more reliable than government. This means that the level of trust in the government falls.

This means that the conditional mom parent chat census panic message, but in a critical situation, may not go to the police. The weakening of vertical ties and horizontal reinforcement leads to the fact that people are willing to spread frightening fakes.

Ksenia Knorre Dmitrieva

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