Saturday 22 May 2010

How Urban Panics Start….

Terrified residents have been spreading false rumours of child abductions in south Essex, according to police.

Essex Police said it has been inundated with calls from frightened parents, asking about a spate of child abductions rumoured to have happened in Castle Point and Rayleigh in the past few days.

Residents started making the panicked calls around Saturday lunchtime, saying said they had received text messages or seen text messages on other people's phones containing the rumour.
I’ve seen this go around before. Once it starts, it’s very hard to stop. Old style gossip and Chinese whispers were bad enough, but the reliance on the Internet and texting means it now spreads exponentially faster and further than ever before.

But the police are doing their best:
But officers have been quick to stamp out the rumour and insist there is no truth to it.
However, judging by the comments, it isn’t going to go away.

Among the sensible reactions we have some that sum up how these panics start, and why they are so hard to stop:
milesawayfromessex, Downtown says...

So what about the incident last Thursday, in Hockley, 8pm, near the Spa Pub, 11 year old boy, very distressed, crying, saying 2 men had tried to get him in a car?
When i checked with Essex Police they had no record of it, dispite their PCSO comforting the boy after the incident and looking for the two?????
so whats happening ?
Instantly, this is now at best a cock-up, at worst a conspiracy: ‘the authorities know something, but they aren’t telling us!’.

This is helped by the ‘I’m not sure if this is a wind up, but better safe than sorry’ crowd:
buttonbaggins, Westcliff says...

If i see something like that I feel its best to pass it on, as you its always best to be alert whether its true or not. As for this rumour my friend was sent it via a text from a POLICEMAN! so go figure!
And then there’s the ‘hey, there’s a pattern emerging here’ people:
Publicdefender, Castle Point says...

the Echo should have outlined this in there piece.
Canvey has had a number if incidents, Thundersley has had a flasher and an approach from a car,now Hockley, from memory there has been 5 or 6 in 2 months .

People have a right to be concerned.
And of course, since this is 2010, the ‘someone might be liable if they don’t!’ argument:
Hagrace, Hockley says...

My son's school sent a letter home Friday about the incident in Hockley so they obviously thought there was something to write home about (pardon the pun) Even if this is Chinese whispers, at least it makes parents alert. No matter what we tell our kids about strangers, there's nothing a youngster could do if a grown-up physically dragged them into a car. Vigilance is vital and I am glad the school took it seriously enough to take action. If they hadn't and an abduction occured there would be hell to pay as well as compensation claims!!!
We sometimes forget that though the technology changes, people don’t.

Take away the texting, the Twittering, the mobile calls, and how is this reaction any different to a bunch of superstitious, frightened peasants warning everyone they meet on their way to the fields to dig turnips for a living about the witch who is making their neighbour’s cows barren?


Clarissa said...

As Kay says to Jay in Men in Black: "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."

JohnRS said...

....and, just like in mediaeval times, the pitchforks and burning torches will be out soon and mobs in the street will hunt down the "peeedos" (ie anyone the mob takes a fancy to) and attack them.

Toujours la meme chose.

woman on a raft said...

How come they don't text each other with rumours about a toddler who has been half killed by dashing out in to traffic, or running on to railway lines?

Furor Teutonicus said...

We had all this "Never talk to strangers" in the 60s and 70s. It was basically BOLLOX. A knee jerk reaction to the moores murderers.


With the amount of immigrants today from countries where this is normal. it would not surprise me.

I still think the danger is MUCH over rated.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Answers on any post card that is not from Brighton.....Or either of the NEW Brightons.

Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

This is what you wanted, isn't it, Essex Police?

Don't trust your neighbours. Don't trust your friends. Don't trust the public. They might be kiddie-fiddlers. They might be pervs. They can't be trusted.

So lap it up, you police scum. This is what you wanted. This is what you strive to create.

And don't come whining to me about the hysterical overreaction of the public; they don't trust you either, which is what you deserve.

JuliaM said...

"As Kay says to Jay in Men in Black: "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.""

That's a splendid quote, one of my favourites. I think I may have even used it as a post title too.

"How come they don't text each other with rumours about a toddler who has been half killed by dashing out in to traffic, or running on to railway lines?"

That's odd, isn't it?

It's as if, like prehistoric man, they recognise some dangers as too ubiquitous - little Ug stomped by a mammoth? Eaten by a dire wolf? Oh, well - yet some are so rare - volcano! Aiiee! - that they rate the immediate alerting of the whole tribe...

"I still think the danger is MUCH over rated."

Statistically, there's no doubt about that.

"This is what you wanted, isn't it, Essex Police?"

I think someone wanted it. I'm not sure the police on the beat did, though...