“All wet” (Parking lot sedation)

Last post we addressed the mistaken and comical notion that fentanyl dealers were planning to give away their product in doses that would kill their prospective customers. It represents the latest in a series of putative Halloween horrors that has included poisoned candy, satanic kidnapping rings, insane clown posses, and convicted sex offenders luring prey with Butterfingers and Baby Ruths.

As the SkepChick Rebecca Watson humorously noted, such terrors being associated with this time of year is in one way fitting. But rather than being a genuine fright like terrorism or war, these are in the same fictitious vein as zombies and vampires.

Besides being the most recent urban legends associated with All Hallows Eve, the drug-dealing urban legend also has something in common with another contemporary moral panic: The notion of cloths being soaked with a powerful sedative that incapacitates the victim, who is then robbed, abducted, or raped.

Madison Dapcevich at Lead Stories looked into this and found no evidence to support the notion of attempted vehicle entries being foiled by nasty napkins, poisoned papers, or terrorizing tissues.

Dapcevich learned that earlier this summer, social media began posting warnings about these events, with fentanyl usually being the drug of choice. She spoke with University of Florida epidemiology professor Linda Cottler who told her, “These are not accurate suggestions and there is no scientific evidence of this.”

Moreover, accidental skin contact with fentanyl has been described by the Harm Reduction Journal as medically impossible. Similarly, researchers at Cambridge University exposed a test subject to a 10 microgram solution of pharmaceutical fentanyl citrate by placing the solution on the person’s hand. No opioid intoxication or overdose resulted and the substance easily washed away.

Dapcevich additionally cited a 2020 study published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology which found opioids inefficiently absorb through the skin. And there’s more. A 2017 report by the American College of Medical Toxicology and the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology determined that fentanyl being delivered through the skin would require “200 minutes of breathing fentanyl at the highest airborne concentrations to yield a therapeutic dose” and even then it would “not a potentially fatal one.” As Dapcevich explained, “To reach dangerous blood levels, a person would need to soak their limbs in such a solution for an extended period of time.”

It’s no wonder that social media posts sounding the alarm about this supposed issue seldom include a location or date. No criminal is ever apprehended, no victim is ever identified or rescued.

A similar panicky claim, documented by the Daily Dot’s Audra Schroeder, ties dollar bills left under car windshield wipers to human trafficking. Trafficking is a genuine phenomenon but it is done by those who know their victims and groom them over time. The victims are generally destitute and usually from another country, with limited language skills. They may likewise struggle with addiction and homelessness. As one levelheaded poster put it, the urban legends twist these notions so that they focus on “middle class white women being trafficked,” an idea “that completely overshadows reality.”

So when taking their children to safely Trick or Treat, mothers can open their car doors without worry.

“A better pill to swallow” (Fentanyl candy)

Goblins, gremlins, ghosts, and ghouls cease to be scary in adulthood, so into the Halloween fright vacuum steps a moral panic. Be it razor-laden Snickers, confectionary-distributing pedophiles, or poisoned Pixie Stix, there are imaginary fears that follow some past the teen years. This year features a new twist on the traditional boogeyman of drugged treats. Keeping with the times, Fentanyl has replaced the now-tame marijuana as the culprit.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel took it upon herself to represent every American mother and said that 100 percent of them are freaking out about their child getting a rainbow-colored Fentanyl. Never one to let a good panic go to waste, the DEA also chimed in, with warnings about an “alarming emerging trend” of drug dealers targeting these pills to our young’uns.

Writing for Snopes, Bethania Palma noted that this update on a time-dishonored tale features plenty to panic over: “A novel version of a dangerous street drug, a threat to children’s safety, and the U.S.-Mexico border, an evergreen source of political flame-throwing.”

Indeed, during her spiel, McDaniel sounded the alarm than in August alone “2,000 pounds of fentanyl came across our border. That could kill 500 million people…and the Democratic Party is ignoring this.”

A measured response would have been to point out that number is more people than live in this country and that there is no evidence these illicit products are making their way from Juarez to elementary school swing sets. Instead, the next day, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced he would seek $290 million in funding to fight this kiddie crisis. For maximum effect, he displayed photos of candy alongside rainbow fentanyl and implored, “Halloween is coming up. This is really worrisome and really dangerous.”

He’s right about people being worried but there is no evidence drug traffickers are planning to give free pills to kids under the guise of candy.

Rolling Stone reporters spoke with harm reduction experts, who confirmed that rainbow-colored fentanyl pills and powders are real. However, they are not being targeting to children, and dealers have no plans for an uptick in marketing and distribution on All Hallows Eve.

Colored pills have been around for decades and their purpose is to allow drug dealers to identify their goods or to make a carbon copy of legitimate pharmaceuticals. Similarly, heroin packets sometimes come with attractive images and cool names, ecstasy is packaged in bright shapes and colors, and LSD tablets often have cartoon characters or stars, smiley faces, and band logos.

“It’s a way to brand your stuff,” explained reporter Reilly Capps in an interview with Reason’s Lenore Skenazy. They may also make the product more attractive, but this can appeal to any age group. Rolling Stone interviewed Mariah Francis, a resource associate with the National Harm Reduction Coalition, and she told the magazine that “the pills in the photos shared by the DEA are all stamped and readily identifiable as pills, making it very hard to believe children are mistaking them for colorful candy.”

Targeting single-digit age children is nonsensical since that demographic has the least amount of disposable income. Moreover, fentanyl is up to 100 times more powerful than standard opioids, and foisting these upon a 7-year-old first-time user would almost certainly be fatal. It’s hard to imagine a worse outreach strategy than an instant killing of your customer base.

“Taking a charge”(Electric car myths)

Electric vehicle detractors make a number of claims which have a grain of truth and others which lack even this single morsel.

For example, they have pointed out that there is not enough infrastructure to support an explosion in electrical vehicle usage. It is true that if today, magically, the number of such means of conveyance tripled, there would be an insufficient support network. However, when the internal combustion engine was a novelty, there were no auto mechanics, gasoline stations, or AAA. The market adapted and evolved, as would be the case if the number of electric vehicles mushroomed.

The disdain for EVs is comparable to that for veganism. The mythological protestor chiming in with “Meat is Murder” on a beef page is nowhere to be seen. Yet when one posts an animal-free recipe, the majority of replies feature anger, derision, and revulsion. In the same vein, a post about a traditional vehicle will likely merit no negative comments or at least none that condemns the industry in totality. By sharp contrast, information about EVs is met with hostility, mocking, and perhaps even a declaration that they are a plot to conquer and control the population.

One of the least venomous arguments is that they are too expensive. And while EVs do cost more on average than their gasoline counterparts, the price has been steadily declining as they become more common. More importantly, as Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning points out, there is more than retail price at play. When one considers resale, maintenance, fuel costs, and depreciation, EVs come out ahead. Imagine 10 years of no trips to the gas pump and no oil changes, all while having fewer components that can break down, and one can see the long-term benefit.

Next, let’s tackle the notion that charging can take untold hours. Compared to the two minutes it takes to complete a gasoline refueling, this seems like a lot of wasted time. But Dunning noted that most users only charge as much they need to get to their next destination so most don’t spend three hours waiting around for the charge to complete. Dunning reported that he spent a month on an 8,000-mile drive (aided by Tesla’s autopilot), where he averaged about 10 minutes per recharge. While that’s a little longer than one spends pumping gasoline, if you throw in a restroom break and a Snickers purchase that are common on cross-country journeys, it’s the same amount of time. Moreover, an EV can be powered at home, which is where about 75 percent of recharging takes place. There is no gasoline refueling equivalent in most people’s driveway.

Another expense-related criticism is that the batteries need frequent replacement at $40,000 a pop. This is a total myth. Dunning wrote, “EV batteries last just as long as, and are far more reliable than, car engines. You’re no more likely to need to replace an EV battery than you are your V8. And even if you did, federal law in the United States requires EV batteries to be warrantied for eight years or 100,000 miles.”

Moving onto the more fear-based complaints, there is the notion that an EV driver is in a bad way if the battery dies. This is sometimes extrapolated to a dystopian scene where all cars are electric and the duped drivers all remain stuck in a blizzard or backed up traffic, resulting in all the cars transforming into a makeshift coffin. While being stranded is undesirable, poor decision making by a single EV driver is no more a condemnation of the entire concept than a motorist running out of gas is an indictment of the entire oil industry. Dunning wrote that he once was unable to recharge because the power in town went out. Stupid him, right? Well, only if one applies the same distinction to the hundreds of traditional vehicle drivers who were also unable to refuel due to the electrical outage. As to everyone being stuck to die together, this is based partly on the myth that the batteries don’t hold a charge for very long. This is untrue, and would be especially so if the car were idling.

Detractors raise concerns about environmental and humanitarian disasters – isolated concerns from a segment not usually worried about such things. Those who consider the damage that climate change does to Earth and its inhabitants to be mythological now fret over the harm caused by lithium mining. However, we need to do more than to appeal to hypocrisy. We need to look at whether this is a valid worry.

Dunning writes, “Lithium…is more an issue of supply and demand and cost. It creates ugly open-pit mines but is not particularly dirty or destructive. Most lithium mining is in Australia, which complies very well with environmental regulations.”

But that still leaves cobalt, which traditionally has had the worst humanitarian impact. Much of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and mining there has often been done in deplorable conditions, sometimes by children.

This is of utmost concern, but Dunning noted that international pressure and increasing demand has tempered the problem. “The picture has changed dramatically,” he wrote. “Demand has surged to the point where child laborers can no longer meet it. About half of Congolese cobalt mines are owned by well-financed Chinese companies, and the vast majority of Congolese cobalt is now produced in mechanized open-pit mines with heavy equipment and not a child laborer in sight.”

This is not to suggest all is well. According to Dunning, there are still 40,000 Congolese children, and it is therefore necessary is to continue to monitor the companies producing cobalt and to snuff out their use of child labor.

As to EVs impact on planet health, when considering the entire production and use cycle, the average electric car generates half as much greenhouse gas as the average internal combustion vehicle.

Finally, there is the myth that the grid is insufficient to support a significant uptick in EVs. In truth, EVs make a modest impact on the grid. An entire electric fleet would add about 10 percent to overall demand. And since any increase would be gradual, proper planning and management could alleviate any trouble.

“Rounding up the numbers” (Glysophate fears)

Glyphosate, sold under the brand name Roundup, has been attacked since 2015 when the International Association for Research on Cancer concluded that the weed killer was likely carcinogenic for agricultural workers who used it regularly for years on end.

University of Florida horticulture sciences professor Kevin Folta noted that when it comes to cancer risk, glyphosate resides in the same category as eating processed meat, getting too much sun, and toiling as a barber. The same conclusion that IARC reached mentioned that glyphosate shows no signs of being dangerous in trace amounts in food.

The latest concern over the product centers on a report showing that it shows up in the urine samples of 80 percent of the population. Folta writes that this sounds alarming but a longer look reveals there’s little to worry about.

That’s because four decades of research have shown no epidemiological or/molecular evidence that glyphosate causes cancer. Also, the latest report uses terms such as “tied to cancer” and “linked to cancer,” but those are not scientific designations but rather attempts to tie together disparate items and suggest causality. In truth, they are nothing more than correlation, tenuous connections, and statistical anomalies.

As to the traces in our piss, the CDC assessment never measured how much was there, it merely noted if it was present. There is no reason to think there is any danger here. Researchers are not finding dangerous levels in urine or blood. The reason that any can be detected is that chemists have devised products efficient enough to detect 0.2 nanograms per milliliter of glyphosate in aqueous solutions like urine. That’s 200 parts per trillion. This poses no risk, since as always, toxicity is determined by amount, not substance. Further, glyphosate easily passes through the body, making it a carcinogen even less likely.

“Doctor and the Clerics” (Trans treatment hysteria)

There are some who see 1984 as less a cautionary tale and more an instruction manual. Witness Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this year siccing states on the parents of transgender minors. Meanwhile, a glut of bills, some of which have passed, banned gender-affirming care for trans boys and girls, with 10 years in prison the punishment for prescribing medication.

Proponents of such laws claim that this care is experimental, which they by extension imply harmful. Yet Science Based Medicine cited a systematic literature review of 52 studies, which show improvement in patients following gender-affirming medical intervention. By contrast, those who had not socially transitioned normally experienced depression and anxiety.

As to the notion that this is new, trans individual have taken cross-sex hormones since for more than a century and GnRHa first treated gender dysphoria in 1988. These are safe treatments, for as the Endocrine Society’s Clinical Practice Guidelines states, “Pubertal suppression is fully reversible, enabling full pubertal development in the natal gender, after cessation of treatment, if appropriate.”

Experimental treatments are those that serve as an intervention or regimen and have shown curative promise but which are still being evaluated for efficiency and safety. This does not apply to trans care, such as puberty blockers. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has endorsed gender assignment surgery and medical therapy as being effective and even life-saving. These drugs inhibit puberty in order to enable the brain time to mature and to allow for exploration of gender identity. They are not prescribed for prepubescent children and are only given at the onset of secondary sex changes.

There is a wide gulf between medical treatments following careful consultation and foisting it upon the masses, which detractors claim is happening in schools. Also of note, the treatments are reversible and genital surgery for gender reassignment is rarely.

Nearly 30 major professional health organizations have recognized the medical necessity of treatments for gender dysphoria and endorse such treatments. As such, doctors should make these decisions after consultation with families; politicians on a fundamental religious bent should not be the ones dictating medical care.

“Blue it” (Huggy Wuggy and Disney hysterias)

Today we will consider two recent moral panics, one comical and the other crossing into dangerous territory. For the former, we take a look at the hullabaloo surrounding Huggy Wuggy, the titular character from a video game. That particular entertainment form has been panicking parents since around the advent of Pong.

The latest menace is a blue-tinted, fanged monster who sings about hugging people until they breathe their last and other fatal notions. The online universe if full of warnings about this deceitful teddy bear who fixates on physical embraces and murder. These are accompanied by anecdotes of children emulating Huggy Wuggy’s wayward example. Other rumors have the terrible teddy encouraging patricide and suicide, while less alarming stories focus on his obscenity and alcohol abuse.

Huggy Wuggy also appears in the video game Poppy Playtime, which centers on a former toy factory worker who returns to his place of employment. There, Huggy Wuggy and other anthropomorphic toys stalk the former employee. Additionally, there are fan-made videos featuring Huggy Wuggy that would upset some preschoolers. But these do not target children and are, in fact, rated as Teen or Mature.

A Rolling Stone investigation found no Huggy Wuggy videos on YouTube but some on TikTok, which is aimed at those 13 and over. Some of those show Huggy Wuggy videos, though none encourage harm to self or others.

Like previous moral panics, the warnings are being repeated without the speaker first having ascertained that the phenomenon exists. Those warnings are then treated as the proof in future retellings.

Now onto the dangerous. When Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill was signed, Disney’s too-little, too-late response was to object once the legislation became law. The collective response from the right has been an unending chorus consisting entirely of “groomer.” This word refers to someone who targets a child for sexual abuse and works his or her way into their life and eventually begins molesting them. It does not refer to objecting to a specific piece of legislation. Reason writer Scott Shackleford has been labeled a pedophile and child molester by online commentators, based on his having contrary opinions to the posters. This is what passes for political dialogue in 2022. In these circles, saying “groomer” is considered reasoned discourse and the claim is itself presented as its own proof.

Vice noted that right wing walk show hosts now label anyone opposed to anti-LGBT legislation to be a groomer or even a pedophile. Much like Robin DeAngelo labeling all whites to be racist, this groomer/pedophile umbrella is so massive that it encompasses 60 percent of the population and thus loses all meaning. In the most extreme corners, far-right agitators are doxing school officials, Disney officials, and Democratic politicians, claiming without any evidence, that they are facilitating the sexual abuse of children or committing the acts themselves. These rants include posting the address of the targeted, along with calls to torture them or subject them to an extrajudicial execution. That’s a lot scarier than any blue fanged monster.

“Branch Floridians” (DeSantis deaths)

Florida governor and national embarrassment Ron DeSantis hosted a parade of lies and misinformation masquerading as a COVID roundtable. Only doctors selected by DeSantis were allowed to attend. While “roundtable” connotes an open exchange of views, this panel featured doublespeak and allowed no deviation from the script.

The farce was dubbed “Closing the Curtain COVID Theater.” Theater is a rather innocuous term to describe the spread of an airborne virus that has killed 5 million people – a number that would be markedly lower if everyone had taken known preventive measures.

Skeptic leader Dr. David Gorski reviewed the heavily-orchestrated spectacle, which was led by DeSantis and his henchman, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. Though an appointed position, surgeon general is one government role that should always be apolitical and should certainly not promote the anti-health, anti-science positions favored by the head of state government.

But that’s what Ladapo has done, even going so far as using the forum to announce that Florida advises against vaccinating minors against COVID-19, a virus that has killed more than 1,000 American children. Some of you Kindergartners may die but that’s a risk Ladapo is willing to take. DeSantis chimed in with, “We are not just going to follow the CDC in the state of Florida. … We’re going to do our own stuff.” Ain’t no science gonna tell him what to do. And while he has sometimes advertised himself as a champion for choice, his actions bely that claim. Witness his childish berating of mask-wearing high schoolers as an example.

One phrase heard throughout the roundtable was “Urgency of Normal,” a euphemism for abandoning all coronavirus mitigation measures. No masks, no vaccines, no social distancing, no remote learning. Makes you wonder what their stance on hand-washing is. Orwellian claims that lockdowns are more dangerous than the virus were trumpeted and panelists insisted the nation should let COVID spread unchecked in order to pave the way for herd immunity. As to the immunocompromised and elderly, screw them, DeSantis needs to get a haircut.

Gorski noted this mindset’s similarity to a Brady Bunch episode favored by anti-vaxxers since it treats measles as no big deal – an annoying but harmless rite of passage. Yet Gorksi noted that before the vaccine, 48,000 people a year were hospitalized for the measles, 4,000 of those developed encephalitis, and about 450 patients died. Gorsksi argued that treating pre-vaccine measles or COVID as minor issues – since most who contract them survive – is akin to eugenics.

Gorski wrote, “Our response to COVID-19 uses the familiar blueprint of eugenics, with predictable consequences for the captive and vulnerable, who are pushed to the side, ignored, or sacrificed for the ‘greater good.’ This devalues the lives of those who are less than perfect, less than healthy, by in essence telling everyone who is healthy that they don’t have to worry and shouldn’t be expected to sacrifice anything to protect who are less than healthy and at high risk.” To be sure, the “pro-life” crowd has been anything but on this one.

“TikTok Sheeple” (Attorneys Generals social media investigation)

More than a half dozen state attorneys general are investigating TikTok to try and determine if the social media giant is violating consumer protection laws. Their main concern is whether app is harming them there young’uns, and what the company’s executives know about this. Expressing concern for the entire throng, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey lamented that TikTok “may harm their physical health and mental wellbeing.”

But as Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown pointed out, if use of TikTok or another social media product is leaving kids to careening out of control and undergoing psychological torment, it is likely the result of negative interactions with other users. It is probably a correlation/causation error or post hoc reasoning to necessarily blame the site. People can be cruel in person, on the phone, or in a text. It is hardly confined to social media. A user, especially a tween or teen, may feel left out, scorned, or jealous after an hour on TikTok, but they might be in the same situation after experiencing negativity elsewhere.

“These are issues of human nature, not technological issues,” Brown wrote. “You could feel it looking through magazines, attending school, or walking down the street, seeing an ad that makes one self-conscious, or a video game you keep losing.”

Detractors will tie TikTok use to subsequent negative behavior, but Brown noted that it is probable that “self-doubt, sadness, or social isolation may drive young people to partake in more” of the regrettable behavior. Youth who are balanced, centered, extroverted, and active are more likely to demonstrate positive traits, but their being so after using TikTok would never be used to site the app as the reason for their emotional wellbeing. It is likewise just as erroneous to blame TikTok for undesirable traits and negative behavior.

So when politicians or others talk of mandating changes to algorithms or restricting certain types of advertisements, they are putting a Band-Aid on a decapitation. Such actions are failing to address the cause of the issue and these measures would do little if anything to fix it. If an anorexic young girl feels overweight no matter what the scales say, a ban of diet food advertising won’t change this. The same precept applies to trying to social media usage.

“Let them eat fakes” (Vegan bashing)

Atheists and vegans have a commonality. Both are reviled minorities who are despised for what they do not do: Believe in any gods or consume animal products. While this would seem to be an avenue for atheists to feel rapport with vegans, or at least be neutral toward them, this is not always the case. The Facebook page Atheists Against Pseudoscientific Nonsense (AAPN) makes vegan-bashing at least a monthly occurrence.

This seems strange to me, for in the same way that someone not believing in a god has no impact on anyone else, a person favoring fake butter to the authentic version is harming no one. Of course, the maintainers of AAPN are far from alone in their vegan-loathing, which permeates those of all religious stripes. Why does 0.3 percent of the population, doing something that doesn’t affect anyone else, engender such venom?

BBC reporter Zaria Gorvett tried to get the root of this disdain. She wrote that one volley lobbed at vegans is an accusation of hypocrisy. For example, bugs or mice will be unintentionally killed when a farmer harvests corn or plants soybeans. But, first, as vegan law professor Gary Francioine noted, by being vegan, one is taking the most proactive stance and the one that will cause the least cumulative harm to animals. By contrast, if one eats meat or drink milks, the fatal impact on animals is unquestioned. (Male offspring of dairy cattle are often killed at birth, the same fate that awaits male chicks).

Moreover, appealing to hypocrisy is a logical fallacy and in this case, not a genuine reason for the loathing. Further, the hypocrisy charge is similar to the one lobbed at proponents of church/state separation for using money emblazoned with “In God We Trust.” But there is no inconsistency since those proponents would prefer the motto come off. Similarly, vegans would prefer that no living creatures be killed or harmed when their food is produced. AAPN could surely see the logic behind the former, so why not the latter?

A second accusation is that vegans are militant and adopt an in-your-face approach. Consider the lame joke, “How do you know if someone is vegan? They will tell you.” This is an instance of survivor bias, as people meet vegans all the time without knowing it since the person doesn’t mention it. To think that all vegans spout off about it because some of them do is like finishing a hearing test and, before being told the results, thinking you aced it because you heard all the beeps.

The militant accusation is also comical when considering such an approach is more frequent among meat eaters. Think about the Heart Attack Grill or the promotions which bestow a free dinner on the diner who finishes an outrageously-sized cheeseburger or T-bone in a certain timeframe. I have seen animal welfare videos given a retort video consisting entirely of the creator eating chicken nuggets. I have ever seen the equivalent, whereby a hunting video is answered by a vegan recording themselves chomping on a salad. Social media ads for veggie burgers yield derisive comments in the threads; those for hamburgers do not.

Again, this should be a case for common ground between the atheist and vegan. The punchline “They will tell you” has been directed at atheists, even though it is Christians who wear a religious symbol around their necks, who dress in unmistakable nun and priest garments, and who have multiple church options in any square mile nationwide. It is de rigueur for GOP presidential candidates to announce that the Christian god told them to run. By contrast, no Democratic candidate has cited atheism as their impetus.

So with hypocrisy or aggressiveness not the answer, Gorvett deduced that disgust of vegans has its roots in psychological discomfort. She writes, “If you bring your cod and chips home to eat in front of your beloved goldfish, or tuck into a rabbit stew mere moments after cooing over various #rabbitsofinstagram, you’re likely to encounter cognitive dissonance, which occurs when a person holds two incompatible views, and acts on one of them. In this case, your affection for animals might just start to clash with the idea that it’s OK to eat them. The tension that results can make us feel stressed, irritated, and unhappy. But instead of resolving it by changing our beliefs or behavior, it’s quite normal to blame these feelings on something else entirely.”

Encountering a vegan triggers this cognitive dissonance by serving as a reminder of one’s inconsistency so vegan-bashing often follows. As Gorvett explained, “Motivated reasoning might lead people to find explanations for why eating animals is the correct decision. And one of these is that vegans are bad.”

Once more, this should be where an atheist finds common ground with a vegan. After all, some religious types who detest nonbelievers do so as a way of trying to compensate for their faith’s abuses and to keep their lingering doubts repressed.

About the only justification I can find for AAPN’s spite is the vegan-friendly nature of the communion offerings of bread and wine.

“TikdOff” (School shooting rumor)

Last month, TikTok was awash in rumors of an imminent school shooting set for Dec. 17. Skeptical Inquirer Deputy Editor Benjamin Radford investigated the phenomenon and learned that no law enforcement agencies found any of the threats credible. Rather, they were ambiguous and not tied to a specific person, place, or intent to act. And indeed, the day came and went without a school shooting.

Radford found that nearly every mention of the potential shootings had come in the form of warnings, shares, or with the user expressing their fear and worry. In other words, persons were communicating about the threats, not making them. Like earlier social media scares and their ancestors, the urban legend, the focus was on persons reacting to it, not on persons perpetrating it. We have seen this act before, in Internet warnings about T-shirts and zip ties being part of a human trafficking ploy, and in decades past with chilling tales of kidney thieves and drunk-driving victims embedded in car grills.

Radford wrote that the common folkloric themes between many urban legends and today’s social media hoaxes are that they mirror social anxieties, highlight threats to vulnerable populations, and reflect concern about technology gone bad.

Verge journalist Mia Sato interviewed University of Ontario Institute of Technology associate professor James Walsh, who told her, “Adult society has always been concerned about how new media content or new media technologies are going to corrupt young, impressionable minds.” Walsh points out that panic around a particular medium predates TikTok, previously occurring with comic books, board games, and music.

The difference now is that the misinformation gets out much faster and can me much harder to corral. Access to correct information is likewise readily available, but persons all too often to go with an untruth that fits their preconceived notions instead of accepting what to them is a less-familiar reality.