Anatomy Of A Rumor
When you were a kid, did you ever play a game called ”Gossip”? The participants would sit in a circle on the floor and the first person to start the game would whisper in the ear of the person seated next to him/her a rumor or a piece of gossip like “Billy Daniels has a new girlfriend.” By the time the rumor passed some 12 or 15 people, it might come out “Billy Daniel’s father has a new girlfriend.” Close but no cigar – a false and potentially dangerous rumor.
Today, we have a new way to play “Gossip”. It’s called “Internet e-mail”. This rumor apparently began by a parent upset over a potential case of racial discrimination. The following story is edited from an article in the ABQJournal.com, “Chain Denies Racism Rumor” bylined Adam Rankin.
“The e-mail message, which called for a boycott of the Los Alamos McDonald’s for allegedly refusing to serve a middle school basketball team, has spurred separate three-week investigations by the school and the corporate offices of McDonald’s.” The e-mail began to circulate and spread like a wildfire in a parched Arizona pine forest.
“Luis Ruiz, an Albuquerque public relations specialist, spokesman for the owner-operated McDonald’s franchise in Los Alamos said Tuesday, ‘there was no racist incident’.”
Ruiz insisted he doesn’t know the original source of the rumor and no one should be to blame so basically we don’t know how it got started, but somehow its gotten blown out of proportion.
“The e-mail sender purports to be the mother of one of the players and says they were denied service because they are Indian. She alleges the players and coaches were told they could be given directions to the Pizza Hut or for pay double for they food they wanted at McDonald’s.
“There is a video of the incident on security tapes,” Ruiz maintained, “A picture does not lie.”
Here is the new “skinny”. McDonald’s is a sponsor of the New Mexico Activities Association, the governing body of high school sports. “Part of the sponsorship agreement,” Ruiz said, “is to provide meals to coaches but not players.”
A new system was recently instituted requiring coaches to present a “Be Our Guest” coupon for their meal. The new policy was put into place to help cut down on people taking advantage of the system to get free food. McDonald’s has donated 1,000 coupons which comes to about $5,000 worth of food.
According to Ruiz “In this case, the Indian School coach didn’t have a coupon and decided to take the team to a different restaurant after the new policy was explained. So, McDonald’s employees helped the coach find another restaurant in Los Alamos that could accommodate the team.”
Ruiz concluded, “Someone is spreading a rumor that just never happened.” Just like in the Gossip game.
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