Saturday, 19 November 2011

Beware the Paramyth

What’s the fastest growing form of woo woo in Britain today?
  • Is it perhaps those brash rambunctious religionists at the more happy-clappy end of the spiritual spectrum?
  • Is it the quack army and their ever-growing canon of inefficacious alternative therapies?
  • Is it psychics and ghosts hunters who’ve plummeted lowbrow TV to new depths?
  • Is it the mind-body-spirit brigade of Newage nutters and neopagan fruitcakes who reject formal religion in order to fanny about with their own personalised spiritual delusions?
I suspect not. I would like to propose a new contender that as far as I’m aware, hasn’t even got a specific name yet, so let me try and explain it.

There is a new wave of modern myths sweeping the country that although diverse in nature have a common theme. At the heart of each of these myths is a tiny conspiracy theory that panders to our tabloid fuelled fears that those with different views, traditions and ideas to us, are influencing policies that will bring about the downfall of our traditional way of life.

These paranoid myths (paramyths?) may have a grain of truth at their centre, but have been exaggerated to become outright lies that spread like wild fire by uncritical paramythers more anxious to propagate their ideological agendas than check the facts.

Let me give you a few examples to explain what I’m talking about:

Yesterday my wife was talking to the man on the checkout tills at Asda about opening times over the Christmas period. She was told that Asda would be closed on Christmas Day, but would be open on Boxing Day. Not because of cooperate greed or because that in all probability the other supermarkets in our area will also open on Boxing day but:
“Because of the Muslims.”
No further explanation was necessary. We all know the secret Muslim agenda to turn our beloved Christian country into another Islamic State.

Here’s another example: earlier this week the Telegraph ran with this headline:
BBC drops Frozen Planet's climate change episode to sell show better abroad
We all know that those gas-guzzling Yanks put their head in the sand at the first mention of man-made climate change. Why else then would the BBC not package this episode up for sale with the rest of the series?

During the 2010 Football World Cup I remember my kids reporting on a rumour that was making its way around the school yard and virally spreading through facebook that:
Pubs ban England Shirts
And a tabloid newspaper championed our cause to fly St George’s Flag in the face of the forces who apparently sought to ban such things.

Again needling the fans to unproportionately act against an ever-popular paper-selling anti-English conspiracy lie. Steven Baxter has a much more reasoned investigation here:

Even a government minister (admittedly one of the more stupid ones) has been sucked in by these paramyths. At this years Conservative Party Conference the Home Secretary, Theresa May, came out with this howler:
The illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – he had a pet cat."
Theresa May may not have made it up, but some paramyth peddling pillock did, and she uncritically bought it.

But of course the perennial paramyth that always starts to kick off around this time each year is Melanie Philips’ favourite, The Winterval Myth.

I suspect these examples may just be the tip of the iceberg. It’s therefore high time we picked up our burning pitchforks and headed off on our crusade against the paramythers*.

When it comes to hanging monkeys, there are an awful lot of would be Hartlepudlians out there.

*A more suitable name may be substituted if someone comes up with a better one.
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