October 20, 2022

Many People Are Saying…

Japanese litter boxJapanese litter box

Several times a week, I get an email from my son’s high school with a link to a newsletter-type of page that details events at the school. To be honest, I don’t often read it. I assume that if there’s anything important going on, my son will tell me. One thing I’m not concerned about is the newsletter informing me that the school is installing litter boxes for students who identify as furries. That may sound crazy, but some parents are truly worried.

Why on earth would parents think a school would install litter boxes in bathrooms? Some Republican politicians and Republican-adjacent types like Joe Rogan are claiming this is a thing. Although they don’t have any evidence, they hardly need it to penetrate the overactive imaginations of their constituents and listeners. Tyler Kingkade has the story (and a wonderfully surreal image to go with it) for NBC News.

But the claim has taken on a life of its own among a growing number of Republicans, conservative influencers and political commentators. In an episode of Spotify’s The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast this week, host Joe Rogan told former U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard that a litter box was installed in a school that his friend’s wife worked at for a girl who identifies as an animal.” A clip of the discussion quickly began to circulate on social media. Rogan did not name the school, and his publicist did not respond to a request for comment.

As usual, you have Rogan taking part in this cultural controversy, with his, aw shucks, I’m just an everyman who heard about this and I don’t have to research it” nonsense. This is your music tax dollars (AKA, your Spotify subscription fees) hard at work. While artists are paid fractions of pennies, this guy gets unholy amounts of money to spout whatever comes off the top of his dome.

I used to laugh at this rumor, but instead of dying out like I expected, it only seems to have picked up steam, with people unthinkingly repeating it seemingly everywhere in the U.S. and Canada. When politicians were putting this stuff out there, it was bad enough, but now you have the host of the most-listened to podcast in history repeating it. I know Rogan has incredible numbers of listeners because his supporters are always touting the stats like they somehow confer legitimacy upon his show. I guess you’re supposed to just accept — prima facie — that large numbers of people can’t be wrong.

Theoretically, the proliferation of media should have brought about easy dismissals of stories like this after simple fact checking. Many news outlets have looked into these claims and found no evidence of their veracity. However, that is not a barrier to the spread of even the silliest rumors in a post-truth society. This isn’t totally new. As P.T. Barnum once said, Many people are gullible, and we can expect this to continue.” Now, though, false beliefs appear to be moving faster than ever.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go clean my personal litter box.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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