Watch for the Hidden Wrong Facts in a Meme.

Memes…
I like this meme for all the wrong reasons.

  1.  It’s a great example of a false dichotomy meme.
  2. It’s a great example of how unsuspecting wrong information is sewn into a meme with known wrong information.
  3. According to CDC, only 7K to 8K people get bit yearly, and of those roughly 5 die, not one every five minutes. That’s a drastic difference from reality.
  4. The poison/venom thing is the easy “we got this wrong” meme.
  5. The one-every-five-minutes meme is one we take for granted as correct because we see a credible resource PBS cited. It almost sounds plausible… Of course PBS is a secondary source, but we know they do their research, right? Right? This is the hard “we got this wrong” meme.
Because now, everyone who has seen this meme is going to know the “poison/venom” thing*, but they’re going to assume the other factoids are true or credible because this ostensibly came off a PBS feed. But today, anyone can cut and paste imagery together, regardless of facts or credibility.
 
None. Of. These. “Facts.” Are. Correct.
 
This is like people who historicize less-than-credible local lore during a local history tour. It’s fun, but it’s purely for entertainment. (Historicization is when facts are embellished with non-fact-checked lore.)
Because you know there is going to be that o-n-e volunteer docent at the natural history center or zoo who is going to see this poison/venom ditty and only spread that “one-every-five” factoid that is totally and completely bullshit.

 

Fake Pope Francis Quote
 
This reminds me of the photo meme of Pope Francis juxtaposed with obviously athiest belief structure. (See image below.) The pope would never say these general atheist considerations because they’re not remotely part of Catholicism. I watched many of my Catholic friends pass this around saying, “hey, you know that new pope is a great guy!” In so doing they unfortunately questioned their own understanding of their own faith. I’m not judging whether atheism or Catholicism are good or bad. I’m just showing this as a reminder that what we believe is easily swayed by what we see. Juxtaposing a credible external authority with a sketchy but plausible quote is easy to do.
 
Bottom line?
 
It’s pure entertainment. But if it’s partly sketchy, it’s probably all sketchy.
Are you sure of your beliefs? Are you certain of your facts? How much of what you think you know is based on the credibility of your friends trust in those facts rather than in the researched facts themselves?
Thank about that, next time you share a fun science meme.
* For those not in the know: Venomous refers to something that bites or stings you. Snakes and wasps are “venemous”, for example. Poisonous refers to something you bite/inhale/ingest. This meme’s main delivery requires the person viewing the meme to be familiar with the difference in order for it to be funny. Zoo and wildlife professionals often bring up the difference in their public presentations as a teaching opportunity when they’re on a stage with a venomous animal. However, apparently a number of other languages don’t make the distinction, and clearly in our language, that distinction may be less and less important. 

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