EPA spy drones story spreads on baseless rumor mongering

Reining in the rumors about EPA ‘drones’ – The Washington Post.

It was a blood-boiler of a story, a menacing tale of government gone too far: The Environmental Protection Agency was spying on Midwestern farmers with the same aerial “drones” used to kill terrorists overseas.

This month, the idea has been repeated in TV segments, on multiple blogs and by at least four congressmen. The only trouble is, it isn’t true.

It was never true. The EPA isn’t using drone aircraft — in the Midwest or anywhere else.

The hubbub over nonexistent drones provides a look at something hard to capture in American politics: the vibrant, almost viral, life cycle of a falsehood. This one seems to have been born less than three weeks ago, in tweets and blog posts that twisted the details of a real news story about EPA inspectors flying in small planes.

Tip:@deborahblum on Twitter

The false story was spread via social media and certain TV shows that enhanced it even when making fun of it. One false rumor to start the ball rolling and it took on a life of its own.

The EPA does do aerial inspections to look for environmental violations, that’s nothing new. But it isn’t spying.

This story reflects some pathological habits in American society – the government is not to be trusted, it does not respect citizens rights, I have a right to privacy on my own land, if a story is in the media and I like it, it must be true and I’m going to tell everyone. Our conspiracy tendencies and failure to critically evaluate a story hurt us because of the promotion of distrust. People assume the worst, become outraged, question the government, and then authorities must take valuable staff time and resources to address nonsense based ONLY in rumor. That’s sad and it’s very BAD for the country. Seems like it’s getting worse by the day.

  9 comments for “EPA spy drones story spreads on baseless rumor mongering

  1. spookyparadigm
    June 17, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    Can we just admit that half of America has given up on the idea of government? The focus here is on the drones rumor, but then you read the “retractions,” and it is still “why are they inspecting at all?” So yeah, fine, have your poisoned food and water, and when you get sick, you don’t get newer antibiotics, because evolution is another lie from the godless elite.

  2. Massachusetts
    June 17, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    I see your point spookyparadigm, but I’m not sure about the evolution comment. Perhaps you mean that antibiotic resistance is an example of evolution in action? Yes, but I don’t think anti-evolutionists would think that way. They’d be like “show me a bacterium turning into a mouse and I’ll believe in evolution.”

  3. spookyparadigm
    June 17, 2012 at 8:30 PM

    They outlawed sea level rises in North Carolina. My level of caring re: what they think is largely exhausted.

  4. Massachusetts
    June 17, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    Yeah the outlawing of sea level rises was…yikes…are there words for it?

  5. June 17, 2012 at 9:00 PM

    I’ll start by admitting to a few pathological habits – it seems naive to trust the government, the government doesn’t always respect citizen rights and I’d like to have privacy on my own land. And maybe it’s just a sign of my pathology, but I believe I could make a case for those ideas.

    One of the things I find interesting about this story is the notion that if it’s a drone then it’s somehow worse than a person in a plane. Add in military style drones and a boring story about farmers and ranchers not wanting the EPA to do aerial inspections suddenly gets people all worked up. And let’s just say that I’m skeptical about the sincerity of some of the people expressing concern for civil liberties and privacy rights.

  6. spookyparadigm
    June 17, 2012 at 9:12 PM

    Privacy on your land equals privacy on land where you conduct large-scale commercial activities?

  7. June 17, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    While right now it is small planes used by inspectors, IT WILL be civilian predator drone. They have placed (The EPA) applications to utilize drones (to the DHS) on those who they believe are violating EPA regs. Mostly because of cost (both human and gas) but also for the longer lingering capability of the drone and the silence of the vehicle because of the altitiude and camera capabilities of the sensor systems. It is an evolvement of the procedures but scary in the sense that such nonchalence is taken to the idea of a society that finds it OK to monitor thier movements and habits…as long as they are not doing anything wrong. Search by a gov’t should always be held back by a presentation of evidence of probable cause. Right now that is being flung out the window to protect “the greater good.”

  8. Steve
    June 19, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    NC did not outlaw sea level rise. They just outlawed the use of manufactured (made up) data to predict it.
    It seems there is a lot of pseudo-science going on with people here.

  9. June 19, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    Try posting to the correct story next time.

    And you are incorrect anyway. The goal seems apparent to block REAL data that would show an inconvenient truth.

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