Rumor has it

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Rumor has it

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The Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein called their key informant “Deep Throat” when they were investigating the Watergate affair. There was a lot of debate about the identity of the source who leaked the information that prompted Richard Nixon to resign from the presidency in 1974. One of the rumors named William Mark Felt, then the deputy director of the FBI, as the source. Felt denied the rumors for 31 years, then admitted it was true in 2005. It is one of the rare cases in which a rumor turned out to be true.
The definition of the word rumor is information spread among the people, regardless of its truth. The actual source of such information tends to fade and its content gets exaggerated or distorted as the information spreads. You can easily imagine that most rumors follow a different course from the “Deep Throat” one.
The following story is about the city of Antwerp, Belgium, which fell to German hands in World War I.
The German newspaper Koelnische Zeitung broke the news first, with the headline, “Upon the Proclamation of the Fall of the City of Antwerp, Bells Were Rung.” Local readers naturally took it to mean that the bells were rung in Germany in celebration of their victory. Yet the French had a different view. They thought the bells were rung in Antwerp. The newspaper Le Matin said, “According to the Koelnische Zeitung, Antwerp’s clergy was forced to ring the church bells when the fortress was taken.” Added to that, the report from the British newspaper The Times: “According to what The Times has heard from Cologne, via Paris, the Belgian priests who refused to ring the church bells when Antwerp was taken have been expelled from their church.” The fourth version came from the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, which reported: “The unfortunate Belgian priests who refused to ring the church bells when Antwerp was taken have been sentenced to hard labor.”
Le Matin took the report again: “It has been confirmed that the barbaric conquerors of Antwerp punished the unfortunate Belgian priests for their heroic refusal to ring the church bells by hanging them as living clappers to the bells, with their heads down.”
A famous Korean pop singer, who was tortured by an absurd rumor for a long time, finally came out and silenced it all at once recently. People on the Internet said they did not believe the rumor from the start, but conveyed the story for fun, even exaggerating it.
Both the police, which investigated hospitals, and the media, which published the rumors, must have blushed.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Cho Hyun-wook [poemlove@joongang.co.kr]

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