Monday, August 11, 2008

Liar, Liar, Panties On Fire?

ITEM: In Japan panties previously worn by schoolgirls are available in vending machines.

That factoid was sent to me by Jim Moseley, perpetrator of the zine, Saucer Smear. He said that such a news item was too hot for Smear, a publication known for reproducing artwork depicting a man abducted by crypto-sexy aliens, ET females undressed for the occasion.

Well, I’m Ray X, not Ray XXX. But I did investigate the vending machine story because I’m interested in urban legends and objective reality.

The article Jim snail mailed me was a printout from, a site that is supposed to weed out the crap from the candy when it comes to rumors. But after the Mr. Ed deal, I double-check anything that Snopes passes along.

Mr. Ed was the star of a TV show called, appropriately, Mr. Ed. It was a half-hour comedy series about a talking horse and the problems he caused for his owner. This show harks back to the days of black-and-white broadcasts – a detail that someone used to create a story that Mr. Ed wasn’t a horse.

A zebra, so the story goes, is easier to train than a horse. And since its black stripes don’t show up on black-and-white TV sets, it appears to be a completely white horse.

Snopes repeated the story as fact. But if you dug deeper into the post, you would see that it was a put-on. By scrolling down and clicking on a link to more info, a special page would appear, explaining that Mr. Ed was only a horse and that you should question any authority, even one such as Snopes.

But the page about Japanese schoolgirl panties doesn’t have any special link to the truth, at least not one I could find. It states that the girls visit a shop before school, put on the clean panties, and then drop them off after school.

Do a bit of Googling and you will find sites that say Snopes is wrong, that while vending machines do exist in Japan for dispensing clean sexy panties and other potentially embarrassing items, the used schoolgirl panty story is a myth.

So what is the truth? If Snopes isn’t pulling another “Mr. Ed,” it’s still possible that it could be wrong. After all, did anyone from Snopes actually go to Japan and verify the story? It only passes on what it heard from its readers.

It’s easy to meme BS on the Net, a fact that Jim Moseley might not completely appreciate.

For example, did you know that Mr. Ed wore bright white panties that on black-and-white TV blended right in with his natural coat? The panties were required by the censors to hide Ed’s genitals from sensitive viewers.



X. Dell said...

Snopes has a number of problems. They often rely heavily on official sources without any critical evaluation--this becomes especially important when government is accused of wrongdoing. They also have a very (for lack of a better word) bourgeois approach to understanding things--they tend to look at a lot of controversial issues very shallowly without acknowledging possible developments, motivations, repercussions, or anything else.

I consult them for some things, because they often have good links, or at least helpful links and multimedia. I'd never use them in documentation, though.

Ray said...

X. Dell:

Thanks for the tip. I've never used Snopes except when the Mr. Ed and the used panties vending machine rumors popped up.

What I would like to do - whenever I get the time - is to research Snopes itself, finding out how it works, who is behind it, how much actual research they do, etc.

Are you familiar with Cecil Adams and his newspaper column, "Straight Dope?" I was wondering what your take is with SD.


X. Dell said...

I've only read Cecil Adams a few times. I've never had a problem with what I've read. But then, I don't really have a good sample to work from.

As for Snopes, it's easy to find out more about them. A lot of the searching goes on in the forums, where a member will find something and question whether or not it's true, while others try to verify. You'll notice a certain tone of the board right away. The stories posted on the site almost always start there.

The section with Mr. Ed is called "Lost Legends," and its purpose is to deceive. In fact, news organizations have actually used Snopes as a source for legends that come from these sections (which, of course they crow about). I don't really see the purpose of the section, other than to make fun of people for putting any trust in them at all.

Doug said...

Hold on--you're saying that information on the whole interwebs is not 100% reliable? People don't take the time to fact-check? That the whole medium practically relies on the ridiculous to get our attention?

Of course, because this too is on the internet, does that mean we are to take the suggestion of unreliability as unreliable? How are we to know who to trust?

Oh right. Trust no one.

I don't even trust what I read on my own site. (Granted, I do just make up stuff.)

Ray said...

X. Dell:

But does anyone know who is behind Snopes? Just a nerdy guy named Joe Snopes who lives in his parent's basement or is it a top-flight research team that hits the streets to verify or debunk? (I suspect the former than the latter.)


Sure, "Doug," trust no one.

You are really "Doug," aren't you? Not someone who hijacked his email account? Of course...


X. Dell said...

Snopes grew out of an old electronic bulletin board (remember those) that I used to frequent, alt.folklore.urban. It was a massive yellow-paged old-fashioned Internet page that had contributions from different sources, but with frequent contributions from a married couple, David "Snopes" and his wife Barbara "I have created more nicknames for myself than anyone on this planet" Mikkelson.

Ray said...

X. Dell:

ThanX for the background info. Maybe one of these days I'll do some research into; that detail will help.