As the tide of refugees rises in Europe, so does the frequency and amplitude of some very nasty rumours about these “others.” These rumours echo historical slander against Jews, Gypsies, and other groups of outsiders previously seen as threatening. You’ve probably heard variations of some of these:
Their customs are barbaric and they hold ours in contempt; they don’t feel bound by our rules and laws; they get preferential treatment from the government; they harass, rape, and kill; they have too many children, and they’re here to “take over.”
Many of these stories are very specific and detailed, and thus sound convincing. Yet they usually have no clear source, and often they grow taller in the telling. It’s the classic urban legend syndrome, seasoned with a dose of racism — and enhanced by Twitter, Facebook, and other modern means of communication.
One concerned German netizen has decided to fight back against this rising tide of viral xenophobia. “Since the middle of last year, we’re witnessing an increasing trend of rumours about asylum seekers going viral — ranging from them poaching swans to desecrating graves. Those stories are collected here,” writes Karolin Schwarz on Hoaxmap, which has gone live on 8 February.