A noble attempt at fighting viral racism. But is it telling only half the story?
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
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.
Hoaxmap uses a map of Germany and Austria as the geographic backdrop for a growing collection of rumours reported and invalidated. Each rumour is described, dated, localized, categorized — and refuted, with a link to the evidence. Some examples:
By far the most widespread rumour involves sex crimes committed by refugees.
And on and on it goes. The rumours, 200 and counting, are depressingly repetitive. They paint a picture of a world in which all of Germany's and Austria’s horses and swans are rapidly disappearing into refugees’ cooking pots; towns and cities are handing out money, mobile phones, and other favours to ungrateful, thieving newcomers; and girls and women are no longer safe to walk the streets, for fear of being raped and killed.
But most of all: They reflect a world in which these rumours are fabricated, out of fear or malice, and are spread faster than ever before, via social media. Even if lies like these are refuted by the traditional press, most people remember the screaming front-page headline, not the grudging correction buried on page 54. Intentionally or not, these rumours create a climate in which extremist attitudes and politics can thrive.
So at the very least, Hoaxmap is a noble attempt to fight back against the rising tide of hate for "others." But perhaps its good intentions are also a fatal flaw. Case in point: Zoom in on Cologne. Nothing. As some will recall, the city on the Rhine was the scene of mass assaults last New Year’s Eve, reportedly perpetrated by as many as 1,000 men of foreign extraction, with numerous thefts and some rapes reported to the police.
Quite probably, these incidents fueled some of the hoaxes reported after 1 January — exposing the complex relationship between actual news and malicious rumour. By only reporting refuted incidents, Hoaxmap is vulnerable to the criticism that it obscures the magnitude of a very real problem. Would it not be more useful to produce a map that tracks both real and false incidents?
Map found here (in German only). Many thanks to Peter Dupont for pointing it out.
Strange Maps #765
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"
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- It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
- Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
The lawsuit claims the administration violated the First Amendment when it revoked the press credentials of reporter Jim Acosta.
- CNN reporter Jim Acosta's press credentials were revoked following a heated exchange with President Donald Trump on November 8.
- The network filed a lawsuit against the administration on Tuesday, claiming the administration has violated multiple amendments.
- The White House may only revoke the press credentials of journalists for "compelling reasons," not for reasons involving content.
Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.
- Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
- While at rest, we burn 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
- Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
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