See also: Legend (homonymy)
A urban Legend (in English: urban legend ) is a pleasant Histoire , borrowing from all the kind S (Anecdote, horror, Blague, etc) and spreading itself gradually by the Word of mount or email. It is also called contemporary legend and approaches the Rumeur, of the Canular even refers to Folklore.
The urban legends are frequently recycled, adapting to the new places and times, and are translated of a Langue with another without apparent difficulty. These stories are often told as having arrived at “ the friend of a ami ”. Some are recent, others are very old (as the legend of Beblenheim) and circulated already by postal mail. All these legends form a Folklore; it is besides what differentiates them from the rumors.
Criteria of definition
Generally, the specialists allot the title in a a little exclusive way to accounts which present the following characters:
- the narrative form (a little story, a structured account);
- a process of authentification “ by the convocation of testimonys, by indications of mode, dates and from place, by the intervention of their clean autorité ” (Berlioz);
- the account proposes - with the attentive reading - a deciphering and an interpretation of the world (especially in its most perturbing, confusing or worrying aspects).
The urban legends are related with the Commonplaces and the Generally accepted ideas, in what they are divided by many people without being checked. They are generally extraordinary and/or mysterious, but can be based on actual facts, and, in certain fields, can propose " explanations; alternatives" with the official theses (by the disciplines developed in margin of the applied sciences like the Ufologie or the Cryptozoologie can inspire by the urban legends, or be conversely inspired some).
They often appear in the media, sometimes also in a spontaneous way the made-to-order of a popular creation. In certain cases, their diffusion can be organized in order to handle crowd (in particular in politically significant fields: dope, violence, manners, racism, etc), an account which can be invented in order to harm an individual, a company, an ethnicity or monk, with a government, etc One touches then with the topic of the Désinformation, which exceeds by far the framework of the “legends” and other anecdotes.
Certain topics are recurring in the urban legends (some of them being able to refer to several of these sets of themes):
- violence, in various forms (murder, rape, tortures, etc);
- human biology, medicine and the diseases (of which the AIDS);
- technologies, under their most worrying aspects (chemistry, nuclear power, genetics…) ;
- animals, and in particular species considered as dangerous or alarming (Snake S, Spider S, etc);
- contemporary personalities (of the Show business, the Political …) and sometimes histories;
- the Anti-Americanism: legends on the the United States, their companies (Coca-Cola, Mc Donald' S…) and their institutions (for example, the organization of the attacks of September 11th by the American secret services themselves, which was reported in Appalling Imposture of Thierry Meyssan); often have political contents, doubled of a Théorie of the plot;
- of the revolutionary acts, alter-mondialists, anti-centralists (in France) or anti-unitaristes
- the Occult sciences and the esotericism.
The examples are so numerous that one assembles them in exempliers: one will find of it an outline here.
The propagation of the rumors in general and the contemporary legends in particular was strongly accelerated thanks to the multiplication of the means of communication and in particular Internet. One often fears to see there a return to the belief in the irrational in the collective conscience; but it is an effect of mode: only modernity let believe that the irrational one was not moral (cf debates on the Positivisme).
In France, one also speaks about hoax (English word translatable by “hoax”) or about Pourriel S for certain messages propagated by Internet.
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