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"What Do People Fear Most?" - Magazine Survey Email Hoax

Summary:
Email claims that a survey conducted by two magazines, one with predominantly white readership and the other with predominantly black readership, collected very different results for the question 'What Do People Fear Most?' (Full commentary below).

Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, April 2008)
Subject: FW: "!" Three Thing's That Scare People "!"

Magazine Survey:

Two magazines, did a survey on 'What Do People Fear Most?' The results were interesting, to say the least.

The top three answers for Country Living Magazine's readership (99.99% white) were:

1. Nuclear war/terrorist attack in U.S.
2. Child/spouse dying of terminal illness.
3. Self dying of terminal illness.

The top three answers for EBONY/Jet Magazine's readership (99.99% black) were:

1. Ghosts.
2. Dogs.
3. Registered mail.


Commentary:
According to this message, two magazines, Country Living and Ebony/Jet conducted a survey among their readers on the subject "What Do People Fear Most?".

The message claims that the top three answers from the predominantly white Country Living readers were:

1. Nuclear war/terrorist attack in U.S.
2. Child/spouse dying of terminal illness.
3. Self dying of terminal illness.

It further claims that the top three answers from the predominantly black Ebony/Jet readers were:

1. Ghosts.
2. Dogs.
3. Registered mail.

However, there is no evidence that any of the publications mentioned in the message have ever conducted such a survey. Moreover, although they are published by the same organization and share a website, Ebony and Jet are in fact separate magazines not one as implied in the message.

©iStockphoto.com/Jennifer Trenchard

Black and White Men Togther
Bogus magazine "survey" perpetrates unfair and unrealistic racial stereotypes
And, in any case, it seems very improbable that magazines with such diverse areas of interest and readership would launch an identical survey during the same time period.

The bogus "results" of the supposed surveys perpetrate unjust and outdated racial stereotypes. The implication is that the black responders are motivated largely by foolish superstition while the "superior" white readership is concerned about more important issues. This idea is seemingly a throwback to earlier times in which black characters in books and films were often unfairly portrayed as shallow, overly superstitious, comedic figures as opposed to more intelligent and capable white characters. The rather bizarre reference to "registered mail" is probably intended as a racial slur that suggests black people are more likely to receive unwelcome letters such as summonses, overdue payment demands and the like via registered post than are their white counterparts.

As well as circulating via email, the message has found its way onto a number of online forums and blogs. Of concern is the number of commentators who apparently take the "survey results" at face value and do not even question their validity. It seems apparent that these totally unrealistic race-based generalizations are still entrenched, perhaps subconsciously, within the world view of many individuals.

This message is nothing more than a tasteless attempt at humour by some obnoxious racist. Racist nonsense such as this is in no way funny and perpetrating it is divisive and harmful.

References:
Ebonyjet.com
Country Living

Last updated: 16th May 2008
First published: 23rd April 2008

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen