BEWARE OF “BALLOON MEN”
Last Thursday morning(March 20), a woman was found naked and unconscious on a sidewalk near McDonald’s, Katipunan. She sustained injuries to her head, face, torso, and legs, and may even have been raped several times. The perpetrators had stolen her personal belongings and identification, but she was eventually identified as a student from Ateneo.
She claims that she remembers nothing from the duration of her attack, but recalls being approached by a man selling balloons. She said she was walking down Katipunan at around 9:30 pm the previous night when she passed by a street vendor who was carrying half a dozen helium balloons. She did not pay much attention, but soon afterwards heard a “popping sound,” then almost immediately started feeling nauseous and dizzy. The next thing she remembered was waking up in police custody.
This is but the latest of a string of alarming attacks on women carried out by the “Balloon Men,” a gang of crminals who pose as balloon vendors and target young women out on the streets at night.
Their modus operandi involves walking along Katipunan between the hours of 5 pm and 3 am. They are known to station themselves under footbridges and along poorly-lit alleyways and parking lots. They carry bundles of 6-15 inflated helium balloons, and wait for potential victims to pass by their area. When a person comes within range, a Balloon Man will pop one of their balloons, releasing DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE, a chemical used as a cleaning agent in many industrial machines. The victim is disoriented, and then knocked out with a blow to the head. Once unconscious, the Balloon Man will steal personal items, or even commit sexual assault while the victim is out cold.
PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO YOUR LOVED ONES
To limit the risk of falling victim to the Balloon Gang, please do take the following precautions:
1. Stay away from balloon vendors at odd hours!
Balloon vendors can easily be identified by the numerous floating balloons that they hold on to. If you wish to purchase helium balloons late at night, please do so only at indoor stores, or from licensed balloon salesmen.
2. Keep a “balloon popping implement on hand at all times.” This can be a simple pen, safety pin, or pocket knife. Not only will this aid in self-defense, but threatening to pop a balloon man’s wares is a good way to send him running. The popping sound will also reveal the balloon man’s presence and signal for help, since its short burst can most definitely be heard over the screaming, shouting, and various vehicular noises that can be heard along Katipunan at night.
Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
Well, it shouldn’t, because I made it up. The story is totally fake.
Also, it sounds completely retarded.
The news piece itself may be ridiculously satirical, but it still resembles the dozens upon dozens of nonsensical articles that appear on our newsfeeds and inboxes. Every once in a while, we see some story about a terrible disease spreading through cities, or lists on how to defend yourself when confronted by a rapist. Due to the sensationalist style of these writing, most people forward them to friends and family without a second thought. If these can warn us about the unknown dangers of the world, they must surely worth sharing.
Actually, no. Not only are most of these accounts “false,” they are straight-up lies and hoaxes that may put you at risk if you believe them. The rapist-defense advice that resurfaces on facebook every now and then is particularly dangerous, because it advises women to take actions that only put them in more danger in an already life-threatening situation.
These fake-articles rear their ugly heads time and time again, even though they’ve long since been debunked by credible sources. No, tailoring your lifestyle to a list from the “John Hopkins Hospital” won’t decrease your risk of cancer. No house has ever been burned down due to a hot laptop left on a pillow. No one has ever had their face melted off because there was some military-grade chemical in their facial soap.
If it’s not from a real news site, or scienctific journal, it’s bullsh*t.
But it keeps coming back. Not only that, but they keep re-appearing in the exact same form, regardless of what year they came out in. Urban legends about politics only swap out names of past leaders with current ones, leaving everything else the same. In the older days, these circulated via fax, then email, and now our facebook feeds. Hoaxes are memetic threats, annoying idea-viruses that keep adapting to continue spreading lies among people.
How do you fight ignorance then?
It’s really simple.
Always. Check. Facts. Before. Sharing.
It’s not that hard people. Just google the headline of whatever it is you’re reading, and you’ll know in a jiffy if it’s true or not. I’m willing to bet that the VERY FIRST google result will almost always be an article explaining why it’s a crapload of nonsense.
One of the best places to verify a story is snopes.com, a website dedicated to debunking urban legends. Most of the hoaxes and falshoods are already in their database; the nonsensical stuff people share on facebook are usually just rehashed versions of older legends.
So please, do your friends a favor and just resist spreading the viral lies. If you have the energy to click the share button, you can definitely do a quick copy-paste into search engine first.
The world is already full of gullible people. Don’t be one of them.
PS: “Dihydrogen Monoxide” is just plain water.