Monday, April 02, 2012

The Power of Words

I heard a story the other day, I had to check it out and see if it was true. It was...

On December 19, 1973, the Tonight Show aired as usual with Johnny Carson performing his evening monologue. Earlier a Wisconsin congressman had announced that the government was falling behind on making bids to get toilet paper. So Carson made a joke about it, saying toilet paper was disappearing from shelves, that there was a shortage of toilet paper in America.

It wasn't true, there was tons of it, but it was a poorly timed joke. The country was in the midst of other shortages, oil for instance. So when the 20 million viewers heard there was a shortage of toilet paper they ran out and bought as much as they could. They created a panic. And they created a shortage on toilet paper. For the next few nights Carson tried to explain it was a joke. Toilet paper companies showed videos of the plants making toilet paper. But all people saw when they went to the store were empty shelves where the toilet paper should be. They had created their own shortage. It took almost a month for the stores to be resupplied consistently and end this "toilet paper shortage".

The fact is the people created their own panic. And how often do we do that? We hear something and blow it out of proportion, we create our own panic. Maybe it's not toilet paper, but something at work, in a relationship maybe. It's kind of like the comic I saw as a kid, ten people told a girl her hair looked nice, one made a snide comment, and she goes home saying "everyone hated it". I've seen it happen. What we say, even in jest, has the power to change our world. Even if it's in toilet paper consumption.


No comments: