J-Lo, and how we know what isn't so
(apologies to Thomas Gilovich for stealing his title, and my readers for inflicting this rhyme, but I couldn't resist)
So, it's a well-known fact that Jennifer Lopez has a large butt. It's been the (ahem) butt of a thousand remarks (the majority unflattering; although I can believe that at least some of them are in a positive spirit, there's certainly a fair amount of meanness in a lot of what I see, too), but they say any publicity is good publicity, and it certainly hasn't hurt her. After all, if you were to walk up to a random stranger on the street and ask them to name you someone with a large butt, they'd almost certainly put her near the top of the list. I could go on about how this is some reflection of how America always wants to find fault in its celebrities, but that's not really my point here.
The point is that the emperor has no ass. That is, if you actually ask anyone reasonable, they'll agree that her butt is by no means larger than average. It might be slightly above the average of Hollywood, but it's hardly large, even taking Hollywood as a norm, much less the American populace, where it's still definitely below average (to state the obvious). Why does this happen, then? Well, it got started out somehow, and people liked to talk about it (for whatever reason), and since no one was particularly interested in arguing the other side (what's the point, after all?), it just spread to the point where, if there's anyone in America who hasn't actually seen J-Lo, they're probably convinced she must have a butt the size of Refrigerator Perry.
Now, in J-Lo's case, this is pretty harmless (and, despite the meanspiritedness, probably beneficial, on the whole). But the way with which something with such a tenuous basis in fact can spread to the point where it becomes accepted as common knowledge, simply by virtue of being constantly repeated, is more than a little alarming.
Tom Tomorrow can tell where I'm headed with this.