Elk in the streets

My dad recently forwarded an email to me containing a video clip from the BBC production of Human Planet. It had all the telltale marks of something not to be believed, including large font size, numerous forwarding lines on the left edge, and an overuse of exclamation points. It said that the video was recorded somewhere near Banff and Jasper (two renowned national parks in the Canadian Rocky Mountains).

It was a great clip, as all BBC “[anything] Planet” productions are, about a small mountain town that is invaded by rutting elk every summer. But something was fishy.

The license plates on the cars weren’t Canadian. Most of them were from Colorado, USA. A highway sign was definitely American. Then I got a good look at the patch on the sleeve of a featured police officer. It said Estes Park, Colorado.

I looked up the original clip on YouTube and sure enough, it was filmed in Estes Park (though the entry calls it just Estes). The irony of this is, my dad would have appreciated the video all the more had he known that. When I was a kid, we used to live an hour’s drive from Estes Park. That little town was our entry point into the mountains during weekend excursions.

So why was the email so inaccurate? How do you get “somewhere in Alberta near Banff and Jasper” out of the clearly marked “Estes, Colorado” on the video’s YouTube explanation? What’s the point?

I don’t know, but it’s another lesson in how amazingly efficient the internet is at helping humans to spread misinformation. Fortunately, it’s very efficient at spreading cool information as well. So here’s the clip, for your enjoyment. You will be agog at the majesty of the elk, and the idiocy of the tourists.

I wonder how many of those tourists went home and emailed their friends, “Hey, you wouldn’t believe what we just saw in Canada”?


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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9 Responses to Elk in the streets

  1. Cathy White says:

    Oh, that is cool. I would love to see that first hand. Have seen elk and moose in Canada, but not in those numbers. I would be a very responsible tourist !

  2. Lisa Shaw says:

    I see at 2:01 that the elk has a tag on its ear just like a cow in a feedlot. Do all the wild animals have that? Just curious …

    I read the other day that the relay of information on the internet is like a game of telephone. People just can’t resist adding their own little spin to things before passing them along.

    • oregon expat says:

      I see at 2:01 that the elk has a tag on its ear just like a cow in a feedlot. Do all the wild animals have that?

      Just the ones being tracked by wildlife biologists.

      Re: the game of telephone…in that game, people screw things up because they repeat what they think they heard. It is a genuine, if bungled, effort to transmit information as received. In the internet game, if there’s any genuine effort made at all, it tends to be made on the side of intentional error. Slog is trying to popularize a word for this, which is just perfect: malinformation. Not just misinformation, but misinformation applied intentionally.

      • Lisa Shaw says:

        Hmm. A worth neologism, indeed. 🙂

      • Ana_ñ says:

        How Interesting!
        But what would be the difference between malinformation and disinformation?
        Not all the definitions of disinformation include the government as source of the information. If we take out this source, the need for the neologism wouldn’t be so clear.

        Some dictionaries say:


        false information intended to deceive or mislead

        1. Deliberately misleading information announced publicly or leaked by a government or especially by an intelligence agency in order to influence public opinion or the government in another nation:
        2. Dissemination of such misleading information.

        information which is intended to mislead.
        – ORIGIN 1950s: formed on the pattern of Russ. dezinformatsiya.

        • Ana_ñ says:

          I’m here again after reading the post explaining the origin of the proposed word: Malinformed.

          Given that the intention was clearly to influence public opinion in order to win the elections, I would say that the word disinformation, with the entire political load of its most specific definition, fits perfectly.


          “A Florida Republican volunteer has been caught on tape calling up senior citizen voters on behalf of Mitt Romney and telling them that President Barack Obama is a secret muslim who wants to take away their Medicare…. “I don’t know if you’ve done any research on Obama or not, but he is a Muslim,” the woman says. “If he had his way, we’d be a socialistic country. Ya’ll sound like ya’ll are seniors citizens, right? You really don’t want Obama because he will get rid of your Medicare … say goodbye to it.” Because if there’s one thing socialists do its getting rid of “socialistic” programs like Medicare. The woman also informed the voters to “pay attention to Fox News.””

          • oregon expat says:

            Oh, no, you’ve gone and publicized it! With the link! Now my European readers are going to think that US politics really is as full of crazies, fools and liars as the European press says it is. (They’d be right, too.)

            You make a good point. Still, I’m kind of fond of the word “malinformation.” It seems so much more…malevolent.

          • Ana_ñ says:

            1) Oops, sorry!
            2) If it is any consolation to you, I think that politics in Spain is full of liars; regarding crazies and fools, maybe we just have a different look. At any rate, politics seems to be these days a mere vassal of financial markets dominated by wild speculation.
            3) Many English words with the prefix ‘mis-’ (meaning bad or wrong) contain ‘mal’ or ‘malo’ (meaning bad or wrong) in its Spanish equivalent: malentendido (misunderstanding), malinterpretar (misinterpret), maltratar (mistreat), malaventura (misfortune), etc. So, misinfom would be malinformar, and malinform… desinformar.

            Since you are fond of malevolent/malicious/maleficent/malignant (malevolente, malicioso, maléfico, maligno, malévolo) words, I could give you a long list of Spanish words starting with ‘mal’ which mean something bad – I guess many of them would be similar in Portuguese.

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