If you’re the type of person who’s terrified of people who are different than you, it’s not a surprise that you may see threats that aren’t there.
Like, as one anti-immigrant group did, mistaking empty bus seats for a group of burqa-wearing women.
It all started as something of a prank on the Facebook page for a group called “Fedrelandet viktigst” which translates to “Fatherland First,” a place where some Norwegians gather to gripe about the recent influx of Muslims into the country.
In the group, Johan Slattavik posted a photo of empty bus seats that simply read, “What do people think about this?”
The replies ranged from some who got the joke to those who … didn’t.
One user replied that it looked “scary. You never know who is underneath. Maybe terrorists with weapons.”
Another commented, “Disgusting.” Other comments included “tragic” and “should prohibit” while others said they would have waited for the next bus.
Facebook user Sindre Beyer shared a load of the responses from the private group on his own page, helping spread to the story of the riders who were never there.
Beyer told Norwegian outlet Nettavisen about the Facebook group and the prank, “I’m shocked at how much hate and fake news is spreading there. The hatred that came against empty buses really showed that the prejudices trumped wisdom… That’s why I shared the post so that more people can see what’s happening in dark corners of the web.”
As for the prankster who posted the original photo, Slattavik told the Washington Post the photo was “a little practical joke… I ended up having a good laugh.”
Which is true, it is kind of funny.
Until you remember that the hate is real and, then, it just gets sad and terrifying all over again.