Our world just got a little less magical today, as we found out that the U.S. government has denied the existence of mermaids. "No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found," the National Ocean Service said in a post last week. " Just to be a total buzz-killer, the National Ocean Service spokeswoman Carol Kavanaugh told The BBC, "We don't have a mermaid science program."
With stuff like Syria, Eric Holder, and the American Women's Gymnastics team swirling in the news cycle, it seems a bit silly that a government agency would spend time denying the existence of human-fish hybrids. Like, why isn't Kavanaugh talking about the whale sanctuary plan that was just shut down?
But we can actually understand why Kavanaugh and her team would issue a denial of mermaids: It's fun, and breezy, and it's a chance for a government agency to show its sense of humor. There's also an appeal from news outlets that eat this sort of thing up, since they're also bored by a lot of the stories out there. So here are some of the U.S. government's most recent and supernatural denials and media hoopla behind them:
Cause: The Discovery Channel's Mermaids: The Body Found. "The programme was a work of fiction but its wink-and-nod format apparently led some viewers to believe it was a science education show, the Discovery Channel has acknowledged," reports The BBC. Viewers wrote in public droves to the NOS, hence the post.
The cause: The face-biting episode in Miami and The Huffington Post's Andy Campbell. Campbell called up the CDC and asked about a zombie virus, and came back with this:
CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms),” wrote agency spokesman David Daigle in an email to The Huffington Post.
And as Discovery magazine's Carl Zimmer reported, HuffPo gave it this snappy headline: "Zombie Apocalypse: CDC Denies Existence Of Zombies Despite Cannibal Incidents," which promted Zimmer to write: "That’s perhaps the finest deployment of the word despite in the history of journalism." Nevertheless, it led to headlines and stories like "CDC: No Zombies, despite cannibal attacks" (The Daily Caller) and "CDC silent on zombie-inducing parasites that live in human brains" (ibid).
Though, all the blame can't be placed on overzealous (or over-clever) journalist looking to milk a story. The CDC set themselves up for this mess by publishing this jokey Zombie Preparedness guide last year.
The cause: A "We The People" Petition and thousands of signatures. Back in 2011, around 17,500 people signed petitions asking the White House to "formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race" and to "immediately disclose the government’s knowledge of and communications with extraterrestrial beings," reported Mashable at the time. It was White House policy then to pass petitions gaining at least 25,000 signatures to officials for an official response, but they made an exception to these two and penned a statement anyway. Phil Larson who, at the time worked on space policy and communications at the White House, had this response:
The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye. ...
Many have also noted, however, that the odds of us making contact with any of them [aliens]—especially any intelligent ones—are extremely small, given the distances involved.
But that's all statistics and speculation. The fact is we have no credible evidence of extraterrestrial presence here on Earth.
Now if all the idea of aliens, mermaids, and zombies not being part of this world and journalists itchy for a fun headline has got you down, you might able to take solace in that the government hasn't denied sasquatch yet and that there are many states where shooting a sasquatch is illegal. And not much has been said about vampires and/or werewolves. The truth is out there...