The Internet at the Speed of Thought

9 Tiny Miscommunications That Had Massive Worldwide Consequences

at 3:22 pm | By

What’s in a word?

Humans make errors, and more often than not, these comes from misunderstandings.

Whether we misspeak, misread, mishear, or in today’s world, misinterpret a text or email, it’s hard to know just what another person says or means without knowing them or having a conversation about it. How many times have you read something, whether in a text or online, only to find out that you totally missed the true meaning or whatever was said?

Especially in our busy lives, it’s human nature to miss the meaning behind something or even write or say the wrong thing ourselves. Unfortunately in these cases, one small miscommunication had disastrous consequences.

washington crossing the delaware


The power of understanding

On Deaf Ears

wounded knee burial


The forced relocation of Native Americans to reservations throughout the settlement of the United States, along with all the ensuing deaths, will forever be a stain on America’s history.

During the Sioux Wars and Ghost Dance War of the late 19th century, paranoia was at an all-time high for US soldiers across the Great Plains. At no time was this paranoia more disastrous than on December 29, 1890 in what is today known as the Wounded Knee Massacre.

While moving several hundred Lakota Indians to a reservation, US soldiers tried taking away weapons from the Natives. Though many of them agreed, one deaf tribesman named Black Coyote refused. Some accounts say he didn’t understand the soldiers’ orders (as he didn’t speak English), others say that he didn’t want to give up his expensive weapons. A scuffle then broke out, which led to the army opening fire from all sides in the ensuing massacre.

By the time it was over, between 150 and 300 Native Americans were killed (along with 25 soldiers), mainly consisting of Lakota men, women, and children. Many Natives fled during the massacre but were later chased down by soldiers; some of their bodies were found miles away.

The Cold War Heats Up

gunter schabowski press conference berlin wall


The Berlin Wall is perhaps the most famous symbol of the Cold War. Dividing not just East and West Berlin, but two conflicting world ideologies.

In November 1989, Gunter Schabowski, an official from East Germany, was chosen to deliver a press conference regarding expanding visa laws for people living in East Berlin. Gunter, however, was poorly briefed, and was only told that East Germans could cross the border with proper permission. As questions began in the press conference, Schabowski was forced to improvise, and he ended up stating that virtually all East Germans could cross into West Berlin, “Immediately, without delay.”

That night, so many people gathered along the wall that guards had no choice but to open up the gates. Immediately afterwards, the fall of the wall began.