City Desk

Disassembling McPalin/J’Obama Rumor Mills

I'm having trouble deciding which is worse: Reading chain emails full of political inaccuracies and demagoguery, or hearing my fellow bloggers polish and spout that information without having checked their facts. Both media reach different and equally important types of computer users. Emails are most likely to sway people who are less Internet savvy and possibly older (my dear, sweet, convinced-Obama's-a-Muslim grandmother comes to mind), while blogs are more likely to affect the opinions of ardent ideologues, either through the echo chamber effect, or if they're visiting a blog with views antithetical to their own, by affirming their suspicions that the other party lacks intellectual legitimacy.

The end result is that the informed and the ill informed are communicating with two different sets of "facts." Forget comparing their voting records, some people are consumed to the point of madness by Obama's religious affiliation and McCain's supposed racism.  Well, there's hope, I tell you. Hope. In addition to the efforts of our own Jason Cherkis, and the ocassional efforts of WaPo, there's also, hosted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. FactCheck has its own team of independent researchers and doesn't rely on campaign reps or pundits for clarification. The group, led by Brooks Jackson, has been around for a couple of elections–midterm and presidential–but even journalists (myself included) sometimes forget it's there.

A quick search of reveals that Sarah Palin didn't ban any books, that Barack Obama was born in the U.S. and is an American citizen, and that John McCain's acceptance speech was mostly accurate with a few flubs here and there.

For more information on both sides' campaign ad inaccuracies, hyperbolic speeches, email rumors, and record cover-ups, check out the site.

For more of the same ol' memetic Internet bullshit, keep doing what you're doing.

Addendum: Reader Joe Warminsky pointed out another good resource for verifying election coverage, a joint effort by Congressional Quarterly and the St. Petersburg Times, found here.

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  • Ernest

    It's 'mimetic', isn't it?

  • Joe Warminsky

    FactCheck isn't the only site doing such work.

    Congressional Quarterly and the St. Petersburg Times have combined on

    (And I like the "truthiness" vibe of your inadvertent spelling of "University" as "UniVERITY.")

  • Mike Riggs

    'Mimetic' means mimicry. 'Memetic' relates to memes.

  • Mike Riggs

    Yeah, totally intentional misspelling.

  • Ernest

    Oh. NOW I understand. Memetic... Hmmmmmmmm.

  • Ernest

    But this is far out, isn't?

  • Mike Riggs

    Memes are far out? I don't think so. Meme theory sounds a lot heavier than it actually is. The gist of it is that ideas--good, bad, factual, erroneous--can take root like a virus and then direct thinking and perception. Racial prejudice is a good example, as is religion.

  • Ernest

    Really? Then the idea of parroting some second-hand pseudo-academic rubbish as to appear clever and advanced would be another one.

    “Existential”, anyone?

  • Mike Riggs

    So believing in memes is a meme? That suggestions is both insulting and supportive of my thesis. Thnx, Ernest.