October 28, 2008

The Smear Machine

Alan Wolk of The Toad Stool is one of my favorite bloggers. Today, however, I have to disagree with him on something.

In a post last Thursday, Alan praised an hypothesis described by Arianna Huffington and attributed to Eric Schmidt, ceo of Google, that the internet is a kind of antidote for lies, smears, and general bullshit.

The logic, in abridged form, goes like this: politicians and others have always used smears and untrue statements for nefarious ends. But now the web provides us with the ability to quickly fact-check and expose these lies. Once exposed on the internet, the effect of the lies will be substantially diminished, if not neutralized.

Sorry, I don't buy it.

Case in point: Last week a nut-job volunteer for McCain made up a story about having been brutalized by an Obama-supporting Black man. (According to police, it appears the woman is mentally ill and no one put her up to it.)

It was all over the internet (Drudge) for at least 2 days. Where were the fact-checkers? The answer is nowhere.

Ultimately, the cops busted her. But I guarantee you half the people who read the initial report still believe it.

I wish I was as optimistic as Alan. It seems to me that the internet has proven to be a far better medium for spreading nonsense than for exposing it.

Take this blog, for example.

Eric Schmidt probably thinks the internet is the antidote to everything, since he owns it.

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