November 17, 2008

Spreading The Manure

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called "The Smear Machine."

It was a reaction to bloggers who had written that the web will diminish the effect of political smears and lies that are spread during campaigns by quickly exposing them.

I believe the opposite. In the post I said, "the internet has proven to be a far better medium for spreading nonsense than for exposing it."

One week later, a story appeared in mainstream media (first, FoxNews then MSNBC, The LA Times, and the New Republic) -- and all over the internet -- that Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country, not a continent.

In short order, MSNBC attributed the story to a McCain campaign staffer named Martin Eisenstadt, senior fellow at the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy.

Only trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn't exist and neither does the Harding Institute. In fact. Eisenstadt is a hoax that has been feeding the news media bogus election stories for months.

Fox (the source of the story) still maintains the story is true. They say it's just MSNBC's attribution that was false. We'll see. I can't say I have a whole lot of confidence in Fox news.

The New York Times reported:
...(the Eisenstadt hoaxers) say the blame lies not with them but with shoddiness in the traditional news media and especially the blogosphere.
The story is made even more disturbing by the following facts:
  • Remember when the McCain campaign compared Obama to Paris Hilton (celebrities famous for nothing?) Eisenstadt's phony blog claimed that relatives of Paris Hilton had called the McCain campaign to complain. The LA Times political blog reported the story and linked to Eisenstadt.
  • Eisenstadt's phony blog contended a few weeks ago that Joe The Plumber was related to Charles Keating, of the 80's saving and loan scandal. That, too, was a hoax but tons of bloggers, (including Fame Crawler and Daily Kos) reported it.
  • Robert J. Elisberg of The Huffington Post wrote: "You see, Joe Wurzelbacher is apparently related to Robert Wurzelbacher. Who is the son-in-law of (are you ready...?) Charles Keating!" Oddly, the piece by Mr. Elisberg seems to have disappeared from The Huffington Post. At least, I can't find it. Ironically, it was a Huffington Post piece about how the internet was the remedy to smears, lies, and hoaxes that motivated The Smear Machine in the first place.
Anyone who thinks the web is an antidote to smears, lies and hoaxes is delusional.

The web is not the solution. To an ever-increasing degree, it's the problem.

Not All Contrarians Are Idiots:
Check this out*

Note To Seth:

Enough already with the tribes.

* Shout out to Mark Schaeffer for the Peter Schiff video.

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