Friday, October 26, 2007

Gossip: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This article by Christopher Hayes provides some good coverage of the prevalence of right-wing smear gossip passed through email. But I think it falls a bit short in implying that there is some kind of coordination behind these smears (just the use of the word "machine" in the title of the story is giving to much credit). While I am certain there are people who try to coordinate these things, viral communications is a tricky field that few really understand well enough to manipulate.

I also think it is more bipartisan than Hayes suggests. He addresses this here:

The New Right-Wing Smear Machine: "From the beginning, the vast majority of these Internet-disseminated rumors have come from the right. (Snopes lists about fifty e-mails about George W. Bush, split evenly between adulatory accounts of him saluting wounded soldiers or witnessing to a wayward teenager, and accounts of real and invented malapropisms. In contrast, every single one of the twenty-two e-mails about John Kerry is negative.)"

If we accept these numbers than half of the Bush mails being negative would mean there were 25 of them compared to the 22 for Kerry. So according to Hayes there were roughly an equal number of negative Bush rumors as there were Kerry rumors. The major difference between them was that there were an equal number of positive Bush rumors while there were no positive Kerry rumors.

So maybe in this there is a clue for Democrats: The best way to deal with bad gossip is to create a firewall of good gossip. Unfortunately, Democrats seem to be as bad at saying good stuff about their own as they are at pushing negative stuff about the other side.

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