Conspiracy

Barack Obama Is John McCain's Black Baby

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Jesse Singal has an interesting article in the Boston Globe applying recent social science

gossip

to the rumors circulating on the campaign trail. An excerpt: 

Experts began to look at rumors more analytically in the 1940s and 1950s, in a wave of research fueled by concern about how rumors could be managed during wartime. Though interest waned during the following decades, rumor studies have seen a resurgence in the last decade or so—partly because researchers are now more able to tackle complex, dynamic phenomena, and partly because they're newly armed with the biggest ongoing social psychology experiment in human history, the Internet, which provides them with terabytes of recorded rumors and a way to track them.

In 2004, the Rochester Institute of Technology psychologist Nicholas DiFonzo and another rumor researcher, Prashant Bordia, analyzed more than 280 Internet discussion group postings that contained rumors. They found that a good chunk of the discourse consisted of the participants sharing and evaluating information about the rumors and discussing whether they seemed likely. They realized, in other words, that people on the sites weren't swapping rumors just to gossip; they were using rumors as a vehicle to get to the truth, the same way people read news….

Other than denying a rumor that's true, perhaps the biggest mistake one can make, DiFonzo and other researchers say, is to adopt a "no comment" policy: Numerous studies have shown that rumors thrive in environments of uncertainty. Considering that rumors often represent a real attempt to get at the truth, the best way to fight them is to address them in as comprehensive a manner as possible.

Anthony Pratkanis, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who studies persuasion and propaganda, says that an effective rebuttal will be more than a denial—it will create a new truth, including an explanation of why the rumor exists and who is benefiting from it.

I don't agree with all of the article. Specifically, I don't think it's always true that "To the extent people do have an agenda in spreading rumors, it's directed more at the people they're spreading them to, rather than at the subject of the rumor." But there's a lot of good sense here as well, all of it rooted in the recognition that rumors are "inherent to human nature—naturally occurring, inevitable human social phenomena, rather than pesky distractions from more civilized discourse." Even false tales can reflect real fears. In many ways, the stories people are telling about Palin and Obama are more interesting than Palin and Obama themselves.

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  1. Republican John McCain vowed Sunday to whip Democratic rival Barack Obama’s “you-know-what” Wednesday in their final televised debate.

    Really, John? “Whip” slips past your handlers when running against a black guy? Really?

    “My name is Barack Obama!”

    “Your name is TOBY!”

    I’m starting to wonder if anyone wants Obama to be president more than John McCain.

  2. You know, I heard that Jesse sings Christina Aguilera songs in the shower. It’s just a rumor, but there’s a grain of truth to everything, right? Discuss.

  3. You know, I heard that Jesse sings Christina Aguilera songs in the shower.

    No, that’s incorrect. Jesse covers Christina covering LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade”, and he does while working in the yard, not in the shower.

  4. If Jesse would just release the paperwork detailing all the songs he has ever sung while showering, mowing, or driving the cloud of accusations and finger-pointing would dissipate.

  5. Yeah, McCain is not the sharpest tool out there, but good grief. If the word “whip” is off limits because Obama is black, just imagine how people are going to flip out when he gets hung by a noose and burned in effigy like George Bush.

  6. No, that’s incorrect. Jesse covers Christina covering LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade”, and he does while working in the yard, not in the shower.

    …wrong again, i heard it was “my humps” by the black eyed peas and its while he’s working on a vietnamese prostitute, not the yard.

  7. .,

    It’s not about words being off-limits, or about whether there should or shouldn’t be words that are off-limits. It’s a matter of not having even a simple grasp of semiotics. Obama made a major misstep with the “cling to guns and religion” crack, and McCain has made, what, six or seven?

    Don’t hand someone a stick and you won’t have to argue them out of beating you with it.

  8. while he’s working on a vietnamese prostitute

    I heard it was when he was working over one of his Vietnamese girls for not giving him his cut.

    “And hey, I don’t want hit you, baby. So, please don’t make me, okay? You’re my one and only. You’ve go to do right by me, okay?”

  9. I have to admit, this Christina Aguilera story is more interesting than I am myself.

  10. In many ways, the stories people are telling about Palin and Obama are more interesting than Palin and Obama themselves.

    Very little could be more interesting than the rumors people are telling about Barack Obama.

  11. Deny, Deny, Deny, make counter accusations.

  12. So Jesse, do you deny that you are, or were at one time, a violent, abusive pimp and drug kingpin? Where is your pink fedora?

    “When you work from your home and Johns call on the phone, you’re a call girl. When you walk till you limp and give a cut to a pimp, you’re a street whore. When they’re begging you “please,” to get down on your knees, near their groinage, ‘scusa me, but you see, don’t you touch where they pee…without coinage.”

  13. Anthony Pratkanis, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who studies persuasion and propaganda

    I see a Nobel in this man’s future.

  14. I’m voting against Jesse! He’s a showgirl and parties with that wild Christina Aguilera crowd. Plus he’s teh socialist!!!

  15. I’m voting against Jesse!

    Don’t you mean your voting against J. MOHAMMAD Walker?

  16. I’m voting against Jesse!

    You don’t vote for or against Jesse. You merely submit your will to vote to him.

  17. Don’t you mean your voting against J. MOHAMMAD Walker?

    Indeed. MADRASSA!!!

    You don’t vote for or against Jesse. You merely submit your will to vote to him.

    I liked it better when we had a choice of Kang or Kodos. 🙁

  18. I read that Jesse Walker went to a Madrassa.

    From two different sources.

    Who is Jesse Walker?

  19. I’ve read thatbastard Jessie Walker is a mohameddean worshiping sonofabitch.

    He’s for letting in all the operaloving vietnamese over the border and going to our schools.

    And i’ve heard he was the back up singer for the Yardbirds, which we all know Charlie Manson tried to join, so his poloticalideas come from the Manson family!

  20. Why her?

  21. Can a thread win the blog?

  22. I have here in my hand, a piece of paper, which proves, beyond any doubt, that Jesse Vladimir Walker is but one of the 57 card-carrying members of the Communist Party currently employed by Reason!

  23. This is a really interesting subject that pertains also to conspiracy theories and disinformation. And misinformation on various technologies.

    I have LONG felt that the “no comment” response was the worse mistake. This is the approach that the biotech and nuclear industries took when it came to anti-nuke and anti-biotech groups started spreading fears that radiation or “frankenfoods” would harm your health. They said nothing and as a result the rumors became popularly established beliefs.

    It’s also the difference between the response to the JFK theories and the 9/11 trith movement. In the former case, the conspiracists were ignored, allowing the phenomenon to grow without refutation. In the latter, the Popular Mechanics article did a great job debunking and undercutting support for the truthers.

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