“Truthy” Tracks Wingnut Hysteria. Fox/Breitbart Goes Nuts. The Circle Is Complete.
This may have already been name-checked on these pages, but I’m posting it because I just got another chain email alleging that Obama and The EEbil Gummint is out to get us all, being helped by their sinister white lab-coated fellow travelers in universities.
Truthy started as a project to track how the web spreads rumors and disinformation (something of a favorite pasttime in these here parts, I have noticed), but by the time it filtered its way through the Wingnuttosphere and reached Fox, it had turned into the Thought Police targeting poor besieged conservatives. And no doubt, laying plans for their annual War On Christmas.
“The headlines are saying something that is completely false and fabricated,” Menczer said. “We are not defining hate speech. We are not tracking people. We don’t have a database.”
None of those facts stopped readers from spreading the story. The Free Beacon’s article was shared about 4,000 times on Twitter and 10,000 times on Facebook, according to Muck Rack analytics. It was crossposted on foxnews.com the next day, garnering an additional 2,000 shares on Twitter and 15,000 shares on Facebook. And it was quickly picked up by a handful of other prominent right-wing websites, becoming fodder for paranoia-inducing analyses by The Week, Reason, and breitbart.com. “Other blogs twisted the meme and mutated the meme until it became completely outlandish,” Menczer said. “I don’t think there’s anything we can say to change that.”
Only problem is that even the arch-conservative Wall St. Journal noted that Truthy has been in existence for years. But Fox, Breitbart, et al. don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good, ratings-grabbing freakout. And they, of course, use it the same way they use anything - as a cudgel by which to bash around government in general and Obama in particular.
Well, at least the researchers at IU have some new source material to study from the inside.