We're just at the start of [a] new paradigm. The source material's readily available online. In the past we've relied on mainstream media to pick out what they consider important and to tell us why.And that's exactly what Barack Obama's done. Part and parcel of old school politics are the smear campaign. Start slinging mud, and hope enough sticks to drag the target down. In former elections, it was enough just to get a soundbite out there and let it take a life of its own. The victim was seldom allowed the opportunity to refute the claim (long, well-reasoned explanations are borrrrrrrrrring -- especially for TV news).
Now we can simply say, "Yeah? Says who? What's your source?"
And once the majority of the electorate starts saying it, we're into a whole new ballgame.
But as I pointed out in "Citizen Fact-Checkers", the Internet has changed the effectiveness of that tactic. And now the web-savvy Obama campaign has taken the lead which may further defuse this kind of politics.
Their sub-site "Fight the Smears" takes on five of the most prevalent attacks against Obama. And just like Cameron (who I've mentioned before), the campaign doesn't respond with counter-chargers, character assassinations, etc. -- they respond with documentable fact.
Say Obama wasn't born in America? Here's his birth certificate. Say he doesn't recite the Pledge of Allegiance? Here's a C-Span clip of him leading Congress in the pledge. Say he was sworn in on a Koran? Here's the Time magazine photo of his swearing-in ceremony with his family Bible.
Most impressive, though, is the refutation of misquotes that will never be heard or seen in mainstream media (too long, too borrrrrring). The site presents the misquote and then provides the several paragraphs of text where the quote was extracted from, so readers can judge for themselves if the extract was accurate or not.
Of course, it's extremely unlikely that many of the folks who are enthusiastically spreading the smears will visit this site -- or that other who want to believe the smears will be persuaded. But for people who want to decide based on all the facts -- well. That's a different story.
It's going to be a lot more difficult for something like the infamous Jane Fonda/John Kerry photo to have the same effect this time around.
Day 5 of the WJMA Web Watch.