Politics has always been enlivened by rumor, innuendo, dirty tricks and just plain bad behavior. No wonder so many people are frankly addicted to news from the Washington political machine. If it wasn’t juicy enough, however, the Internet has kicked up the intrigue, political attacks and rumors up to a whole new level.
In days gone by, rumors of bad behavior (especially by political figures with a “zipper problem”) were discreetly covered up by the Washington Press corps. President John F. Kennedy is now known to have been a raging womanizer, yet the established media of the 1960s put out an image of him as a devoted husband and family man. Today it’s hard to imagine a modern President behaving even remotely as Kennedy did and not having the online innuendo raging. The sad spectacle of former Presidential candidate John Edwards is a case in point, as news of his extra-marital affair kept the online tabloid sites in a frenzy.
Other Internet political rumors have taken on a kind of life of their own, through repetition and the feeling that, “if it’s online, it must be true.” The rumors regarding President Obama’s citizenship have shown amazing lasting power, suggesting that Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate is falsified, thereby nullifying his presidency.
This rumor was reported on the political blogs and emailed endlessly around the web, then reported on in various other blogs and online news outlets.
It’s an intriguing conspiracy story, but is it true? Is it right to keep repeating it? This and other “hard to kill” recent political stories –like the story about Sarah Palin’s pregnancy with her son Trig actually being a cover up — prove the staying power of web rumor and innuendo.
These days, online news and information is a powerful force to be reckoned with. In the case of false rumors and conspiracy theories that defy all logic, we can only hope that the truth will out, Internet or not.