Smear campaigns are nothing new in politics. But the Internet has given us smear campaigns on steroids, in the form of email forwards.
“Did you see this story showing that Hillary refuses to meet with grieving moms of soldiers killed in Iraq?”
“Hey, did you hear that Huckabee’s campaign manager quit and is backing Romney?”
“I thought you’d be interested in this study showing GW has the lowest IQ of all Presidents.”
“Wow, did you know that Obama guy was raised a Muslim extremist?”
More emails like this are coming to an in-box near you. They’ll probably be forwarded to you by a relative, friend, co-worker or neighbor, which inadvertantly lends credibility. But unbeknownst to the forwarding party, none of the aforementioned examples are true.
Welcome to the seamy underbelly of “new media.”
Don’t expect a retraction from this new media “news” source, because the e-myths are fabricated by unknown and unknowable sources. Snopes.com and a few other sites do yeoman’s work to debunk these kinds of claims, but they don’t have the reach the email chains often do.
So when one of these email forwards catches on, how should the mainstream media respond? Should it use its ink or air time to prove the claim a myth, or does such coverage create “where there is smoke there must be fire” type suspicion for the victim which only exasperates the situation and creates an incentive for more e-smearing?