For about as long as anyone can remember since Barack Obama launched his run for the White House, there have been all manner of crazy, conspiratorial rumors about Barack Obama. And early on, Obama's campaign team sought to address the swamp of fiction by going pro-active, launching a website called "Fight The Smears" that was exclusively dedicated to battling back against the background whispers that asserted that Obama was a socialist Muslim sleeper agent with a foreign birth certificate. Those efforts drew the concern of armchair media anthropologists who worried that debunking a rumor only gave it more currency.
Of course, these efforts were basically redundant to the good works of renowned Internet rumor-debunkers David and Barbara Mikkelson, who have long plied their trade at Snopes.com. Over at Salon, J.L. Bell relates how as a subscriber to Snopes' updates, he thought he was discerning a pattern in the way he seemed to be seeing "a lot more rumors about President Obama, and a lot more false rumors." So, Bell dug deep into the archives to do a comparative analysis of the rumor-mongering of the still-young Obama presidency and the two terms of his predecessor. The results will probably not surprise you in the least:
After eight years in the White House (with Snopes.com around all that time), George W. Bush has been the subject of 47 internet rumors. After less than two years in office, Barack Obama has been the subject of 87, or nearly twice as many.
Even more telling is the relative accuracy of those stories. For Bush, 20 rumors, or 43%, are true. Only 17, or 36%, are false. The remainder are of mixed veracity (4), undetermined (4), or unclassifiable (2).
In contrast, for Obama only 8 of the 87 rumors, or 9%, are true, and a whopping 59, or 68%, are whoppers. There are 17 of mixed veracity and 3 undetermined.
In other words, a precipitous slide into the chasm of pure wackitude. It's no wonder that when the New York Times's Brian Stelter caught up with the Mikkelsons earlier this month, they were sounding a distinctly pessimistic tone. Despite the fact that their website is generating living-making revenue, the pair told Stelter that they "doubt[ed] they are having much of an impact":
"It's not like, 'Well, we have to get out there and defend the truth,' " Mrs. Mikkelson added. "When you're looking at truth versus gossip, truth doesn't stand a chance."
Well, at least business is booming!