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Micah Sifry Headshot

Swiftboating the Stimulus: Did the Internet Really Kill "Rovian" Politics?

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A year and a half ago, a few weeks before the presidential election, Google CEO Eric Schmidt made a bold claim about the impact of the internet on our public life: "We are witnessing the end of Rovian politics," he declared to Arianna Huffington. Many observers, this writer included, enthused at how the internet was enabling the mass fact-checking of political statements--I called it "crowd-scouring"--and imagined that perhaps whatever the outcome of the 2008 election, "these new habits and tools will get aimed at making government more honest, open and effective."

Today, watching how our political discourse seems, depressingly, to still be dominated by blatantly anti-factual claims (such as the notion that $862 billion in stimulus spending didn't create one new job, as newly elected Senator Scott Brown recently claimed), it's worth asking whether Schmidt's pronouncement was way too optimistic. Has something changed? Were we too optimistic back in 2008? Or is there another element (no longer) at work, which people perhaps are less aware of: the existence of a robust, "people's army" of pro-Obama factcheckers in 2008, which has withered away in the last year?

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