Over at his eponymous blog, Julian Sanchez performs an essential service for all of us living in the Age Of The Ground Zero Terror Mosquerade, by outlining the simple process by which a fake news story becomes a Grand National Obsession.
1. Faux Story
2. Why is the Em-Ess-Em ignoring this huge Faux Story?
3. After days or weeks of flood-the-zone coverage across multiple conservative media outlets, some significant portion of the base is convinced that the faux story is true and/or significant.
4. Mainstream press takes note of (3) and speculates about the political and electoral consequences
5. Panicked Democrats react as though the faux story is true and/or significant
6. See, we told you it was huge story!
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Pretty solid. Joel Meares at Columbia Journalism Review adds some substeps of his own. For my part, I'd point out that one wrinkle worth noting is that as one segment of the media goes chasing after the shiny object in Step Four ("My precioussssss!"), there's going to be another segment of the media ("Em-Ess-Em" and otherwise) that will step in and attempt fact-check/debunk/clarify the story ("Hey, guys, we should really toss this into the fires of Mordor, maybe!"). Many would argue (-- or suggest that it's arguable --) that the attempts to restore a degree of rationality to the discourse only helps to exacerbate this toxic cycle. (This is probably what happens in Julian's "rinse" cycle.)
The New News Cycle [Julian Sanchez]