With just days to go before the election, gossip, hearsay, innuendo and smears are flying through the Internet as gadflies and rumormongers hope to sway voters before they head to the polls.
“It’s a lot of mud being slung, it’s understandable, but I think it’s still kind of sad,” said Nick DiFonzo, a psychologist and rumor expert at Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York.
By MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer
Candidates and their campaigns are circulating negative bits of information in mainstream venues, raising questions about their opponents in speeches and dropping sour hints in their advertisements. But only on the Internet can entirely false rumors persist, stories told without back up, persistently bouncing from one blog to another.
Some have been out there for years, despite repeated rebuttals from the campaigns. Others surfaced only this past week. And they range from the truly silly (Weekly World News Web site: “OCTOBER SURPRISE: ALIEN ENDORSES MCCAIN!”) to the multitude of bloggers who report results even though votes have yet to be counted: (“Has Won Florida?” asked the Red State Web site Thursday.)
Most voters say they have already made their decisions about who they want to have as their next president. So the Internet rumors are targeted at the shrinking pool ofwho are still waiting, wondering and potentially still gathering information.
“The online rumors can affect their last-minute decisions,” said UC Santa Cruz psychology professor Anthony Pratkanis, who researches propaganda and social influence.
Here’s a chance to vet the Net:
The Rumor: The Huffington Post Web site, among others, has reported that John McCain used an obscene word to describe his wife Cindy during his 1992 Senate campaign.
The Facts: This is unsubstantiated. Author and bloggerinitiated this rumor…