If They’ll Lie About Anything, Won’t They Lie About… Anything?

April 26, 2010

Some recent number crunching has produced interesting, if unsurprising numbers concerning internet rumors that concern current and past Presidents.

The party of no… credibility.

Salon reports on an initial finding by the blog Oz and Ends comparing the veracity of rumors targeting Democratic Presidents to those of Republican Presidents.

To keep on top of urban myths of all kinds, I subscribe to the Snopes.com update list, and I noticed a pattern there that I thought deserved to be examined more arithmetically. It struck me I was seeing a lot more rumors about President Obama, and a lot more false rumors, than I remembered from earlier years. So I ran the numbers, as of this week.

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.

What should be of interest to innocent readers of forwarded emails is not only the amount of the rumors, but what the accuracy of said rumors tells about those spreading them. 

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, rumors spread by the Right targeting Democrats are far more likely to be entirely manufactured lies than those spread about Republicans.

Additionally, false rumors about Democrats are more likely to be negative while those concerning Republicans can sometimes even caste a positive impression.

I delved down to the stories that the site designates as a mixture of truth and falsehood. For Obama, in many cases the truth is innocuous while the lie reflects poorly on the President, particularly photographs that are misrepresented or show behavior that produced no complaints when his predecessors did the same. In contrast, in this mixture of truth and falsehood about George W. Bush praying with an injured soldier, the lie reflected well on that President from the perspective of the religious person spreading it.

Read more on Salon.

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