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The Short History of False Rumors and Those Who Believe Them

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This little lie has been fun to watch worm it’s way around the world. I’ve seen this happen before, and since I’m sure it will happen again, I’d like to point out exactly how this stuff happens, and what exactly it results in (well, we saw that last Tuesday, but I digress a wee bit early).

First up, the seed, in this case coming from an anonymous Indian government beauracrat

An Indian government source told the NDTV channel: ‘The huge amount of around $200 million would be spent on security, stay and other aspects of the Presidential visit.’

That’s it. That’s all it takes for one of these things to take off. This is then reported as “news reports” in other stories…

President Obama’s trip to India will cost the U.S. $200m-a-day, it was reported today.

The visit – part of a 10-trip to Asia – will take place amid unprecedented levels of security in the city of Mumbai, where terrorists killed at least 173 people two years ago.

Then the story goes to Drudge, and the torrent is on. Fox, of course, gets in on the action early. They do this with the same “other people are saying” b.s. they use to introduce a lot of disinformation.

The details on the trip, extensively reported in the Indian media but strongly disputed by U.S. officials, read like lyrics for a hawkish version of “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

The president will be accompanied by 40 aircraft, 3,000 people, a fleet of cars and 34 warships, according to a string of blow-by-blow news updates. The Press Trust of India quoted an official in the state of Maharashtra pegging the cost at $200 million a day.

Read the full Fox story here.

The lie also gets play on their other TV networks. At this point, it has now been reported as outrageous fact all over AM radio, News Corpse various networks, etc. *AND* more importantly, the Secret Super-Patriot Warning System, also known as your crazy uncle/aunt/cousin forwarding emails fill with wild rumors and baseless rants by the thousands very night. This is actually one of the biggest factors in spreading this kind of disinfo.

We know this story is making the email rounds because A) it is taylor-made for this kind of conspiracy nutjobbery and B) someone who gets a lot of her information from email forwards mentioned it publicly.

“Republican Paul Ryan has suggested sharp cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Are you willing to make cuts there?” Cooper asked. But [Michelle] Bachmann [R-MN] wasn’t initially interested in discussing Medicare and Social Security. Instead, she responded to Cooper by arguing about a much more pressing matter: the cost of President Obama’s upcoming trip to India.

“Well I think we know that just within a day or so the President of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day,” Bachmann said. “He’s taking two thousand people with him. He’ll be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are 5-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending, it’s a very small example, Anderson.”

But wait: $200 million a day? Snopes.com says that the $200 million figure, which has been picked up by right-wing blogs, is “probably false.” Snopes traced the rumor back to an anonymous Indian government official, quoted in a Press Trust of India article published on Tuesday. Factcheck.org calls the claim “highly doubtful,” and points out that the entire war in Afghanistan currently costs about $190 million a day (h/t AJC).

So now the lie has made it halfway around the world before the truth can put its boots on.

Not only that, and I’ll get another post of this, but when asked what the cut from the budget, it’s crap like this the Republicans brings up. They want to cut myths from the budget. That’s the plan to balance it, make up crap and then cut it.

At this point the lie has become the “truth” and anyone who questions it is on the conspiracy. In this part of the play, we have dupes like CNN coming in and “de-bunking.”

(CNN) — It’s a story that originated from a single, unnamed sourced in India — but it quickly gained momentum, spreading like wildfire among critics of the Obama administration in the United States and eventually, the airwaves.

The claim: The United States will be “spending a whopping $200 million per day” on President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia.

That’s roughly the amount the federal government spends each day on the war in Afghanistan. The figure has been dismissed by the White House as “wildly inflated.”

What’s more, the claim doesn’t appear to hold water.

There’s a couple standard response to this de-bunking. First up is “Oh, it’s CNN they’ll say anything.” or, in this particular case, “They didn’t debunk it because they didn’t give the real number (which is assumed to be astronomical)”. In this case that is difficult because spending on security is not something that is normally publicly divulged (quick sidenote: Obama’s is the first administration *ever* to voluntarily release comprehensive spending figures on intelligence, they were quickly attacked for it.)

So on the one hand you have a wildly inflated figure (probably a mis-translation of rupees to dollars, $200M rupees is about $4.5M dollars, which sounds close to what similar trips have cost) and on the other hand you have the (Big Bad Evil) Government saying they can’t tell you the real number.

So the rumor keeps alive and, in fact, grows. Note all those right-wing blogs and the echo chamber. Less than 1% will ever post a retraction or clarification. Those blogs get archived. And then, two years later, we’ll hear this spending come up as a whisper campaign issue, like Obama being a Muslim, and being a Socialist and Obamacare raising the deficit, all rumors, all false, and all believed by the same group of people.

Luckily, after a pattern shows up, and keeps showing up, it can be studied. Here it turns out that the results are not surprising, but it is good to know, precisely, how much bullshit your average Fox Viewer believes…

Those who rely on Fox News are more inclined to believe rumours, a study looking at the behavioral patterns of viewers of reports pertaining to the Ground Zero mosque in has concluded.

According to the study, a typical viewer who reported a low reliance on Fox News believed 0.9 rumors on average, while a similar respondent with a high reliance on Fox believed 1.5 rumors – an increase of 66 percent. On the contrary, people who relied heavily on CNN or NPR believed fewer false rumors. High reliance on CNN reduced the number of rumors believed by 23 percent, while heavy use of NPR reduced belief by 25 percent.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/298969#ixzz14iFLSgHg

You can also see, from the study, *why* it is that Fox viewers are so prone to believing in, and voting according to, rumors and lie. It is not only their faith in a bad actor (Fox) but their hatred of less biased news sources like CNN and NPR, both of which have showed consistently and over time, to do a better job informing their viewers/readers of the real world (which is why they are evil to the Fox afficianado, they are just like the older neighborhood kid who told you Santa Claus wasn’t real. Fox News would never do that.)

So you can add one more lie/rumor to the big list of them. This is how it happens. I’m sure you’ll see it on comment boards and chain mails, rants and raves, and other racist rationalizations. It’ll keep coming up.

It’s a lie, a big one, and as last Tuesday proved, the Big Lie works. You just have to keep saying it, over and over again.

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