The Misinformationosphere

Roy Eccleston has an article on blogs in The Australian. He is startled to find that thanks to blogs, some Americans believe an entirely false story about how Diana Kerry interfered in the Australian election, based on a contrived reading of an story that Eccleston himself wrote. He writes (my emphasis):

"You're Australian aren't you," said a bystander, listening to our conversation."So what do you think about John Kerry's sister interfering in your election campaign?"

I was stunned. Here was a particularly well-informed American - he not only knew Australia had held an election but also seemed aware of a small story of mine that The Australian had published on page 15 six weeks before. The piece quoted Diana Kerry claiming Australians were more vulnerable to terrorism because of John Howard's support for Bush in Iraq. It wasn't alleging any interference in the Australian election---but some obviously saw it that way. Yet how did this man come to know about it?

In my case, the Kerry comments had angered conservative bloggers---such as captainsquartersblog.com---who bounced it caustically around the internet, where it was read by mainstream conservative columnists in Washington. The story eventually had the ultimate conservative treatment: a piece in The Weekly Standard, a prominent political magazine, and a column by Washington Post syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Powerline even accused Diana Kerry of mounting a "terrorist attack on Australia". And, of course, none of the blogs or newspapers ever corrected their false claims.

Tim Blair spends a lot of time debunking the bogus story that Bush served a plastic turkey to troops in Iraq, but what does he do when faced with the similarly bogus story about Diana Kerry? He doesn't debunk it, instead he is pleased at the way blogs spread the falsehood.

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