The dangers of “folk media”

On the Media’s Brooke Gladstone interviewed (audio or text) Christopher Hayes about his Nation article The New Right Wing Smear Machine. I’m less interested in the politics of the story, and more in the capacity of the internet for spreading, and keeping alive, false and refuted memes– what Hayes apparently refers to as “folk media.” [I couldn’t find any reference to “folk media” in Hayes’ article, I’m not sure to what she is referring.]:

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now, you’ve called this a viral form of, quote, “folk media”? What do you mean?

CHRISTOPHER HAYES: There’s this media that is peer to peer, is viral, goes from inbox to inbox and can have what is essentially a broadcast effect, without ever sort of surfacing up into the professional media.

In some senses, you have two parallel political narratives happening, and I think that’s increasingly going to be the case as the campaign carries forward.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Sometimes they get picked up by the mainstream media and sometimes the candidate has to answer to them themselves. And this brings us to the Obama “Madrassa” email ringing in inboxes for a year. One of our producers was forwarded this email by his mother just a few weeks ago. My mother-in-law got one too. What’s it about?

CHRISTOPHER HAYES: It’s a fascinating text because the first part of it is this very flat reportorial tone, and it gives a little brief bio of Senator Obama, and much of it is true. You know, it talks about the time his Mother remarried an Indonesian man, they lived in Jakarta. And it then says that he went to a madrassa, a Muslim school, and that this madrassa was a Wahhabi madrassa, and Wahhabiism is the radical form of Islam adhered to by the people that are trying to destroy our country.

And the idea is that he’s this Manchurian Candidate figure [LAUGHS] who has been secretly trained to, you know, appear well-mannered and then get into the White House and hand the country over to Osama bin Laden.

It doesn’t matter that CNN went to the actual school in Indonesia and they interviewed [LAUGHS] the headmaster and he said, no, this is ludicrous. That one debunking is not getting out in this viral fashion in the way the email is.


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