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Need to Know: The Political Web (7/18/08)

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Host Julie Philipp: And we turn to politics now. Dirty politics, in particular In the past, that's typically meant a misleading television commercial or an attack on a politician's personal life. But there's a newer weapon that campaigns are getting more and more saavy to, and that's the Internet. It's a place where lies and innuendo can spread far and wide very quickly. Dr. Nicholas DiFonzo is... a professor of psychology at Rochester Institute of Technology he has just written a book about rumors called The Water Cooler Effect and he joins us now in studio. thanks for coming in. Dr. DiFonzo: My pleasure Julie Philipp: Has the Web increased the amount of rumors flying out there in general and in particular campaign rumors? DiFonzo: That's a really good question. Without a doubt, the Worldwide Web has increased the speed by which rumors can proliferate. and the reach of rumors. They can go very far, very quickly we don't actually, scientifically know whether or not the web has caused rumors to become more numerous than they used to be what we do know is as they become more popular, that is if they spread quickly and they reach far and wide it also presents the potential for people to object to rumors or to try and refute rumors. So we do know it can tend to generate some lively discussion, which it has in this case. Philipp: And presidential candidate Barack Obama in particular has taken on those rumors flying around by starting his own website to combat those rumors, but you don't think he's doing that great of a job combating the rumors. It's a hard thing to do. DiFonzo: I think he's doing a pretty good job. I think I would give him a high "B" on this job. He's really doing very well. He's getting out there, first of all, and aggressively attacking the rumors. He's trying to give a point-by-point refutation for each of the rumors. He's trying to go to the groups, that within which the rumors spread. He was on the CBN Network just before the South Carolina Primary. So he's doing a pretty good job. Philipp: What does he need to do to get an "A" to combat these kind of rumors? DiFonzo: Well, I think he needs to recruit and more prominently tout third party trust....perceived as trustworthy... sources among the groups within which this rumor is believed just slightly. There was a Pew Research Center survey done not too long ago. This rumor is believed by only 10% of the electorate, but several groups, conservative Democrats and conservative Republicans for example, tend to believe the rumor just slightly..... Philipp: ....and which rumor is this? DiFonzo: This is the rumor that he is a Muslim and this is a false rumor. Philipp: Oh, OK. So these groups tend to believe the rumor just slightly more than the national average. So among these groups, I'd recommend that you find trusted, perceived as trusted, spokespeople and tout them very saliently on this website. Philipp: Um-hm. Now spreading rumors via e-mail is getting pretty hard to figure out for the average person. It looks like a news release. Somebody sent out a fake Maureen Dowd column that she hadn't even written, but it looked, because it was just print and spread around on the internet, it looked like she had written it and she was a credible source that somebody believed in, and was a fan of, so there's a whole element out there without the personal somebody saying it or putting a commercial up on TV. Is that increasing the damage that can be done with a rumor in a political campaign? DiFonzo: Well, a lot of damage can be done with regard to rumors, that's for sure. Rumors are very powerful and often they take on those quote-unquote authoritative sources. That's a regular feature of a rumor, not just now, with the internet, but prior to the advent of the internet as well. The false rumors seem crafted, sometimes they are crafted, but sometimes they're not; they just happen to arise that way. They seem to be authored by an authoritative source. Philipp: So it's an old tactic just given new wings with the internet, basically. DiFonzo: That's correct; that's correct. And people are unawares, so normally when you receive an e-mail like that the normal course of events is to not check them but, if it seems plausible, people seem to just send them on to their friends, either out of concern out of interest, or they just pass it along because it seems the interesting thing to do. Philipp: Spreading rumors without knowing they are spreading rumors. DiFonzo: That's correct. This is a lot of work then for candidates. It's a new aspect of their campaigns that they've got to put a lot of effort into. DiFonzo: That's right.They need to monitor the internet much more closely I know Obama is doing that and McCain has also done some work in that regard and they need to respond very quickly because rumors can snowball much more quickly than they used to and so in the "blogosphere" you may have a mis-information cloud, spreading..... and it's best to try to nip it in the bud. Philipp: Really fast. OK. We're looking forward to your book which comes out in September. DiFonzo: Thank you very much. Philipp: Thank you very much for coming in today. Dr. DiFonzo, Professor of Psychology and author of "The Water Cooler Effect"

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 28 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: J Philipp
Director: K Nestle
Views: 99
Posted by: jphilipp on Sep 3, 2008

RIT Professor discusses how politicians are dealing with lies and innuendo in Cyberspace.

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