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Friday, 17 February 2012

In April 2010, I analyzed the patterns at Snopes.com on internet rumors about recent American Presidents and presidential candidates. That posting got picked up by Salon and some other news outlets. My count showed that:
  • Snopes had found significantly more rumors about Democrats than about Republicans.
  • The rumors about Democrats were significantly more likely to be false.
  • Reports that were deemed a mixture of true and false tended to be complimentary to Republicans, denigrating to Democrats.

I revisited Snopes.com this month to see if anything’s changed—particularly in regard to OIP Derangement Syndrome, which usually manifests itself in criticizing President Barack Obama based on double standards or flat-out lies.

As a baseline, I used the sample of internet rumors Snopes.com collected about George W. Bush, who was President for eight years. The site now lists 46 rumors about him, of which:
  • 20 were deemed true.
  • 9 undetermined, unclassifiable, or mixed.
  • 17 false.
Among the false rumors, three were complimentary.

Barack Obama has been President for a little more than three years. In that time, Snopes.com has collected 107 rumors about him, or well over twice as many as his predecessor. The site classified those rumors this way:
  • 12 true.
  • 23 undetermined or mixed.
  • 72 false.
Thus, there have 50% more false rumors about Obama than rumors of any sort about Bush. There have been more than four times as many false rumors about Obama in three years as false rumors about Bush in eight. Of those 72 false rumors about Obama, only two could be taken as complimentary; one is clearly over-the-top satire, and the other a case of mistaken identity.

If anything, Snopes.com may be grading the Obama rumors gently. For example, a page created on 11 Feb 2012 discusses the statement “Georgia held a hearing to determine Barack Obama's eligibility to appear on that state's ballot as a presidential candidate.” On the main Obama page that’s tagged with a green bullet, meaning “true,” but the page itself has a “mixed” label suggesting that people are circulating a false version as well. Furthermore, that hearing was prompted by the lie that President Obama isn’t eligible for his office. In sum, while this rumor increases the number of “true” marks, it actually reflects how much President Obama’s critics lie about him.

Creating, repeating, and believing such lies is a major symptom of OIP Derangement Syndrome. Snopes.com provides an objective measurement of how virulent that syndrome is. On the plus side, the rate of new Obama rumors being added to the Snopes.com database has gone down; of course, many of the older ones are still circulating.

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