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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Internet Rumor TeamPlanned For Barack Obama's Campaign

Now that the primaries are over and Barack Obama is officially the presumptive Democratic nominee, his campaign is gearing up for the general election by setting up a couple of special teams to counter the rumors that spread on the Internet like wildfire as well as to combat those "off the cuff" remarks that his wife, Michelle, says now and then..

As well as the rumour-mongering problem, units are being set up to deal with other perceived vulnerable points, including off-the-cuff remarks by his wife Michelle. McCain's wife, Cindy, questioned Michelle's patriotism in February after she said: "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country."

One specific rumor that is mentioned in the article linked above is the one claiming Barack Obama is "some kind of Muslim Manchurian candidate, planted by Islamic fundamentalists to betray the country."

As an example of how that particular rumor, that no specific facts have ever proven to be true, actually cost him votes, comes from comments made by Kentucky and West Virginia voters in the primary between Obama and Hillary Clinton.

In Kentucky, interviews shown by The Real News Network, comments about the Muslim issue show the deep seated mistrust that the rumor has caused, evidenced by Ricky, who says, "I think his true father was a Muslim, and I don't agree with his points of view."

The follow up question was "Do you think he believes in the Muslim practice?

Ricky's answer, "I know I don't think he knows better than to admit he does. Over time, the Muslims have claimed they were also going to strike us from within, in our own government. So if he is, there it would be, wouldn't it?"

Then an answer from a man named George, "Can't be a good American and be a Muslim. If he is a Muslim, he can't be a good American, for the simple reason there's a clash between American values and the Koran."

The Carolyn, "I have read some things. I can't quote exactly what I've read, but I've gotten on the Internet and looked up a few things, you know, or maybe it would just be on the AOL News and things. And to me it looks like he's leading that way. His history, seems like I read something about maybe his stepfather was Muslim or his father was Muslim. And, you know, granted, maybe he isn't. Everybody can change. You know. I just don't know. But with what has happened in the United States since 9/11, anything associated in that area scares me."

The problem was known before the primary, and Obama's campaign tried to counter it with a flier campaign, letting people know the rumor wasn't true.

The flier showed Obama speaking from a pulpit with a large cross hanging on the wall behind him and it said:

"Faith. Hope. Change. Barack Obama for President. 'My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won't be fulfilling God's will unless I go out and do the Lord's work'. - Barack Obama"

Hillary Clinton won Kentucky in a blowout, with 65 percent to Barack Obam's 30 percent, yet those specific rumors didn't hurt him in Oregon the same night where he won the primary.

The same rumors plagued Barack Obama in West Virginia, where on woman, Carmen Silliman, said she has collected a sheaf of poisonous e-mails that read, "We do not need a Muslim to lead the good ole USA."

Neil Gillies, an Obama supporter who runs a local environmental nonprofit group, glumly recounted the gibes that his wife, a schoolteacher, hears regularly from her students. "They're convinced [Obama] is a Muslim, a terrorist, a guy who's coming to take away their guns," Gillies said. "It's just sad."

Hillary Clinton also won West Virginia by a very large margin.

In this day and age of the Internet, rumors can be spread in a matter of days and weeks and for some those rumors become ingrained with people that do not research, they simply start to believe and countering those initial beliefs will be difficult.

There are also some that do not believe that the Muslim meme is completely a smear and feel that there are some truths that are not being acknowledged and also feel that transparency would go a long way to separating the fact from the rumor.

Which brings up the question of what these special Obama campaign teams will be doing to counter such rumors and whether it will specifically be geared toward rumor alone, or whether it will be something along the lines of a The Fact Hub, (Now offline) which was the Clinton online website that would not only counter rumor but would give her supporters the proper "spin" to put on damaging truths as well.

Will it be in the form of online commenters, seeking forums where stories, true and false about Barack Obama are written, to try to counter and argue his points in the comment sections of blogs, news websites that allow comments and forums of all types?

Both John McCain and Barack Obama will suffer from bad press, and both will need a fully functional Internet team to try to limit the damage that their misstatements may cause them as well as rumors being spread.

The form of how they will combat these things in the next months leading up to the November election, still remains to be seen.