Don't believe everything you see
March 9, 2010
It was an interesting time to be on Twitter the last few days. Not just for the 140-character reflections on the U.S.-Canada gold medal hockey game, or the one-liners about the Oscars. It was great for the stuff that didn’t happen, too.
I noticed a lot of Twaffic and ... what’s that? Oh, that means traffic on Twitter. No, I didn’t invent a phrase that stupid. Yes, if I had, I’d have tried to patent it and require a quarter from anybody who repeated it.
But where were we? It seems the Twaffic was related to President Obama being caught lip-syncing a speech. The news report showed footage from a speech at the University of Michigan, where Obama stopped talking but the speech didn’t.
Right-wing Twitterers went nuts. It was another hit from the “Teleprompter President.” That’s the insult of Obama bandied about by ex-governors who read notes off of their hand during Q&As. The insult thrown at Obama by people who long for the days of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — while conveniently forgetting Reagan was praised by the Washington Post in 1981 for having “One eye on the teleprompter and the other eye on the voters,” and Bush had phonetic spellings added to a 2007 United Nations speech that was loaded on the (wait for it) teleprompter.
I’d have dismissed these partisan hacks by saying they can dish it, but they can’t take it. But a quick look shows they can’t dish it.
There are hints the Obama video is fake. One minute in, a man named “Todd Grant” is the White House’s deputy press secretary, but that position belongs to Bill Burton. Just 20 seconds later, an apology on the White House Web site has a diatribe in lower case telling people to “ignore the haters.”
But most of all, the first second of the video reveals, “Onion News Network.” Sounds a lot like The Onion, a satirical newspaper I read online every week and pick up every time I’m in Denver. Other exclusives broken by The Onion include “Christ Returns to NBA,” “FBI Agent’s Cover Blown by His Own Jacket” and my personal favorite, “Drugs Win War on Drugs.”
The problem is partially that the lip-syncing story wasn’t true, and people didn’t check it because it was so salacious. The bigger problem is that it wasn’t true, but people forwarded it because they wanted it to be true. It’s that desire to be justified that gets in the way of facts; heck, I’m guilty of it from time to time.
I’m sure if Twitter was in full force during the Bush presidency, we’d have gotten a lot of hit job Tweets. I still remember the time Bush visited troops overseas for an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner, and he got hammered for a photo-op with a fake turkey. But it was a real turkey, just like the average left-winger who decided policy arguments weren’t enough.
Moral of the story: You’re judged by your character, and your characters.
Yes, I did make that up. And yes, I do want a quarter.