The Null Device

InTheStimulus

A lie, Mark Twain wrote, can cross half the world before truth can get its boots on. This may be even more so in the age of Twitter, with its ephemeral, 140-character posts reducing discussion to soundbites with no room for boring old substantiation. A contributor to the (US Democrat-affiliated) Daily Kos blog has demonstrated this by creating a Twitter feed named InTheStimulus, purporting to reveal the Obama administration's egregious wastes of money, and watching the right-wing Twitterverse pass it on as gospel, giving him virtual high-fives along the way and praising his patriotism.
For the most part, my first couple days of posts were believable, but unsourced lies:
* $3 million for replacement tires for 1992-1995 Geo Metros.
* $750,000 for an underground tunnel connecting a middle school and high school in North Carolina.
* $4.7 million for a program supplying public television to K-8 classrooms.
* $2.3 million for a museum dedicated to the electric bass guitar.
He then proceeded to make the revelations increasingly absurd:
* $473,000 to Fueled by Ramen, record label for such bands as Fall Out Boy.
* $4 million for Obama bobbleheads.
* $104,000 to exhume President Taft.
* $465 million for massive air conditioners to combat global warming.
And finally,
* $855,000 for the gambling debts Laura Bush incurred on diplomatic trips between 2004-2008.
The funny thing was, while a few people dropped his feed, even more started following him and passing on his revelations. It seems that confirmation bias kicked in, and the buzz of having one's beliefs confirmed and outrage justified outweighed the possibility of being taken for a ride.

The Daily Kos' spin on the result is a partisan "conservatives are dumb". Whether or not that is the case, I suspect such an experiment could be repeated with any group invested in a particular belief.

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