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Bogus Beliefs about Obama; Newspaper Does Only Part of Its Job

The Houston Chronicle reports a poll that “finds 23% of Texans think Obama is Muslim” but stops there.

If I ran a newspaper in Texas, I’d make it a mission to help that quarter of the population learn a) that Obama is not a Muslim; and b) that, as Colin Powell said (and so few others have said), that it shouldn’t matter if he is.

If we can’t count on traditional media to go on a campaign to debunk outright lies aimed at smearing people or fostering a warmongering climate, then the traditional media don’t deserve to exist.

0 Comments on “Bogus Beliefs about Obama; Newspaper Does Only Part of Its Job”

  1. #1 Jon Garfunkel
    on Oct 30th, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Well, the DMN has this Message to Texas: Obama’s not a Muslim

    but, never mind, it’s just a 150-word blog post, not an editorial or anything.

    Also, the Chron reported last week on the it doesn’t matter angle, by interviewing area Muslims.

    But with a circulation of 1.2m, it only reaches 10-20% of the voters in the state. So this goes back to our regular argument here Dan: most assuredly, there are limiting returns to how much can be spent to disprove rumors. (aka “you can’t unfool all the people all of the time.”)

    The UT poll has yet to cross-tab out the data (the press release promised it would). Pew did an Obama-is-muslim back in June, concluding

    I’d be curious for the UT poll to break down by education/demographics (which they have), and also by media literacy (which they don’t).

    and I don’t know why news sites don’t quiz readers more often– it’s a more fungible interaction, than, say, mudslinging with a bunch of anonymous cowards.

  2. #2 Jon Garfunkel
    on Oct 30th, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Let me update the sentence above: Pew did an Obama-is-muslim study back in June, concluding that Democrats believed the myth as much as Republicans.

  3. #3 Seth Finkelstein
    on Oct 31st, 2008 at 11:51 am

    “I’d make it a mission to help …”

    [begin sarcasm]
    But, Dan, that’s elitist. That’s lecturing. You’re saying YOU KNOW MORE THAN THE READERS. That you’d get up above them, and like a priest lording it over his congregation, tell them they’re wrong and you have the truth! Isn’t that attitude why old media is dying, compared to BLOGS, where, hey, if someone thinks Obama is a Muslim, we’re going to explore that story together with citizen-journalism no matter that the insider liberal Washington dinosaur MSM may try to suppress it!

    Wouldn’t the proper Web 2.0 thing be to set up a discussion – “Is Obama A Muslim Terrorist – what do YOU think?”. Lots of pageviews, for Google Adsense! Also a wiki page “The Obama Muslim Connection”, where the crowd can edit it. With RSS feeds to Twitter each change.

    [end sarcasm]

    I really shouldn’t do this. It doesn’t do any good :-(.

  4. #4 Dan Gillmor
    on Oct 31st, 2008 at 2:29 pm


  5. #5 julian
    on Oct 31st, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    “The Houston Chronicle reports a poll that “finds 23% of Texans think Obama is Muslim” but stops there.”

    –> Reading the article, I have to disagree with you. It goes on to say that he is a long-standing Christian, mentions “fallacious Internet rumors and radio talk-show gossip” which cause the “confusion”, and says that the figure is worth noting because it is a higher percentage that Americans overall.