Thursday, December 20, 2007

THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMEORY. At Minding the Campus, U.S. News & World Reports columnist John Leo addresses a recent Princeton incident in which a rightwing student apparently beat himself up and blamed gay-rights activists. Leo talks a lot about hate crimes faked by leftwing students, and gives the impression that conservative correspondents acquitted themselves well in this case.

If he means that they backed off their earlier credulity when word got out about the hoax, he's right. And that's a good thing.

You have to wonder, though, whether that's because conservatives are more sensible about this sort of thing, or because more people are paying closer attention. In 2004 I looked at the Foster Barton case, in which a returned Iraq serviceman was beaten up in a parking lot and numerous citizen journalists rushed to blame the John Kerry campaign. It turned out Barton was beaten up by another former serviceman after the two had "exchanged insults about the other's military unit."

It looked fishy to me from the start, considering that the event outside which Barton had been jumped was a Toby Keith concert. But if you look at what persists on the internet about Barton, you'll find very little about the post-election upshot. No doubt there are plenty of conservatives out there who remain convinced that back in '04 a soldier was beat down by Kerry peace creeps, and recall the incident as another example of "Liberal Violence on the Rise."

That feverish election season is over, of course. But another is hard upon us. I wouldn't be surprised if some other poor souls then find themselves prepared to pay any price and bear any burden to put their opponents in an unflattering light. The question is, will the famously "self-correcting blogosphere" be on duty?

UPDATE. Maybe this answers my question: "I'm not saying it's true, Jill. I'm pointing out that the blogosphere is going wild over a rumor and noting that the Enquirer pulled down its story. These are events." Keep digging, citizen journalists!

UPDATE II. You do realize that, months from now, they'll be saying "Remember that guy in Oklahoma who totally banned Christmas?" as if it were really real. This really is a magical season!

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