The Next Hurrah discusses how information (and misinformation) is spread over the web, determined by tracking how a story about PETA and gay sheep circulated. A couple of interesting points are that he emphasizes that the way to persuade is to get out and make comments on other blogs—having a popular blog is not enough, I presume since the readers will typically be of a similar mindset, and you need to break through to people who might not be of like minds—and that MySpace and LiveJournal are important.
LiveJournal, I can see: I find interesting discussion going on in LJ, and the only thing weird about it is that it uses a somewhat different set of conventions (I also see DeviantArt pop up on the radar now and then, which uses its own conventions, too—but the emphasis on graphics means it’s a lot harder to index). But MySpace? I’ve tried, I really have, to see what there is in MySpace, but I always end up feeling like the assassin in Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic who ends up feeling so stressed by radical culture shock that he throws himself off a rooftop. Content is always imbedded in such a tiny little box surrounded by aggressive advertising that I just can’t stomach it; even logging in hits you with an unobtrusive dialog box jostling next to a giant picture of women in suggestive poses or lingerie telling me they want me, just Click Here!!!. If that’s teen culture, it’s obsessed with sex, materialism, and flashy jangly noisy crap…oh, wait, maybe that is teen culture.
Anyway, here’s the conclusion:
I suggest this paradigm — first, writing a careful debunking that addresses the factual problems without debating a policy position; second, blogsearching references to the lie and linking back to your post; and third, paying special attention to the huge social networking sites where information spreads rapidly — is one that should be applied to any smears we see leading up to this election, or any time. Sites like TNH, dailykos, and others are great for debating among ourselves and trying out policy arguments and refining our thinking, but if you want to change minds you have to go seek out people who think differently — and argue the facts, not the worldview.
Which is all well and good, but sometimes the facts are the worldview. Try bringing up the evidence for geology with a Young Earth Creationist, for instance, and boom, the shutters come down, and you will get damned as someone pushing moral bankruptcy on children if you so much as mention isotopes. There’s a significant subset of social issues where I think TNH’s proposal is going to work well, though.