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How Rumors Get Started….


I thought they’d go after our money. But, no Big Media has decided to go after the reliability and accuracy of “the blogosphere, as it’s come to be known.”
That sort of phrasing – snooty The New York Times boilerplate – shows up again and again in Tom Zeller Jr.’s front page piece on voter fraud theories and the speed at which they spread on-line. Zeller doesn’t bother to cite the work of MysterPollster, who worked hard to make everyone understand how polling works or, in this case, didn’t. Nor does Zeller talk about the folks who declined to cite exit polls or who have – eyeing the math and believing that a concession speech is indeed a concession – said that nothing would be changed even if the fraud charges were all true.

Here’s a hard truth: voter fraud and mismanagement of elections is not news. Attention to voter fraud and mismanagement of elections, however, is new. That’s what’s at the heart of all this on-line rumor-mongering and half-baked speculation.
None of this is made any clearer by the self-promotion of one Joe Trippi. Trippi, the former Howard Dean campaign manager who is, so far, successfully angling to become “the Blogosphere’s” representative to Big Media. Trippi showed up on Keith Olbermann’s show last night said that this whole voter fraud “story” is an example of the power of the people. Now, I’ve seen political consultants dish up shit and call it fertilizer more times than I can count. You can see it yourself anytime you turn on Crossfire. But this takes the cake. It just isn’t so.
Just because someone types something on a website doesn’t make it true. And just because a lot of morons want to follow their hearts and not their heads when it comes to counting doesn’t make the math change.
And just because a bunch of geeky guys who know a thing or two about computers and operating systems have figured out a way to crack various voting machines doesn’t mean it’s happened. Particularly in places where, let’s just say technology ain’t exactly state-of-the-art.
When voting machines are hooked up to Ethernet cables and Wifi antennas, then — and only then — should we start worrying about the charges that the guys at have been cooking up. I’m sure everything they say about the voting software is true; they are indeed the experts. But I’m also pretty sure that no one in a county elections office between here and Bangor, Maine knows what they’re talking about.
What’s really going on here is that a bunch of well-meaning folks who have taken for granted the honest and efficient functioning of their government are discovering that, well, it’s kind of rube-goldbergy. Election machines are built for cheap by the lowest bidder. They are often not maintained very well between elections. They are often maintained by people who are harried by voters or by elected officials who don’t have a lot of patience for equipment that’s used only once year, if then. Many of those elected officials and many election officials are captive to their vendors. They don’t really understand how the machines work; when they find mistakes the vendors will – being sales people – cover them up. All of this has been true for many years. This, of course, is a sure-fire way to tick off the geeks. They hate nothing more than bad software and lackadasical system admnistration.
And that’s the story here. It’s too bad Olbermann, in his week of stories on this issue, hasn’t made this point: that we’re dealing with what appears to be an electorate that is still interested even though the elections are over. It’s too bad Trippi – who knows about elections and how they get cooked – didn’t mention this or talk about all the problems candidates have with polling and voting and how it’s a good thing – particularly in poor and minority communities that these problems are getting widespread attention. Folks like Kim Alexander at places like the California Voter Foundation have been trying to get people to pay attention to these sorts of problems for years with only limited success. Why isn’t she on Olbermann?

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:42 AM | Permalink

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