Friday, December 12, 2008

The Rumor Bomb in Flow

“[T]he information bomb’ [is] associated with the new weaponry of information and communications technologies. Thus, in the very near future… it will no longer be war that is the continuation of politics by other means, it will be what I have dubbed ‘the integral accident’ that is the continuation of politics by other means.” —Paul Virilio

While rumors are a timeless phenomenon, popular and academic voices note something changing. Like the Matrix, Baudrillard’s hyperreality, and David Lynch’s owls in Twin Peaks, things are at best not what they seem; at worst, perpetually disorienting. Henry Jenkins’s “convergence culture” has become a keyword for our present conjuncture where new and old media content, production and consumption, collide in fascinating new ways. Though gatekeeping practices in news and cultural production have weakened, creating new production opportunities, rumor rises to new levels of importance in a postmodern political context.

Despite the digital divide, the cases of rumor exploding into public scandal are fairly global. They have prompted suicides, imprisonments, stock plunges, resignations and government investigations . For example, on Friday October 3, on CNN’s “Citizen journalism” site a post appeared stating that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had had a heart attack. Apple stock plunged immediately, though the rumor was debunked an hour later, leaving suspicions it was planted by a short-seller after quick gains. But rumors have assumed a very special role in professionalized politics, where communication experts shrewdly read the new convergence culture and use rumor to try to steer political discourse via inter-media agendas. Click here for the rest of the article.

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