The rumor bomb Barack Obama is a Muslim: Another episode in political vertigo and negative politics
By Professor Jayson Harsin, Dept. of Global Communications, The American University of Paris
Presented at the IPSA E-Democracy Workshop, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Abstract: This study uses the concept of rumor bombs in convergence culture to contribute to analyses of vertiginous public discourses in e-democracy. Furthermore, it has two primary goals: 1) to provide an empirical analysis of rumor bombs on TV news, and 2) to analyze the relationship between internet agenda-setting and "old" news agenda setting. First, it provides a case study of the Rumor Bomb Barack Obama is a Muslim from the 2008 American presidential campaign, a rumor bomb which continues to appear in viral circulation on internet and email over 1.5 years after the election of Obama, with increasing numbers of Americans who say they belive Obama's religion is Muslim. It provides a content and frame analysis of the "Muslim" rumor bomb on American TV news in 2008 in order to see how exactly it appeared and thus how audiences were invited to view the rumor bomb. Secondly, the empirical data is then interpreted within the context of psychological studies and theories of rumor, and of trends in political communication such as negative campaigning, and in news values, such as tabloidization and infotainment. The study finally shows that the links between traditional elite news media and the Internet, contrary to some arguments, demonstrate not the disappearance of elite "primary definers" but a new kind of elite primary definer as a key node in a network of often ideologically homogenous "news" and opinion.