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The Perfect Internet Storm

Posted by Thunder Pig on January 8, 2008

What destroyed Hillary Clinton’s campaign?
The obvious answer would be Barack Obama. But the destruction was accomplished through the agency of an Internet storm.
Those who remember the rapidity with which a story produced by 60 Minutes under the baton of Dan Rather was destroyed will know just how powerful an Internet storm can be.

In that instance, four documents were presented by 60 Minutes on September 8, 2004 — less than 2 months before the scheduled Presidential election — alleging that President Bush, who was standing for re-election had “disobeyed orders while in the Guard, and had undue influence exerted on his behalf to improve his record”. It was an accusation that was potentially devastating to Bush. On September 8 a reasonable observer would have made the linear projection that Bush’s re-election was doomed. But complex systems work in non-linear ways.

A confluence of factors explosively combined to generate a memetic storm. Small Internet sites, each insignificant by itself, began to resonate with the word that the 60 Minutes documents were faked. A variety of technical experts, drawn by what was effectively an open-source debugging exercise, found fault after fault with the documents. Within four days not only was the 60 Minutes expose discredited but reversed upon itself. By September 10, CBS News was internally admitting doubts about the 60 Minutes story. By September 11, 2004, the network was beginning to backpedal. Eventually the documents would be shown to be fakes. The scandal would cause the removal of high CBS officials, rip up the 60 Minutes news team which prepared the show and effectively ended the career of anchor Dan Rather.

It was the first public demonstration of an Internet storm.

Source: The Belmont Club

Commentary

The following won’t make sense until you have read the entire post at Wretchard’s:

Swarm Intelligence! Also, I wonder if there is a possibility a very adept organization could leverage this type of event if they identified the key (b)logs.

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