Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I, mini-Snopes

In all the time I've been blogging, I've often checked out where people come from when they visit archy, but I've never looked their entrance page. That's the one  that tells me what they were looking for. About two weeks ago I started doing that and was amazed to see that most people were coming to look at an old Snopes-style debunking posts I'd written. Because there is a real Snopes out there, it had never occurred to me that my debunking had anymore value than just me blowing off steam. It just drives me crazy that people I know and like get taken in by chain letter like things on Facebook. The specific one that has been getting the most attention is this one playing on resentment towards the supposed cornucopia of benefits that undocumented immigrants get for coming to America.

When I mentioned this on Facebook, I suggested maybe I should open my own mini-Snopes. A couple friends said maybe I should. Thinking about it, I wish I could. The post I'm working on right now is a perfect example of the problem with this sort of rumor-mongering. There is an anti-gun control piece spreading across the internet today. A very little bit of research (really, less than a minute) revealed that it's BS. By the time I started looking into it, the lie had been picked up by two very big right wing sites. From there over 6000 blogs, fora, and what-have-yous had picked it up and were spreading it. Those who were brave enough to leave the right wing bubble were using it to troll left wing and moderate sites.

After hours of research and writing, I'll put my debunking up on my blog. I will. But, about seventy-five people a day visit my blog. I have no idea how many actually look at my front page or just determine that I have no nude pictures of Ann Coulter and move on. If people Google around trying to find out if something like this is true, where will my little blog rank on the six hundred pages of results? If Snopes picks it up--they might or they might not--they'll rank several hundred pages above me. I wish there were hundreds of mini-Snopses out there, even if they are just people who copy/paste our debunkings into fora after the right wing bubble children copy/paste their unsubstantiated propaganda there.

Moving back a couple paragraphs, for me, what is the cost-benefit analysis for doing this? On the plus side: 1) it allows me to blow off steam when I see my friends being manipulated, 2) I might educate them, and 3) they might be a little less credulous in the future. Okay, I put that last one in there for humorous purposes; no one escapes their bubble. Which leads us to 4) I'm funnier than Scopes. That helps.

On the minus side: 1) comprehensively researching these things takes a lot of time. Look at my debunking of the 90-foot plum tree. This is something I've been pondering for years. I own many of the sources I needed to research it. I spent well over a week writing that piece, off and on with my serious writing. For each of these Scopes things, I need to bring myself up to speed in a new field, track down the origin of the rumor, compose and write a response. And, it's best if I do it in a couple of news cycles. 2) There is more to number 1), but we needed a break here. Okay; are we all rested up? Good. 3) We were talking about how long this takes. Writing one of these things within news cycle time can take all of my time for a full day. For reasons I have mentioned before, I have very little free time. I must finish the book. Short breaks to write these things is good for clearing my mind for more mammoth writing; longer breaks fall into the minus side of the cost-benefit analysis.

So, four small things for, and one very, very large thing against. The objections really come down to two: 1) no one will notice (lots of linky-love will help there (PZ, I'm looking at you)) and 2) Time is money and I can't afford either. Is it worth trying to monetize such a small blog? The mighty and majestic Bora Zivkovic seems to think it is. I've always been shy of this because getting a 33 cent check each month would just be an insult I don't need to invite. However, if I had some money coming in from the blog, it might justify the time spent giving the rubes what they want (that's a literary reference and not an insult. Okay?).

Apropos of nothing, I wonder if blogging has hurt the business of talk therapists. Read the debunking I linked to. Read the one I'll probably finish tomorrow (depending on your timezone). Now that the comments are working again, give me your advice. Or just anonymously send me your money. I'm sure we can make that work.


Unknown said...

The more good information that is out there the better. There is so much crap spewing through the net every little bit of well written fact (with a little snark) is good for us all.

Greg Laden said...

Snopes is very good but may suffer from two thing you bring to the table. It would be great if you did it, and I would support it.