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Anatomy of a Smear

9:39 PM, Sep 6, 2008 • By DEAN BARNETT
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Blogger Charlie Martin has helpfully compiled all of the smears that the left has hurled at Sarah Palin. 54 and counting!

Given that we're more than halfway to the century mark in Palin smears, I think it's time to take another brief look at the left's method of smear dissemination. Yesterday on a blog hosted by the prestigious magazine the Atlantic, a post popped up at 11:49 a.m. with the breathless title, "Here We Go." The post read in its entirety, "Todd Palin's former business partner files an emergency motion to have his divorce papers sealed. Oh God." The post linked to the Alaskan court system where you could see the motion if you cared to click through.

Although the author didn't care to make his innuendo explicit, the insinuation was clear - the National Enquirer had previously reported on what it called "a rumor" that the former business partner in question had had an affair with Sarah Palin. The breathless title and the brevity of the post implied that the smoking gun for the affair laid in the court filings that the former business partner wished to conceal. Naturally, because the purported scoop had the imprimatur of the Atlantic, many other news sources picked it up in rapid order.

Quicker than you can say "conspiracy theory lunatic," this particular lunatic theory jumped off the tracks. The Court denied the motion to conceal the papers, allowing the curious to sniff through them. Shock of shocks, Sarah Palin's name wasn't even mentioned in the filings. Nor was there anything regarding an affair with her. In this particular wild goose chase, the goose flew free.

Thus, the method of the smear mechanism reveals itself - print a lot of speculative crap, all while maintaining a malign indifference as to whether or not you can prove said speculative crap. Actually nailing down a story before running it? That's so 20th century, at least in the virtual pages of the Atlantic. Doing actual reporting to confirm life-damaging rumors before circulating them? Such quotidian tasks are obviously beneath an Atlantic blogger's pay grade.

One more thing of journalistic interest occurs: The "news" about the motion to seal the divorce papers appeared in the virtual pages of the Atlantic first, not the National Enquirer or the Daily Kos as one might expect. Obviously, Atlantic field reporters haven't trekked up to Alaska to monitor every random court filing. Therefore, someone had to tip off the Atlantic's chief rumor spreader about the motion to seal the divorce papers. It would be interesting to know at whose bidding the Atlantic staffer in question is spreading unfounded smears.

I'm sure in the interests of full disclosure, the magazine and its chief rumor spreader will rush this information to the public. Right after they apologize for yesterday's smear du jour turning up empty.

UPDATE: Blogger Dan Riehl points out that the obscure angry left blog Dakota (that boasts a Technorati ranking of 2) linked to the court documents in question 24 hours before the Atlantic did. Whether someone at the Atlantic is Dakota's sole reader is unknown. Regardless, I apologize for the error. Of course, the larger point of anAtlantic staffer eagerly spreading unverified smears remains unaffected.

UPDATE II: In the spirit of distinguishing between facts and rumors as well as suspicions and knowledge (something that Sarah Palin's detractors have been quite diligent about), it should be noted that there is no evidence that Andrew Sullivan has been in contact with the Obama campaign.