Obama Rebuttal of Muslim Slurs May Hurt, Not Help

Viral videos could make public suspicious candidate is hiding something
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2008 7:30 PM CST

(Newser) – Barack Obama is refuting an Internet smear campaign about his religious beliefs with a viral video campaign of his own, but social psychologists and folklore experts say the move could backfire—and instead persuade the uninitiated that the lies carry weight. Obama's campaign site enables users to send the candidate's talking points to 10 friends at once—but one professor worries the clarification “underlines the attack,” Wired reports.

The rumors, which maintain that Obama is a radical Muslim, are indeed the “hottest” urban legends on the web, a tracker reveals; but it’s important when denying a rumor to deny it only “to the people who originally heard it,” says the Northwestern prof. Strong denials can be persuasive to those familiar with the slander, experts believe, but those who first learn of a smear from the rebuttal are likely to be suspicious.