The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Anatomy of an Online Hoax

Posted on | December 29, 2010 | 10 Comments

Peter Steiner long ago captured perfectly how the online world has abetted deceit: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

Brooks Baynes tells the story of a “a woman who went by the name Jo Von Hollenzollern,” formerly known as @femmepatriot on Twitter, who insinuated herself among online Tea Party activists and seems to have hoaxed a lot of people. Furthermore, Brooks suspects this same person may have since emerged under new aliases to perpetrate a new hoax.

People who engage in that kind of activity are destroying a precious commodity: Trust.

But as Reagan said, our policy should be “Trust but verify.” It appears that some people vouched for @femmepatriot based only on their online connnections and/or telephone conversations with someone they’d never met. Having these people vouch for her gave @femmepatriot an underserved credibility.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! As one of the commenters notes, we’re not 100% sure Professor Reynolds is human. There’s something vaguely Vulcan about him . . .


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