The e-mail rumor mill is run by conservatives

Like the Medicare story, these claims are demonstrably false, too. Nevertheless, they are popular on the thriving underground e-mail circuit, a carnival of nonsense whose star attractions have included the canard that Obama is a secret Muslim and variations on the “birther” claims about his origins.

Grass-roots whisper campaigns such as these predate the invention of the “send” button, of course. No one needed a Facebook page or an e-mail account to spread the word about Thomas Jefferson’s secret love child or Grover Cleveland’s out-of-wedlock offspring (both won elections despite the stories, which in Jefferson’s case were very likely true).

But it has become a truism that in their modern, Internet-driven form, these persistent narratives spread far faster and run deeper than ever. And they share an unexpected trait: Most of the time, Democrats (or liberals) are the ones under attack. Yes, George W. Bush had some whoppers told about him — such as his alleged scoffing that the French “don’t have a word for ‘entrepreneur’?” — but when it comes to generating and sustaining specious and shocking stories, there’s no contest. The majority of the junk comes from the right, aimed at the left.

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