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Rumor-Mongering: The Great Blog Equalizer

The Wall Street Journal. The Village Voice. The Onion.

These three entities share certain characteristics. They are published, printed, edited by editors and contain articles and editorials.  On a basic level, I suppose you could say they are all papers. That said, we can agree that just because these three entities are papers, that does not make them equal. If The Village Voice writes a scathing article attacking the President and calling for his head, no one would extrapolate an argument that the Wall Street Journal shares in the blame for such a piece. Nor would anyone be concerned that all articles in the Journal are false just because the articles in the Onion are.

Deadspin. Holy Taco. Uni Watch.

These three entities share certain characteristics as well. They are published on the web, edited by editors and writers, contain articles and editorials. On a basic level, I suppose you could say they are all blogs.

The difference between the former and the latter is that, despite the fact that you and I know that there is a massive difference between what each of those sites writes and hopes to accomplish, so many people refuse to make that distinction.

Papers are different with their own unique voices and mission statements. Blogs are blogs.

And so, now that those nasty rumors are behind us and the mainstream press can finally acknowledge their existence, I fear we're in for another round of "this is why blogs (and social media) is the root of all evil."

Granted, those mean-spirited rumors did indeed spread quickly thanks to a semblance of believability. At a time when Syracuse fans were grasping for something, anything to explain why their team suddenly fell off a cliff, this was a lifeline. A terrible one, but something folks could tether on to nonetheless.

By the time it became clear the rumor was simply that, it was too late. Twitter exploded. "News" reports had been written, some deleted. The players, and almost certainly the University, had seen it all. Social media has lessen the distance between "us" and "them" to almost nothing, so you can only imagine the kind of insinuations being slung directly at the players.

I know I personally got about 20 emails and God-knows how many tweets about the rumors. Most people didn't know what to think while others claimed to have some kind of inside information. Conversations overheard, sources at ESPN, allegations forthcoming. For a brief moment, I even bought in. Too many details seem to line up. Still, I knew I couldn't post anything until someone a bit more official did first (and in retrospect, I should have deleted the FanPosts on the topic sooner as well). 

The good news is that no mainstream outlets took the bait.

The bad news is that a few blogs did. Only 10-15. But that was more than enough. And by doing so, they damned the rest of us to be blamed for fanning the flames.

No one will say Bleacher Report posted three updates on the rumors in the never-ending quest for pageviews at all costs. They'll say "blogs" smelled blood in the water and jumped at the chance. Because most of the blogs that did post the story are blogs you've never heard of, it's that much easier to just lump in all blogs to make your case stronger.

Take Jim Boeheim's comments tonight when asked about the rumors (and who didn't see a Bud Poliquin column on this topic coming?):

"The story," Boeheim said, "should be: ‘Why are we talking about this?’ Are you going to ask me about everything that goes on those blogs? ‘Jim Boeheim robbed a store.’ Are you going to ask me about that?

"People calling me. People calling our people. People calling our players. It’s wrong. It should never have been done. There’s nothing there. And there’s nothing murky here. These are not murky times. If people go on those blogs and take stuff at face value, they’re idiots."

"Those blogs." He might as well just be saying "All blogs."

When someone decided to write that story as fact, they reinforced the stereotype most of us spend every day trying to break free from. They also did more damage in one post than we can reverse in 1,000.

I'm not so obnoxious that I assume Jim is thinking of my blog when he makes those comments, but I bet there were some people who did. I'm guilty by association, even if the only thing my blog shares with that poker site is that we're both on the Internet.

(By the way, if anyone has details on Jim Boeheim robbing a store, please, please email me...)

And so, players, coaches and media members will blame the blogs, Twitter, Facebook and message boards for this rumor. But here's the thing...

That rumor didn't "start" on that poker forum. He didn't conjure it up out of thin air. He heard it from someone else in person. Just as I had heard it via email for the first time a full 12 hours before he posted it to his site. Just as many other folks heard it the day before I did. Long before it ever made its way onto Twitter or Facebook or message boards.

Call it semantics, but before you sit there agreeing that social media and blogs are at fault, remember this...

Human beings gossiped long before there was something called Twitter.

Human beings made rash decisions and judgments way before there was an online message board in existence.

Human beings presented rumor as fact many days prior to when a blog was a real thing.

Bud Poliquin says "We live in a time during which "news" is so often merely hearsay and is shared around office water coolers." To that I would Bud, we've ALWAYS lived in that time. What was once the town saloon became the office water cooler and is now Twitter. Nothing has changed except in the way we talk to one another.

Blogs and Social Media are tools. They are not the cause of rumors like this. There is no secret location inside the Internet where bloggers and tweeters meet like in The Matrix and create lies with the intention of spreading them to the masses. 99.9% of us are sane, rational-thinking human beings who are able to make distinctions between what is real and what is rumor.

That other 00.1%...there's nothing we can do. There's nothing anyone has been able to do since the beginning of time. Jerks are jerks, regardless of whether or not they have a Blogspot account. It's up to most of us to recognize them when they appear. We do our best but from time to time, their nonsense seeps through.

So go ahead, media folks. Dust off words like cyberspace and blogosphere to make your points. I wish I could explain it better but, 10-15 blogs posting a rumor does not = ALL blogs posting a rumor. But there's nothing I can do to prevent that thought. All the other 99.9% of us can do it keep trying to rise above the stereotype. We'll do our best.

The real shame of the whole episode is the way it's reflected back at us by the players. All they know is that tons of Syracuse fans have been discussing the rumors, so that means it must be that Syracuse fans are the ones who have been spreading it.

“You know, you start losing a couple of games,” said SU forward Kris Joseph, “and everything starts being said, from point-shaving to just crazy, reckless things. It’s kind of disappointing that our fans are starting that. We’re going to lose a game. We’re going to lose a couple games. It happens. No one goes undefeated, ever. And it’s just disappointing that our own fans, who we look to for support, start these type of rumors about us.”

And you might be sitting there saying to yourself, "But I didn't say anything, it was that 0.01% of Syracuse fans saying stupid things to them that are to blame." And to that I would doesn't matter. That's the shame of it.