During last night’s vice presidential debate Dick Cheney pleaded exoneration by third-party neutral on the topic of Halliburton. “Go to factcheck.com” he said. Oops. He actually meant www.factcheck.org, an independent Web site run by the Annenberg foundation. Side note: this is a superb site, even though I sometimes disagree with their editorialization. FactCheck.org and The Electoral Vote Predictor are the two neutral sites on which I spend the most political-fretting time.
We all know about the whitehouse.com/whitehouse.gov muddle, but this most recent TLD mix-up has more political consequence. After all, regardless of what anyone thought of Clinton’s libidinousness, they probably didn’t seriously hold the impression that he might be a big time porno capo on the down low. In this case, Cheney’s mistake sends people (through one redirect) to a Web site run by George Soros, with the top-level caption “Why we must not re-elect Predisent Bush”, continuing with a headline in similar large print saying “President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests, and undermining American values.”. Errr. Oops.
And now for a bit of fictional political intrigue. What if factcheck.com had not been owned by a man who has more money than even the Bush clan? What if it were a lowly site for helping high school teachers grade student essays? I’m sure the Bush/Cheney spin slickers dropped their jaws when they realized the error (and that Edwards/Kerrey spin slickers were doing a jig). What if they swooped in to buy out factcheck.com to point to a pro-Bush site? What if, in a Moore-Stone-sized conspiracy they decided ask the NSA to taint the DNS root servers to “fix” the matter for them?
Nothing of the sort, of course, was toward in this particular case, but it does make one think about possibly explosive effects of combining the precision of Internet architecture with the usual truth allergy of politics. These days candidates try flexing ostensible ‘net savvy by buying up hundreds of variations of “joe-incumbent-sucks.com” in the wan hope that anyone would actually type in such a domain name looking for information. Imagine what they might get up to if they actually knew the first thing about technology? Ask biological and environmental scientists what happens when politicians try chugging a yard-bong of Pieirian spring water (for those who never went to a college in the US, a “yard-bong” is a ridiculously large quantity of beer arranged for consumption in a ridiculously short span of time).
Seriously, though, the saddest thing about TLD mix-ups such as as this one is that they encourage people to do the land-grab of every concievable TLD whenever they make a domain purchase (and commercial reigstrars are only too eager to encourage this). Let’s hope one of the campaigns does’t react with a buy order for all domains matching “.*(fact|bush|kerrey|elect).*\..*”. Then again, let’s hope they do. There would be a blog-burner topic.
What Internet facts have you seen in dire need of checking with respect to politics?