This is a story that won't go away.
Five weeks after the State of Hawaii vouched for the authenticity of President-elect Barack Obama's birth certificate, the controversy over allegations that Obama is not eligible to take office next month has reached the Supreme Court, which is expected to announce Monday whether it will consider the matter.
The fight is unusual because it thrives outside the so-called mainstream media...
This is a different army at work, in an environment increasingly influenced by the Internet.
"It's only being mentioned by a relative few, by the real die-hard, anti-Obama crowd," said Michael Harrison, editor and publisher of Talkers magazine, the trade bible of the talk-radio industry. "On mainstream talk radio, it's not a big deal right now. I think it's run its course."
"But," Harrison added, "we live in a time that, because of the Internet, all points of view can live forever."
Just as there is a split on the legitimacy of the legal claims, there is also a split within the media on the merits of the story. Is it the last gasp of opposition from opponents of Obama who have a found community of like-minded believers on the Internet, or is there a legal question to be resolved? The court will answer the latter question this week.
The campaign challenging the legitimacy of Obama's 1961 birth certificate or the legality of his taking office is chronicled by WorldNetDaily, a popular, politically right-leaning site that was the 26th most-visited news and media Web site during November, according to Hitwise, which monitors Net traffic.
...If the Supreme Court decides not to consider the case, [New Jersey lawyer Leo] Donofrio said there "won't be any beating on the drums saying there wasn't any justice."
But that will not be the end of the matter, Farah vowed.
"It'll plague Obama throughout his presidency. It'll be a nagging issue and a sore on his administration, much like Monica Lewinsky was on [ President Bill] Clinton," Farah said. "It's not going to go away and it will drive a wedge in an already divided public."
That may underscore a landscape change in the media, where the Internet is playing a bigger role in setting the agenda. In 2004, the so-called swift boat campaign against Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, began on the Internet. In fact, the co-author of "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry," Jerome Corsi, also wrote "Obama Nation," a book critical of Obama, published earlier this year.
Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Duke University, said the Internet's role in forming public opinion is gaining strength. WorldNetDaily, for instance, has one of the faster-growing audiences on the Internet, up 62 percent in the past year, according to Hitwise.
Nyhan co-wrote a study this year that said journalists' attempts to correct misinformation is unlikely to sway public perceptions because many people want to believe the misperception.
"People often have a strong bias for believing the evidence they want to believe and disbelieving what they don't believe," Nyhan said. "There is less of a sense that we all have a common set of facts we can agree on. There's a polarization, and we can't even agree on the basic factual assumptions to have a debate."
I'm trying to decide what the appropriate analogy would be to a debunked Clinton scandal that festered outside the media mainstream -- maybe the rumor that Vince Foster was murdered? The difference, however, is that supporting "evidence" for the rumor is now just a Google search away. This factor has certainly played a major role in the 9/11 "truth" movement, which continues to promote its discredited theories via an elaborate online ecosystem.
Update 12/8 10:46 AM: Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court turned down the case.