Never Send a Googling Bear to do a Goolging Monkey's Job

Since I am an egomaniac, today I was sifting through the Truth Laid Bear blog traffic rankings to see where MyDD was these days (mid-thirties and rising!). As someone who spent way, way, way too much time during the Democratic primary season tracking stories on Google News, I was intrigued by a story on the left hand column that said it was tracking the Kerry Swift Boat story through Google News.
Here is the blurb:And now, perhaps a regular feature here at TTLB: "the kerry swift boat" Google News meter.

Today's reading: 2,400 entries found on Google News when searching for "kerry swift boat."

I looked at this search, and knew right away the person conducting it did not know how to track a story on Google News. However, 2,400 stories a day seems like a lot, so s/he went on to proclaim: I'm going to go on record and predict that the Swift Boat Veterans kerfuffle won't just be a major negative for Kerry: it will be a campaign-killer. One thing that those of us who spend far too much time hyperanalyzing politics and world events tend to forget is that for the general public, stories like this are absorbed only as vague and general impressions. Whoever wrote this might want to practice hyperanalyzing politics and world events before making proclaimations about them. There are a lot of things wrong with the way this person is conducting these searches on Google News, and the story is not nearly the sensation s/he thinks it is.

For starters, in many circumstances, news reports are not writing "swift boat" as two words but as a single word, "swiftboat." So, in order to properly conduct a search on the story, it needs to be written as follows: "swift boat" OR "swiftboat." Further, the word "kerry" is not necessary in the search, since any Google News story with the word "swiftboat" or the exact phrase "swift boat" will certainly be talking about him.

Third, the reason Google News searches tend to come up as a constant from day to day is because they search news sources for the past month, not just one day at a time. Thus, in order to track the story day to day, the person doing the search needs to go into the advanced search part of the page and define parameters such as "from Aug 7 to Aug 7" or "from "Aug 8 to Aug 8." Just plugging in the phrase every day without defining the search time period gives no indication of the momentum behind a story.

Using this improved search ("swift boat" OR "swiftboat") in conjunction with specific dates shows the following results:

July 11-25: 257
July 26-31: 2,090
August 1-10: 1,140
July 11-August 10: 3,490

As you can see, a significant majority of these stories were actually during the convention news cycle. As such, it would be a good idea to be skeptical about how much doubt is actually being raised about Kerry's service record in these stories. Thus, in order to determine how many of these actually mention the attacks being made by Swift Boat Vets for Truth, all you would need to do is slightly modify the search as follows: "swift boat" + truth OR "swiftboat" + truth. For July 11-31, there are only 275 such results, meaning that 2,065 (88%) of the news stories during that time period do not even mention the group making the charge against Kerry, much less the charge itself. They are probably not all positive stories, but the majority of stories the "meter" produced by winger at the Truth Laid Bear turns up do not even mention the kerfuffle that is supposed to sink Kerry's candidacy. Here are some more results for "swift boat" OR "swiftboat" vs. ("swift boat" + truth OR "swiftboat" + truth):

August 1-4: 71 (28)
August 5-10: 996 (805)

Clearly, since August 5th, when the story fist broke, the vast majority of Google News stories containing the word "swiftboat" or the exact phrase "swift boat" have been about the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth ad. However, this still means that the grand total of Google News stories discussing the ad over the past month is only 1,058--less than half the supposed "Kerry Swiftboat Meter" is claiming on a daily basis.

It gets worse for those trying to believe the story is flooding the country with anti-Kerry vibes. Of the 966 stories discussing the ad since August 5, 615 of them contain McCain's slam of the ad ("swiftboat" +McCain OR "swift boat" + McCain). That leaves a grand total of 228 Google News hits since August 5 on this subject that mention that ad but do not include McCain's attack on the ad. Yeah, this story has real legs, especially considering that the McCain clam of the ad is getting almost three times the press of the attack itself. To sum up:

Google News Search dates, 7/11-8/10/04
All Swift Boat stories: 3,490
No Mention of SBVFT: 2,370 (3,490 - this search)
Mention of McCain slam: 650
Mention SBVFT but not McCain: 511
"Weapons of Mass Destruction" + Iraq OR WMD + Iraq: 11,100
"Weapons of Mass Destruction" + Iraq OR WMD + Iraq August 9-10 only: 1,050

Articles over the past month on the SBVFT attack that do not mention the McCain slam are getting doubled up by the WMD story from just yesterday and today. In the words of Nelson Muntz, "ha ha." Smell you later swift boat story. Then again, maybe I wouldn't mind it staying around, because having the third most popular politician in the country bash an anti-Kerry ad is great press for Kerry.

Tags: Media (all tags)

Comments

4 Comments

That's the way to do it
Chris:

Good pickup.  I used the technique you described when I was tracking the Bush AWOL story, doing daily searches limited by date of a number of different key words, excluding all other key-words from each one and then adding the result together.  (I learned to do this the hard way.)

by Ed Fitzgerald 2004-08-10 06:33PM | 0 recs
But...
I'm an average internet user and have no savvy about Google searches.  So today, as an average internet user, I wanted to know what was being reported out there and how many press outlets were refuting the claims of the lying assholes smearing Kerry.  I typed in "swift boat truth" and got something like 30 entries.  20 of them were negative from opinion sites masquerading as news.

Now assume I am one of the unfathomably undecided voters.  And I see that, seemingly, 2/3 of the news outlets are buying the "truth" story.  I end up with the wrong impression.

So why is that so many negative commentaries popped up?  Is someone googlebombing the lies?

by Teddy T 2004-08-10 09:01PM | 0 recs
Re: But...
Yes, someone is googlebombing the lies. We must reverse the trend.

Swift Boat

by Chris Bowers 2004-08-10 09:20PM | 0 recs
Re: But...How?
Any simple advice for us newbies
on how to counter-googlebomb
on swiftboat lies?

(This effort in addition to our regular
searches for "spreading santorum"!)

by Woody 2004-08-11 07:48AM | 0 recs

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