"TOYOTA PRIUS - MORE WASTEFUL THAN A HUMMER?"
"OFFICIAL SAYS WTC COLLAPSE 'UNEXPLAINED'"
Why It Works:
They call it "Source Amnesia." For instance, you know what a wolverine is, but probably don't remember exactly how you learned that piece of information. The brain has limited storage, so it stores just the important nugget (that a wolverine is a small, ferocious animal) but usually discards the trivial context, such as when and where you learned about it (the movie Red Dawn, probably).
In the era of the web and information overload, that's a mechanism They can exploit very easily. What They have found is that a piece of information--say, an ugly rumor about a politician--can be presented with all sorts of qualifiers (a question mark, attribution to a shitty source, the word "unconfirmed") but often the brain will only remember the ugly rumor and completely forget the qualifier.
And get this: it happens even if the headline we read was specifically about the rumor being untrue.
You'll see this daily, in every election cycle. The entire point of putting a shaky rumor into the press is to force your opponent to deny it. Why? Because They know that the denial works just as well as the accusation. Thanks to Source Amnesia, for millions of people all three of these ...
SMITH DENIES GAY BORDELLO RUMORS
SMITH REFUSES COMMENT ON GAY BORDELLO RUMORS
SMITH ADMITS GAY COCK BORDELLO
... register as the exact same headline.
During the presidential primaries, Drudge ran a huge photo of Barack Obama wearing a turban. Under it was an inflammatory headline about how disgusting it was that Clinton staffers were circulating such a picture.
But a huge number of people who saw it only remembered the picture (months later, 13% of voters still thought he was a muslim). That's the idea.