That Crazy Story Burning Up The Intertubes
I Will Not Only Not Link To
Will Only Discuss Obliquely
So, let's pretend that some monumentally weird and outlandish allegations about a candidate for very high office suddenly surfaced on the intertubes. Suppose also that the candidate in question was the candidate of a party that had acted so badly and governed so ineptly and campaigned so dirtily for so much of the last decade that even many sane and level-headed people were beside themselves with anger and fully righteous indignation. But suppose that the alleged actions in question were really, literally, actually and factually so flat-out nutty, so completely freakish, so thoroughgoingly loony that the antecedent likelihood that they were true was very, very, very, veeeeeeeery low. Now. Under such circumstances it seems that common human decency would demand that questions about the allegations in question should be treated delicately and judiciously unless some fairly substantial evidence as to their truth should should arise. Among other things, it seems fairly clear that everyone (for example, certain folks at dKos) should avoid any assertions that said allegations are true, especially on the basis of nothing more substantive than the casual inspection of a few pictures.
Although, as some (for example, people at The Atlantic) have noted, it is our obligation to pursue the truth in this matter, let me suggest the following principle:
The more bizarre the allegations, the more proof one needs before making them public.
The allegations in question are awfully darned weird, and the proof being offered in support of them is pretty darned weak. So it seems like the reasonable thing to do is for everybody to throttle back and stand by until the people who are in a position to actually investigate the matter have come up with something more like a prima facie case.
I'm not trying to block the road of inquiry, I'm just suggesting that, in cases like this, there is a human cost associated with even asking questions publicly--and the intertubes are terribly, terribly public. Therefore it seems that any investigation and discussion of such allegations should remain discreet in the early stages, until stronger evidence emerges.
Furthermore, on a prudential note, it is probably worth noting that, if the allegations turn out to be false--as they probably will--this whole thing will end up helping elect people who should absolutely, positively not be elected. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by splashing these charges all over the place in these preliminary forms, and there is much to be lost. Even just raising the question has a strategic cost in addition to a moral cost.
The election is two months away. There is plenty of time to look into this matter if it's warranted. There is absolutely no reason to splash this stuff all over the web before anyone knows anything really substantive about it.
[Update: the nutty, scurrilous rumor to which I refer in this post is distinct from the now-confirmed rumors of Palin's daughter's pregnancy. But, with luck, that revelation will put the other, nuttier rumor to rest. So lets all just forget about it, shall we?]