Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rumor EPA was using drones for surveillance of pollution from farms, fed by Fox, is shot down

"The Environmental Protection Agency isn't using drone aircraft -- in the Midwest or anywhere else," David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post reports, in an effort to quash rumors that the agency was using the same drones used to kill terrorists to spy on Midwestern farmers. The rumor filled airwaves this month, and Fahrenthold writes this reveals "something hard to capture in American politics: the vibrant, almost viral, life cycle of a falsehood."

The lie was born out of true reports about EPA inspectors flying in small planes, something they've done for more than 10 years, looking for clean-water violations. The flights are legal, says the EPA, under a 1986 Supreme Court decision, and only cost about $1,000 to $2,500 instead of the $10,000 it costs to do the same inspections on the ground.

Nebraska ranchers have recently become concerned about the effects of the flights, calling them an invasion of privacy. A coalition of Nebraska's congressional delegation wrote a letter to the EPA asking about the planes and the flights. They never mentioned drones, but Fahrenthold reports that soon after the letter was sent, someone did start mentioning drones and the rumor quickly got out of hand. "In the days since, the truth has begun, slowly, to rouse itself and stagger after the lie," Fahrenthold reports. (Read more)

The rumor was fed by Megan Kelly of the Fox News Channel, which issued a "clarification" after Farenthold's story.

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