Conspiracy Theory of the Day
On his excellent blog, the Harvard economist Greg Mankiw (written about most recently here) posted a one-line item about a new ranking of economics blogs. The rankings are apparently determined by the number of incoming links for each blog. A commenter named Karl Smith had this to say:
Freakonomics I believe is artificially high because it has a shadow blog that reposts everything in Spanish. So that adds an extra link to every single post.
Oh yes, I’d forgotten all about our “Spanish shadow blog”! Many thanks to Karl Smith for reminding us.
In other words … Huh? Unless Karl Smith knows something that we don’t know, there is no shadow blog in Spanish. But what’s interesting about this assertion is not just how wrong it is, but how creative an explanation it is, and how believable it sounds. In the case under discussion — the ranking of economics blogs — the stakes are so small that this kind of mistruth is meaningless. But if the subject were more important, and if Karl Smith’s conspiracy-theory contribution was read and believed by a lot of people … well, that’s how a lot of people end up believing things that aren’t remotely true.
My point is all wrong, of course, if there actually is a shadow blog in Spanish. If that’s the case, I owe Mr. Smith an apology, and we owe thanks to whomever is staying up all night to translate our blog posts into Spanish. It is presumably not Andy Rooney.