The rumors of a “Cindy McCain affair” surfaced on the internet from a very unusual source on June 18th 2008. Fasten your seat belts because the anatomy of an internet rumor may surprise you.

Most internet rumors start with a story on a blog. Someone posts a sensational piece of gossip without a shred of evidence but it gets picked up by readers and other blogs because of the interesting nature of the gossip. Suddenly the dubious story sweeps the blogosphere to the point where a presidential candidate gets asked to deny it. The Michelle Obama “Whitey” tape was just such a story, a rumor started on a blog which was eventually addressed by Barack Obama in a press conference.

The tale of a Cindy McCain affair has an even more suspicious beginning. The rumor did not start from a blog or any news source at all. Instead, is started from internet searches themselves! About 9pm EST on June 18th 2008 a giant rush of internet searches for “Cindy McCain affair” were made in the Google search engine.

Google keeps a list of hot searches that it makes available to bloggers as a service to the blogging community. The service tracks what people are looking for on the internet at any given hour. Many bloggers keep abreast of those search trends for stories that they might have missed. Many stories will appear on the internet as a result of monitoring those hot searches, something I like to call “me too” stories.

That is what happened with the Cindy McCain affair rumor. It was manufactured out of thin air as a result of a giant rush of sudden, inexplicable internet searches for the topic. Whether the search engines were deliberately manipulated to produce a buzz is anyone’s guess. My guess is the campaigns are sophisticated enough about the internet to know that computerized searches can be rigged to simulate a million searches in an hour to produce a Machiavellian effect. Create enough searches for a story and you create the story.

Predictably, a thin blog post then appeared as a response to the searches themselves. Credit this time goes to an unknown blog called “Corey’s Hijinks” which first published an article about the rumored Cindy McCain affair about 60 minutes after the searches first stormed the internet. Corey’s Hijinks has been in existence for 60 days and claims “Word, thoughts, and other junk” as a slogan. It posts stories exclusively based on hot searches, manufacturing a supply for a perceived search demand.

So some opportunist named “Corey” typed a few words into his blog after studying the searches. The article begins “Looks like some dirt has just some out of the woodwork — a Cindy McCain affair?” It continues with three incoherent sentences which insert the phrase “Maryland divorce lawyer” which appears to be some attempt to manipulate its SEO keywords for commercial purposes. The blog is so bad and the post is so manipulative that we could not possibly link it.

Well that was enough to get the next blog excited. My Town Talks blogged the manufactured story of a Cindy McCain affair, which cited the fictitious Maryland divorce lawyer from the other story.

Its rumored that an unnamed Maryland divorce lawyer has stated that Cindy Mccain had some unnamed affair. Who knows she may have. She is a good bit younger than McCain so its possible he can’t keep up.

Where two can play at manufacturing rumors, three can surely do better. In steps Gay Socialites, normally a respected news blog to carry the bogus story. Their article is dressed up with a photo of Cindy McCain appearing with the ominous heading “Did Cindy McCain have an affair on her husband?” and in their fiction the lawyer himself is having the affair.

“Rumor on the web is that John McCain’s rich wife Cindy had an affair with a Maryland divorce attorney. How do we know? Said divorce attorney is telling everyone so!

By now the folks who started the rumor are laughing over their campaign cocktails as a famed celebrity blogger next takes the bait. Gabby Babble breathlessly reproduces the story of Cindy McCain’s affair.

Anyhow, the rumors swirling out there now suggest that Cindy McCain had an affair. Apparently some unnamed lawyer from Maryland has started blabbing about this. Why should we care if she’s having an affair or not? It’s not against the law – it’s juicy gossip, that’s why!

So there you have it. An internet rumor manufactured first by unknown blogs followed by respected news sites in response to perceived search demand for the story. It is a field of dreams on the internet which proves that if you come, they will build it.