Whether you call it disinformation, propaganda or just plain fake news, it's all around us -- provocative, unsourced or unverified stories that give a veneer of plausibility to an assertion that comes with an agenda but no basis in fact. The Planned Parenthood body parts video was an example that went viral before it was discredited.
Many other stories never achieve enough notoriety to get get fact-checked and investigated. They just slip into the general chatter of media and social media. Sometimes they piggyback on vague fears of something that's real, but poorly understood and frightening. Something like the so-called "Dark Web," where most of us have heard that a variety of evil-doers traffic in contraband of all sorts.
I came across this example last night on our local news, Channel 15, Madison WI. (Since Channel 15 did not post the story on the Web, the link is to another station that ran the same story.) The story claimed that in 2008 Barrack Obama absentee votes were bought for $1,400 each on the "dark web" (cue up the spooky music). What slanderous bs. In 2012 the presidential candidates spent $22 per voter on TV advertising. Why would anybody ante up 70 times that much per vote? They wouldn't. The figure was chosen purely for its scandalous impact.
The story seems to be personalized by the voter demographics of where it's going to air. In the story at the link, Trump votes were going for $400 each. In Channel 15's otherwise identical story, Hillary votes were going for $400. Again, do the math -- it makes no sense. The only thing this story is designed to do is to implant the notion "Hillary is buying votes" in the casual viewers' mind and encourage them to share it with their friends.
What the hell are you doing, Channel 15? And why? Please stop it.