Shaking a fist at Monkeyfister

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The end is near, or at least that’s what the blogger Monkeyfister would have you believe, based on his marathon live blogging of the oil spill as seen through the video feed from the ocean floor.

Witness these updates from Sunday:

UPDATE 1:20pm CDT: While watching, ANOTHER major “explosion” occurred. ROV Cam now covered in Oil. It was pushed around by the force of expulsion, or moved back a few feet by controllers. Our Favorite Disaster Bot is taking a beating. Gush seems to have at least doubled in size and volume.

UPDATE 6:03pm CDT: The current eruption is way, way worse than the several that occurred earlier. I think this might be a “Main Event” situation.”
UPDATE 11:51pmCDT: Another major eruption. These are not coming from the riser. They are coming in to view from elsewhere, even in the long, high-view shots. Sometimes from behind the ROV. Twenty-four hours of near non-stop SpillCam viewing, and not one look at the BOP.

Such observations served only to ratchet up anxiety. It was made worse as others online picked up on the hysteria, spreading it through Twitter and well-read sites.

Sensational for sure, but was it news?

Monkeyfister apparently gets a lot of his raw material from participating in the real-time forum Life After the Oil Crash.   While the forum itself has many different threads, one in particular is dedicated to people watching the spill cam. Newcomers ask what’s going on and get filled in by a key group of individuals who seem to be chained to the feed.

The forum describes itself in a way that suggests that it’s for people who are not wondering if the end is near, but for people who are actively preparing for it: “This forum is for people who recognize we are already in the midst of massive economic and environmental dislocations and would like to prepare for, mitigate, and minimize those dislocations in their own lives.”

Following Monkeyfister from the on-line observation deck back to his blog, you can see how this information is so compelling that others felt it worth spreading far and wide on the Internet.

All day Sunday, Monkeyfister observed an inexplicable explosion-like movement 5,000 feet below the surface. Within hours, alarm over a “collapsing” seafloor began to make its way across the blogosphere, hitting widely read national sites, including Firelakedog. The fearful cries are still out there, but no more context or verification has come out in support of the blogger analysis.

In short, who in heck knows what is really going on down there?

Firedoglake made its name with fanatical live blogging of the perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr., former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

The differences, however, between live blogging a trial and live blogging a massive underwater pipe leaking oil are manifold, and deep as… well, you get it.

Comments like this one started popping up on websites like The Oil Drum: “The seafloor appears to have collapsed after a series of explosions and all hell has broken loose at the head.  Apparently, the BOP blew up and all bets are off,” wrote a contributor named Mason, with a link back to Monkeyfister.

On Monday, Mason wrote a post on Firedoglake, and Monkeyfister posted to Corrente, another  site with considerable traffic.

This disaster has been slowly unfolding with great scientific uncertainty. Information deemed accurate is closely followed by contradictory information.

It’s difficult enough to make sense of daily developments without having to wonder if a blogger sitting somewhere has keen insider information or is treating the underwater feed like a video game with no true understanding about the need for fact-based information.

While the official word of BP inspires little confidence, the cries of Armageddon may actually induce uninformed panic in a region where informed panic is scary enough.

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