The nastiest rumours of the 2008 US election

Obama is the subject of a far greater volume of these e-mails – as many as 20-to-1 concern the Democratic nominee, said Brooks Jackson, the director of the nonpartisan Annenberg Political Fact Check.

And they come in waves.

“Whenever Obama builds a lead – that’s when you hear a new one,” said Reason Magazine writer David Weigel, the journalist who labored most in the vineyards of the fringe this cycle. “The calmest period for this stuff was the two weeks when McCain was ahead in the polls.”

The stories, he said, capture “a fear of the other that is given form in ways that most terrify the people who make this stuff up.”