Monday, July 14, 2008

New Yorker Depicted Obama Horribly Wrong, but Got It Horribly Right about the Slanders
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

New Yorker Magazine’s under fire cover illustrator Barry Blitt says his infuriating cover was intended only to show that the incessant rumor that Obama is a closet terrorist is preposterous and ridiculous fear mongering. Team Obama’s rage at the inflammatory cover was beyond ballistic and nearly everyone with eyes and an opinion about it, and that included Republican rival John McCain, expressed the same ballistic anger at the New Yorker. But Blitt’s point that the ridiculous rumor mongering, gossip, slurs, and flat out falsities about Obama’s religion, patriotism, birth, and, of course race, are deep and widespread is horribly true. Even more frightening is that those slanders may touch a nerve in an unknown but frighteningly large number of voters. That danger was there from the start and there were packs of website ready to deepen that danger.

Obama had barely finished his announcement on the steps of the State Capitol at Springfield, Illinois in February, 2007 that he was in the hunt for presidency when the site Barack Exposed popped up on every search engine. The website was a put up job by Human Events, a fringe, ultraconservative outfit. It promised to expose the "truth" about Obama, from his alleged role in corruption scandals to doubletalk on the issues, and of course the signature hit item, his patriotism. At the time, it was rightly laughed off as a typical smear and slander by one of the pack of ultra-conservative hit squads.

The laughter didn’t last long. Obama’s breakout win in the Iowa Caucus in January instantly marked him as the potential Democrat's presidential go-to guy. It also set off alarm bells among the blog hit squads. Here’s a check list of the biggest, best known, and most virulent Obama dirt dealer sites that sprouted up after Iowa:

The anti-Obama bile, complete with the scurrilous and phony doctored photos of Obama as a Muslim terrorist is the staple on many of the sites, and is repeated as a sickening mantra by the Obama character maligners. Obama’s White House bid has virtually breathed new life into the unabashedly white supremacist group Stormfront’s site ( The group claims to get about 40,000 hits a day

Google belatedly realized that its engine was rapidly becoming a top conduit for spreading the anti-Obama rumor mongering hate and shut down several of the more blatant anti-Obama sites. It sternly warned that any site that engaged in lathering Obama with vicious personal slurs would be promptly shut down. This drew some mild criticism that Google was stifling free speech, but the right to propagate malicious slander and lies hardly qualifies as a free speech protection, let alone legitimate political criticism.

There were early warning signals of the on-line ugliness that could come. Talk show gasser Rush Limbaugh took the first real swipe when he derisively sneered at Obama as the Magic Negro. Limbaugh kind of sort of backed away from it. But the message was that Obama was not exempt from a racial dig. That was much evident in the short-lived furor over Obama's former Southside Chicago church, and the controversial outbursts of his former pastor Jeremiah Wright.

The inference was that Obama's guilt by membership and friendship with him made him a closet radical and a race baiter. But long before the Wright controversy broke in the national media, more than a few of the above mentioned anti-Obama sites had a field day lambasting him and Wright.

The nitpicking continued on the most trivial things such as his chain smoking, his admitted flirt with drugs, and pokes at his wife, Michelle as outspoken, bossy and domineering, and America hating. This slander against her has been almost as popular on the sites as knocking Obama as unpatriotic and inferring he’s a closet Muslim terrorist.

The great danger is that the lies and maliciousness the Obama slander sites busily fan could or has had some resonance with some voters, especially the much fought over independents. They make up about one quarter of American electorate, and the overwhelming majority of them are white, and centrist to conservative in their views.

The fear that the rumors could hurt prompted Obama and the campaign to take the unprecedented step of putting up an anti-smear website to counter the lies. It also prompted Obama in January to do a teleconference call with Jewish reporters to refute the rumors that he was a Muslim.

New Yorker Magazine’s editors may well as the claim depicted Obama and Michelle as flag hating, unpatriotic, violent terrorists to show the absolute vileness and absurdity of the rampant slanders. But the magazine which is the nation’s staid, bastion of highbrow culture and thinking inadvertently or deliberately imprinted the damaging slanders in the thoughts of an even more unknown number of voters. The same as the legion of dirt dealing Obama blogs have done.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).


Editor said...

Better placement of the cartoon (perhaps within the article) rather than on the magazine cover might have avoided the confusion if there was no intent to offend and/or mislead.

Perhaps a more fitting cover illustration, or a suitable caption, could have directed readers to the article (which I am told by a person who read it is positive towards the Senator but has no relation to the cartoon).

This would have avoided the adverse impact on those who merely see the cover on newsstands and continue on their way in their busy schedules, and minimized fuel provided for the hatemongers.

Thankfully Time Magazine was much more tasteful with its cover and related articles paying tribute to the 90th birthday of Nelson Mandela (July 21, 2008 edition).

How we use our First Amendment rights has great impact.

"The Siamese twin of freedom is responsibility.
They're inseparable!"
-- Theo Wilson

The time is long overdue for Responsibility In Free Speech!

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous
than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

- Dr Martin Luther King, Jr (1963)


Ryan said...

If Barrack Hussein Obama's name was actually James Henry Smith, this election would be over. The landslide of the GW years would be too much for a Republican candidate to overcome.

Hard to believe we have so many among us that would actually be swayed by a mans name, and what his estranged father way like.

Wait! Why am I surprised, this is the same group of US citizens that would actually believe in the swiftboating of John Kerry. How does earning a Purple Heart work against you?

Every generation has grown to realize the incredible amount of ignorance that exists. Are things getting better over time? Is society becoming less ignorant? I really can't say, especially when we get reminded by things like this.

Anonymous said...

You're right Ryan. The ignorance is astounding. But the US Does have a reputation for being an ignorant nation, and not for nothing. Too bad though.

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Anonymous said...

Slick Barry Obama is a career liar. Don't pretend that all these terrible "smears" are lies. There are plenty of facts about his career that you and he may not like being reported, but the truth sometimes hurts.