Friday, January 26, 2007

Anatomy of a Smear

Someone is trying to smear Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois. An anonymous smear, being spread by Theopublican outlets, claims that Obama was trained as a youth at a Muslim madrassa, or religious school. It is an intentional distortion of the facts meant to harm the Democrat.

We know who first published this smear. It is Insight magazine, a publication connected to the Unification Church cult of Rev. Moon,, a man who claims he is the new Jesus. This cult has poured millions into the extreme Right in the United States and is closely connected to the far Right in the Republican Party.

This publication says that Obama “has not been forthcoming about his Muslim heritage”. Perhaps because he doesn’t have one. The publication attributes the smear to anonymous sources supposedly within the camp of Hiliary Clinton. Clinton’s campaign denies it. But since Insight doesn’t name any names I suggest they be treated as if they invented the story out of whole cloth.

Here is the lie as printed by Insight: “Obama was raised as a Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia. ...[He] spent at least four years in a so-called Madrass, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia.” They quote an unnamed source saying “He was a Muslim, but he concealed it. His opponents within the Democrats hope this will become a major issue in the campaign.” They say that in his autobiography Obama “mentions but does not expand on his Muslim background, alluding only to his attendance at a ‘predominantly Muslim school.’” The Right-wing rag says “the U.S. intelligence community has determined that today mos of these schools are financed by the Saudi Arabian government and they teach a Wahhabi doctrine that denies the rights of non-Muslims.”

Now for some facts before we go further with how the extreme Right is spreading this lie.

First, Obama says he was not raised as a Muslim. He says his father, who divorced his mother when Obama was two years old, had been raised a Muslim but was an atheist when he married his mother. His mother, from Kansas, he says was secular. He is a member of the United Church of Christ himself. His mother meet and remarried an Indonesian and moved to Indonesia with the young Obama.

And what is this “predominantly Muslim school” he mentions? Is this a madrassa? No, it was a public school in Indonesia. Why is it predominantly Muslim? For the same reason any public school in the U.S. is predominantly Christian. The vast majority of Indonesians are Muslims. Insight uses the quote to imply that it is a madrassa but the quote itself proves it wasn’t. A madrassa would not be “predominantly” Muslim but exclusively Muslim.

Numerous news outlets investigated the school and all of them came to the same conclusion. The school is a public school. Like all public schools in Indonesia it has religious classes but the classes on Islam are for Muslims and Christian students go to Christian classes. Indonesia doesn’t practice separation of church and state -- something you would think the Theopublicans would be applauding. The assistant headmaster of the school, Akhmad Solihim told ABC News, who went to the school to actually check the facts, “We are a regular public school.”

So it was not a madrassa, not funded by the Saudis and not an exponent of Wahhabism. That was all invented. Insight said he attended for four years. In reality he attended for two years and then transferred to a Catholic school, where they worship Jesus not Rev. Moon. Obama moved back to his birth country, the United States, when he was ten years old. So for a total of four years he was living outside the U.S. as a child, was not raised Muslim and did not attend a madrassa and only attended the "predominantly Muslim" school for two years, from the ages of six to eight.

But the radical Right Insight got the story out using their “anonymous” sources. And when pressed to defend the story insist that the information did come from the Clinton camp but offer zero proof that is the case. I have little doubt that Hilary and her people could do something like this but there is no evidence that they did.

Once Insight reported on the story Fox News picked up the smear and added new invented material to the accusation. (Play the Fox News distortion above.) On the abominably bad Fox and Friends show host Steve Doocy said that Obama spent “the first decade of his life raised by his Muslim father as a Muslim and was educated in a madrassa.” So much for objective reporting! Count the falsehoods in that one sentence.

1. Obama lived with his father from birth to two years of age not for the “first decade of his life”.
2. His father was an atheist by the time Obama was born and no longer Muslim.
3. Obama was not raised a Muslim.
4. He was not educated in a madrassa.

That has to be a new record of some sort. To pack four falsehoods into one sentence is not easy. It takes effort. While they attribute the story to Insight they also expand the story. Insight falsely claimed Obama attended a madrassa for four years. Fox has this expanded to the first decade of his life. Remember Obama lived in the US until he was six and was only in Indonesia for four years.

Notice that Fox made zero effort to confirm any of these claims. They simply repeat the lies over and over and over in this report. And they have the audacity to question the veracity of the New York Times in this report!

In another segment on Fox John Gibson, who wrote a distorted book on the alleged war on Christmas, reported that Obama smoked and wanted viewers to consider, “would you vote for a smoker as President?” Now there is a, pardon the pun, burning issue of the day. I’d take a smoker over a liar any day!

Gibson has no shame and no scruples. After this attack on Obama for smoking he tried to justify it. He brought up the old theory that smokers lack character! And then he brought in the madrassa smear saying: “That, my friends, is way, way worse than saying he smokes Marlboros.” Gibson is disgusting. He says Obama, "attended a predominantly Muslim school as a youngster in Indonesia -- translation: madrassa.” What a prick! It doesn’t translate into a madrassa at all. Every public high school in the US is predominantly Christian when it comes to the student body but that doesn’t make them Bible schools. Most publis schools in Indonesia are predominantly Muslim but the schools are madrassas.

Gibson, then makes fun of a potential Obama television commercial: “Hi, I'm Barack Obama. Funny thing happened to me on my way to the White House. Somebody discovered I didn't go to a kindergarten. I went to a madrassa.” Talk about dirty reporting. We should note that even if this were true, and it is NOT, how can anyone hold Obama responsible for the school he was sent to as a six year old?

And to cap off how reliable Fox News can be look at this report. Watch carefully. Here is a report about a man being arrested for child molestation. So what do they show as the film clip, in an almost subliminal way, to illustrate a child molester? They show Obama supporters carrying signs for the candidate including one sign that was a photo of the candidate! Anyone else think that Fox News is out to get Obama any way they can? See this clip below.

Disclosure: I have no intention of supporting Obama or Clinton for president. I see no likely candidate worth supporting. The likely Republican candidates turn my stomach and the Democrats seem intent on trying to find someone who is even worse.