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The Obama Corollary

Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.

Poe’s Law

Reading about Ed Klein’s new “biography” of Barack Obama, Amateur1, I was inspired to come up with “The Obama Corollary” to Poe’s Law:

Without explicitly labeling it as fiction it is impossible to create a parody of a smear of Barack  Obama that is distinguishable from an actual smear of Barack Obama.

American political campaigns have always been dirty, but I always had a sense that there was a line somewhere that people didn’t cross. When it comes to smearing Barack Obama, there doesn’t appear to be a line anywhere. St. Paul wrote:

Remember, in the time to come they will find healthy teaching intolerable and provide themselves with a host of teachers more to their liking who will massage their ears. They will turn away from hearing the truth and turn to toward mythology. You must keep a clear head amidst all that, keep struggling on, and do your job as a messenger of the good word, giving full service.

2 Timothy 4, Gaus

Paul is not talking about politics, but the insight about people surrounding themselves with sources of information friendly to their own beliefs could have come right out of a modern book on the information society.

I don’t know a lot about Klein’s book, and as for whether any of it is true or not, see “The Obama Corollary”. The Think Progress web site has a nice smear of Klein, if you’d like to read it.

The reason that I was motivated to write this article is that with the Republican nominating process over and the general election heating up, I expect to see more and more smears aimed at Barack Obama over the next 6 months,  and there are a bunch of folks who will be on a steady diet of these smears, excreting them in blogs, and posting them as comments. It’s going to get ugly before it’s over and I have to “gird up my loins” in preparation, or maybe I should just focus on my stamp collection.


1I understand the title, Amateur, is from an alleged quotation by Bill Clinton, who is described in book as having strongly encouraging Hillary to run against Obama in 2012. Klein also “quotes” Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor, as saying that he was offered money to keep quiet during the 2008 election. Bill Clinton called Klein a “liar” (pot, kettle, black).

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9 Responses to The Obama Corollary

  1. avatar
    Chef May 14, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    When you refer to a “smear” about Obama, you take it for granted that what you believe about Obama is the Truth about Obama.

    I recommend higher dosages of skepticism.

  2. avatar
    sfjeff May 14, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    Chef: When you refer to a “smear” about Obama, you take it for granted that what you believe about Obama is the Truth about Obama.I recommend higher dosages of skepticism.

    I think you are the one taking for granted what Doc or take for example, myself consider a ‘smear’.

    Here is what I consider a ‘smear’- a wholly unsubstantiated rumor intended to besmirch the reputation of a person- often filled with slightly veiled racism, religious bigotry or ethnic bigotry, and often attempting to smear by implying guilt by association.

    Back in 2007, my email box was often the recipient of such smears. You remember those don’t you? That Obama was a secret Muslim? That he was a secret Communist? That his grandmother said he was born in Africa? That Obama himself admitted he was born in Africa?

    Now none of these made much sense, but I did my due diligence and researched them and found that they were all lies. Blatant, and pretty much veiled racist lies.

    So the simple test I have now is: is the claim substantiated- are there links back to a real source? If the claim doesnt’ even have that, I just call it a lie and move on. I am tired of doing the research to prove Birthers wrong, when frankly too many of them are so willing to lie about Barack Obama.

  3. avatar
    nbc May 14, 2012 at 4:33 am #

    Chef:
    When you refer to a “smear” about Obama, you take it for granted that what you believe about Obama is the Truth about Obama.

    I recommend higher dosages of skepticism.

    Well, you can be the total skeptic but so far there is little doubt in any reasonable mind that President Obama was born on US soil.

    I do understand why some out of fear and ignorance have chosen to believe otherwise but that they have failed to provide much of any evidence.

    Does that help? You can be skeptic to only such an extent before it becomes just untenable…

  4. avatar
    Paper May 14, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    Even fictional characters know Barack Obama is eligible to be president: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” (Sherlock Holmes/Arthur Conan Doyle)

  5. avatar
    Majority Will May 14, 2012 at 8:47 am #

    Chef: I recommend higher dosages of skepticism.

    Why would I take advice from you?

  6. avatar
    Sef May 14, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    Chef: I recommend higher dosages of skepticism.

    You’ve been eating too much of your own cooking, Chef.

  7. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy May 14, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    When I called the book a “smear” I wasn’t judging whether it was true nor not, but rather characterizing in a straightforward way the content of the book. Check out the opening paragraph of the Wikipedia article on “Smear Campaign.”

    A smear campaign, smear tactic or simply smear is a metaphor for activity that can harm an individual or group’s reputation by conflation with a stigmatized group. Sometimes smear is used more generally to include any reputation-damaging activity, including such colloquialisms as mud slinging.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smear_campaign

    A smear essentially “guilt by association” and in this case the association between Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright is the story in the book that I was focusing on.

    sfjeff: I think you are the one taking for granted what Doc or take for example, myself consider a ‘smear’.

    Here is what I consider a ‘smear’- a wholly unsubstantiated rumor intended to besmirch the reputation of a person- often filled with slightly veiled racism, religious bigotry or ethnic bigotry, and often attempting to smear by implying guilt by association.

  8. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy May 14, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    Calling it a smear has nothing to do with whether it is true or not, but about the kind of rhetoric. I do have, I think, a healthy skepticism about everything I read on this topic from all sides.

    Chef: When you refer to a “smear” about Obama, you take it for granted that what you believe about Obama is the Truth about Obama.

    I recommend higher dosages of skepticism.

  9. avatar
    Rickey May 14, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    Media Matters published the transcript of a 2005 interview with Ed Klein by Al Franken and Joe Conason:

    http://mediamatters.org/research/200506240007