President Obama wears a gold band on his left hand. From his Harvard school days comes a humorous statement from a satirical Harvard student publication written by Obama about the ring:
Latest Accomplishments: … Deflecting Persistent Questioning about Ring On Left Hand.
The ring appeared in photos as early as 1987 [1981 - see update at the end of this article] when young Obama traveled to Kenya to meet relatives and visit the grave of his father.
WorldNetDaily’s Jerome Corsi has come up with a tale that there is an Arabic inscription about Allah or something on the ring (thoroughly debunked on the Urban Legends site). That suggestion is absurd on the face of it; if Obama were a closet Muslim, he’d never wear a ring that could be blown up to the size of a watermelon by any photographer with a foot-long telephoto lens. Corsi makes lots of stuff up, although I think this is originally the product of fellow smear author Joel Gilbert.
Conspiracy theory thinking
I think this is a very informative story about the mental defects in conspiracy thinking. There are excellent close-up photos of Obama’s ring out there, but Jerome Corsi at WND relies on photos blown up beyond their original resolution to add noise to them. In reality there’s nothing whatever written on the ring — just a regular flat wavy line pattern. Here’s the Corsi imagination photo:
Here’s what a clear photo (Free Republic, 2009) looks like:
What’s informative is that conspiracy thinkers are very good at imposing patterns where there are none, or in this case imagining information where there is just a regular wave pattern, with a little noise due to blur and glare in the photos. Conspiracy thinkers fill in the blanks with imagination. There’s nothing wrong with imagination so long as the mental facilities exist to filter out nonsense — conspiracy thinkers like Corsi lack that.
The same imagination gone awry in this article is found all through Corsi’s writing, from finding imaginary smiley faces in Onaka’s signature on the long-form birth certificate, to finding significance in people Obama has known over the years.
This silliness about the ring is emblematic for the birther movement as a whole.
Speculation, all speculation
Because it is pretty much all speculation where the ring came from, and the Arabic writing business has been completely debunked at the Urban Legends site, I might have just ignored the story completely except for the fact that I took some photos of Obama’s ring myself, and thought I would share them, for what it’s worth.
I think I’ll go with the tourist souvenir theory for now. A commenter here pointed out that this style looks like a popular East African design of an elephant hair bracelet. Here’s an example of the elephant hair design in a ring.
WAIT, I think I can make out some writing, only it’s not Arabic, but Reformed Egyptian. I think it says “Corsi is a nut case.”
I have traced Obama’s ring back even further to his time at Occidental College around 1981. That is the year that he traveled to Indonesia to visit his mother and sister (and made his famous side-trip to Pakistan). It is clearly visible in a photo from that time:
Photo from PBS Frontline video “The Choice 2012.”