Lies are sticky critters, often advancing complex, covert agendas that are essentially denial-resistant. That’s why the new Web site launched by the Obama campaign — fightthesmears.com — to counter the rumors and absurdities about the candidate and his wife that have proliferated in this election season (surprise, surprise), while it may be necessary, is hardly sufficient.
Outright lies, malicious semi-truths and other smear tactics originate at and define a certain level of consciousness, where they maintain as much credibility as the truth, and can only be effectively dissolved from a higher level of consciousness. Picture a parent halting a child’s whopper-in-progress with a skeptical look. Poof. Game over. Now wash your hands for dinner, honey.
The dark forces of the GOP — the forces of fear and prejudice — cannot be “rebutted.” And they’re far too large for a candidate to take on single-handedly. We all have to do our part.
Take the most simple-minded and pernicious of the GOP untruths: that Barack Obama is a Muslim. To simply rebut or deny this “rumor,” and the various auxiliary rumors it has spawned — that he was sworn into the Senate on the Koran, that as a child he attended a “radical madrassa” — by pointing out that Obama is a Christian, one, doesn’t make the rumor go away; and two, leaves the larger damage this rumor spreads unchallenged and, indeed, strengthened.
It’s not like he’s being accused of being an Episcopalian! The implicit message in this lie — that if Obama were a Muslim it would be very bad, and certainly make him unfit to be president — is a major plank in what I would call the GOP shadow platform. This platform has to be exposed, first, and then dismantled plank by plank before the lies, distortions and just plain goofy assertions that emanate from Fox News (a.k.a., Faux News) and the right-wing blogosphere will lose their smear power.
I would add that the work of doing so is far more important than merely helping a Democrat win an election, which is why the heavy lifting should not be left to the Obama campaign. The GOP shadow platform, which has sustained George Bush through eight years of spectacular misrule, is a crippling, regressive national force that we must outgrow if we want to survive, let alone prosper.
To that end, I offer this initial, far from comprehensive analysis of the Republican shadow platform, as discerned from the predictable and often creepy get-Barack and get-Michelle games its zealots play, as well as from some of the party’s official talking points.
· Assertion: Obama is a Muslim. Shadow platform plank: The Christian God is better. All Muslims are terrorists. We’re in the midst of a holy war, which must be won at any cost.
· Assertion: Michelle Obama’s affectionate fist bump with her husband as they walked offstage was a “terrorist fist jab” (in the words of Fox anchorperson E.D. Hill). Shadow platform plank: White people don’t do things like that. If African-Americans want to attain positions of responsibility, they must jettison any vestige of soul culture.
· Assertion: Michelle used the word “whitey” when she spoke from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ. Shadow platform plank: Black people hate us. They are incurably and irrationally bitter and refuse to show appreciation for all that white people have done for them.
· Assertion: Obama refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance/doesn’t wear a flag lapel pin. Shadow platform plank: Only Republicans love the flag and other national symbols, and therefore only Republicans can be trusted. Patriotism requires symbol worship. He who hesitates is probably an enemy.
· Assertion: Michelle’s comment that she was proud of her country “for the first time during my adult lifetime” is insulting. Shadow platform plank: America is the greatest country on earth. Always has been, always will be. Criticism of this country is anti-American. Dredging up the past is anti-American. Black people, in particular, need to just get over it.
· Assertion: Obama is an appeaser who “has pledged to unconditionally meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” and other sworn enemies of America and Israel. Shadow platform plank: Talk is for wimps. In international disputes, America shoots first and asks questions later. Our collateral damage always serves the larger good. All our enemies are the reincarnation of Hitler. Never stop being afraid. They’re smarter than we are, so we have to kill them.
The Democratic Party used to have a similar shadow platform, and many of its operatives are nervous that it no longer does. An element of the party thinks it can’t win without one, to which I say “Yes, we can.” If you agree, signify by bumping fists.
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Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer. You can respond to this column ator visit his Web site at commonwonders.com.
© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.