How to start a hoax against a presidential candidate

June 29, 2008

Hoax complaints against presidential candidates are old ideas. In 1796, Alexander Hamilton paid newspaper editors to print stories saying Thomas Jefferson was atheist. It was a minor theme in that campaign, but after John Adams’ political fortunes foundered on the Alien and Sedition Acts, among other missteps, Hamilton stepped up the attacks in the election of 1800.

Jefferson’s great biographer, Dumas Malone, estimates that by election day, fully half the American electorate believed Jefferson was atheist. Jefferson made a perfect target for such a charge — staunch advocate of religious freedom, he thought it beneath the dignity of a politician to answer such charges at all, so he did not bother to deny them publicly. Ministers in New England told their congregations they would have to hide their Bibles because, as president, Jefferson would send troops to confiscate them.

In a warning to hoaxers, we might hope, Americans elected Jefferson anyway.

Such nefariousness plagues campaigns today, still. Boone Pickens, who helped fund the Swiftboat Veterans’ calumny against war hero John Kerry, has an offer to pay $1 million to anyone who can show the charges false. In a replay of Holocaust denial cases, Pickens refuses to accept any evidence to pay the award, last week turning away the affidavits of the men who were present at the events.

At the Bathtub, we’ve already sampled a crude and steady attempt to brand Hillary Clinton a Marxist with creative editing of a few of her speeches.

The assaults on Barack Obama are already the stuff of legend. The comic strip, “Doonesbury,” is running a story line with a volunteer for the internet rumor stopping part of the campaign, FighttheSmears.com. The smears are real.

Doonesbury strip 6-28-2008

Matthew Most of the Washington Post wrote a lengthy piece in yesterday’s paper, “An attack that came out of the ether,” on the research done by a woman at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, on the origins of the internet hoax that Barack Obama is a Muslim — a rumor so potent that Georgetown University Prof. Edward Luttwak repeated it in a New York Times op-ed article, without the fact checkers catching it (the Times consulted five scholars of Islam who all agreed the foundation for the claim is incorrect).

Danielle Allen has tracked the rumor back to its sources, in a failed campaign against Obama in Illinois and a candidate who admittedly was looking for mud, and one constant sniper at FreeRepublic.com. It’s impressive sleuthing, and the article would be a good departure for study of how media affect campaigns in a government or civics class.

The “how to” list is really very short:

  • Pick an area of a candidate’s life that is not well known. As the Hamilton campaign against Jefferson demonstrates, it’s useful if the candidate does not feature the issue in official biographies, and more useful if the candidate doesn’t respond. Michael Dukakis let several issues slide in his campaign for the presidency, saying that he didn’t think the public would be misled. The public was waiting for a rebuttal.
  • It helps if there is a factoid that is accurate in the rumor. Obama’s father was Muslim. Most Americans were receptive to the false claim that in Islam, a child is considered Muslim unless there is a conversion. A part of the rumor claims Obama was never baptized Christian. Of course, no one has asked to see John McCain’s baptismal papers. One wonders whether a rumor about McCain’s not being born inside the U.S. could get similar traction among voters (McCain was born in Panama while his father was serving in the Panama Canal Zone in the Navy; children of U.S. citizens are automatically U.S. citizens regardless where they are born. The issue was litigated during Barry Goldwater’s candidacy in 1964, since Goldwater was born in Arizona before Arizona was a state.)

According to the Post story: [A] search showed that the first mention of the e-mail on the Internet had come more than a year earlier. A participant on the conservative Web site FreeRepublic.com posted a copy of the e-mail on Jan. 8, 2007, and added this line at the end: “Don’t know who the original author is, but this email should be sent out to family and friends.”

Allen discovered that theories about Obama’s religious background had circulated for many years on the Internet. And that the man who takes credit for posting the first article to assert that the Illinois senator was a Muslim is Andy Martin.

Martin, a former political opponent of Obama’s, is the publisher of an Internet newspaper who sends e-mails to his mailing list almost daily. He said in an interview that he first began questioning Obama’s religious background after hearing his famous keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

  • Repeat the claim, as often as possible, to audiences that are inflamed by it. No one would dare make such a claim before an audience of Democratic delegates from the Texas 23rd Senatorial District Democratic Convention, almost 80% of whom were black — at least not at the convention. However, flyers making the charge might show up on windows of cars parked during church services at Christian churches where delegates attend. A speaker at the Republican convention for the same district might not be hooted down. This rumor of Obama’s faith went to right-wing forums known for rumor hospitality, notably Free Republic. In forums at that site, rumors frequently appear to be judged on just how damaging they might be if true, not on their veracity.
  • Repeat the claim, even after denials.

The story is well worth reading. It can help educate us to how to avoid being victims of such rumors in the future.

Tip of the old scrub brush to e-mail correspondent MicahBrown.


From the basest of things, art: Scott Wade

June 27, 2008

A generalization:  Many creationists complain that evolution “can’t be true” because it doesn’t exalt humans enough.  This is the old Bishop Wilberforce whine, about whether you are related to the monkeys on your mother’s side or father’s side.

Nothing good can come from humble beginnings” is the thrust of the creationist argument, apparently with the creationists who make the claim losing every neuron they ever had that held the story of Jesus in their memory.

Nature, art, and life, keep pounding home the fact that the creationist argument is seriously in error.  But as Robert Frost wondered, how many times did the apple have to fall before Newton took the hint?  Scott Wade has taken the rebuttal to the creationists’ argument to new heights, and made art out of it.  From dust, is art:

Einstein, by Scott Wade

Credit Barcroft Media via The Daily Telegraph.

Click the thumbnail picture for a larger view:  Scott Wade creates Albert Einstein out of dust

Britain’s Daily Telegraph has a slide show with seven of Wade’s works.

Mr. Wade’s own website features a slide show demonstrating the creation of artworks, step by step.  Wade lives on a dirt road, a  half-mile from pavement.  In the course of coming and going, he gets a lot of material to work with.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  If life gives you dust, make art.  If life gives you limes, make margaritas.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Science Notes.


Typewriter of the moment: W. H. Auden at Swarthmore

June 25, 2008

Poet W. H. Auden taught students at Swarthmore for three years, 1942-1945. Swarthmore’s library started rather early to collect Auden’s manuscripts and other materials, including the typewriter he used there — an Underwood, as you can see, below.

Auden's typewriter during his Swarthmore years (1942-1945).

Auden’s typewriter during his Swarthmore years (1942-1945).

The library has a detailed, on-line exhibit of Auden’s work and associations with the college, material useful for student research and in-class presentations related to his work.

Auden’s poetry was contemporary, and it reflected the fears and passions of lovers, and lovers of liberty, in the face of the fascist threat of World War II.  Auden died, aged by tobacco, alcohol and barbituates, in 1973, aged 67.

Resources:

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Save

Save

Save

Save


“Network of the Lincoln Bicentennial”

June 10, 2008

You’ve got to love C-SPAN. Commercial television networks spend billions purchasing rights to be the sole broadcaster of sporting events, the Superbowl, the World Series, the NBA championships, the NCAA basketball championships, the Olympics.

What’s a money poor, creativity- and content-rich public affairs cable channel to do? Well, gee, there’s the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth coming up in February 2009 . . .:

Meet C-SPAN, “the network of the Lincoln Bicentennial.”

Note the site, set your video recorders (digital or not — just capture the stuff). C-SPAN plans monthly broadcasts on Lincoln and the times, plus special broadcasts on certain events — November 19, the 145th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, for example.

Of particular value to students and teachers, C-SPAN offers a long menu of links to sites about Lincoln, and to original speeches and documents (DBQ material anyone?).


War with Mexico

House Divided

Lincoln-Douglas Debates

·1st Debate: Transcript | Video

·2nd Debate: Transcript | Video

·3rd Debate: Transcript | Video

·4th Debate: Transcript | Video

·5th Debate: Transcript | Video

·6th Debate: Transcript | Video

·7th Debate: Transcript | Video

Cooper Union Speech

Farewell Address

First Inaugural

Second Inaugural

Gettysburg Address

Last Address

Good on ’em. C-SPAN leads the way again.

Teachers, bookmark that site. Are you out for the summer? U.S. history teachers have a couple of months to mine those resources, watch the broadcasts, and watch and capture the archived videos, to prepare for bell-ringers, warm-ups, and lesson plans.

What will your classes do for the Lincoln Bicentennial? Will that collide with your plans for the Darwin bicentennial?


NY Times blog gets in the donuts-for-terrorists scuffle

May 29, 2008

Nice post, too, with history of the doughnut:  “Doughnuts:  The Third Rail of American Politics.”


Good though: Folksinger, Storyteller, Railroad Tramp Utah Phillips Dead at 73

May 27, 2008

Utah Phillips died Friday. He was 73. He died at his home in Nevada City, California.

Wonderful tribute at Fifteen Iguana.

Utah Phillips publicity shot

Utah Phillips (publicity photo via Bluegrass Today)

Phillips’s website lists planned tributes, memorials and the funeral in Nevada City, California. KVMR Radio’s site has an obit and links to other tributes.

Read the rest of this entry »


Jihad for Love – in New York City this week (take 2)

May 23, 2008

How very, very odd. I had a post up, and it disappeared.

This is a recreation, as much as I can.

If you’re in New York City this week, go see this movie. It’s got a great producer, a fellow I know only through the Louis August Jonas Foundation. It has a good director, and a few very good reviews. And it covers a topic of surpassing importance.

Below, the press release from the producer, Sandi DuBowski, and other resources.

A Jihad For Love Launches U.S. Theatrical Release at IFC Center in New York from May 21st – June 4th – Two Weeks Only!

Buy your ticket online at http://www.ifccenter.com/film?filmid=38472.
Box Office: 212.924.7771 323 Sixth Avenue (at W. 3rd St. )

“CRITIC’S PICK! BRAVE…EYE-OPENING!”
– New York Magazine

“REVEALING AND MOVING…A GIFTED FILMMAKER!”
Wall Street Journal

“COURAGEOUS!”
-The Guardian

“LIFTS THE VEIL OF SECRECY…FRANKLY BRAVE!”
-NPR Talk of the Nation

Fourteen centuries after the revelation of the holy Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad, Islam today is the world’s second largest and fastest growing religion. Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma travels the many worlds of this dynamic faith, discovering the stories of its most unlikely storytellers: lesbian and gay Muslims.

Produced by Sharma and Sandi DuBowski (director of the award-winning Trembling Before G-d), A Jihad for Love was filmed over 5 years in 12 countries and 9 languages and comes from the heart of Islam. Looking beyond a hostile and war-torn present, it reclaims the Islamic concept of a greater Jihad, whose true meaning is akin to ‘an inner struggle’ or ‘to strive in the path of God.’ In doing so the film and its remarkable subjects move beyond the narrow concept of ‘Jihad‘ as holy war.

www.ajihadforlove.com

After Premieres in 15 countries, being banned in Singapore , selling out everywhere including India and Turkey and five international awards, the film comes to the U.S. and NYC.

We need people to show up during our NYC theatrical run in very large numbers. Bookers across the country will be looking at the success of the film at the NYC Box Office to determine its life everywhere else in the country. If you come the first five days, you can significantly impact the film’s theatrical life in the U.S. and other countries.

Joining director/producer Parvez Sharma and producer Sandi DuBowski in the theater are Imam Muhsin Hendricks, the first openly gay imam from Cape Town , South Africa and Mazen from Egypt/France, featured stars of the film and Faisal Alam, the founder of Al-Fatiha.

We will turn the cinema into a town hall – for debate, change and transformation. Visit http://www.ajihadforlove.com/screenings_D.html for our dazzling line-up of Q & A’s and forums on Islam, Human Rights, South Asian Sexualities, Interfaith such as

Thursday, May 22nd, 7 PM & 9.30 PM
Evening with Sholay and A Jihad for Love Team

Friday, May 23rd, 7pm
Dialogue with Progressive Muslims Meet Up Group

Saturday, May 24th, 5:05pm, 7pm, 9:30pm
Human Rights Watch and Scott Long present in association with A Jihad for Love: Before the Crusade Passes By: Trapped in the middle of a “clash of civilizations.”

Sunday, May 25th, 7 PM and 9.30 PM
Films for Change

… Looking forward to seeing you there!

May 21st – May 29th Show Times: 11:20am, 1:15pm, 3:10pm, 5:05pm, 7:00pm and 9:30pm

Q & A’s and forums with Parvez, Sandi, Muhsin, Mazen, Faisal, and others after 7pm & 9:30pm shows

Get Involved! Here are some ways you can support this film:

Right Now:

* Purchase tickets online for The IFC Center
* Post a link to www.ajihadforlove.com and www.ajihadforlove.blogspot.com on your blog

Support The Cause:

* Donate to our International Muslim Dialogue Project at http://www.ajihadforlove.com/donate.html

Watch A Jihad for Love trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78jUBRio3So

Listen to Parvez Sharma on NPR‘s The Takeaway at http://www.thetakeaway.org/archives/2008/05/19/3

Best,

Sandi DuBowski
Producer, A Jihad for Love
Director/Producer, Trembling Before G-d

Parvez Sharma
Director/Producer, A Jihad for Love

Other resources:


%d bloggers like this: