Monday, October 26, 2009

Coming Soon to a Chain E-Mail Near You!

You've got to love the lunatics that have taken over the asylum that is today's conservative movement -- for the entertainment value they provide, if nothing else.  The latest meme, that was picked up by Rush and the "talent" (their word, not mine) at Fox Nation and is coming to you soon in the form of a chain e-mail, concerns President Obama's college thesis -- the one that trashes the constitution and capitalism.  The money quote that had the lunatics up in arms...

"The so-called Founders did not allow for economic freedom. While political freedom is supposedly a cornerstone of the document, the distribution of wealth is not even mentioned. While many believed that the new Constitution gave them liberty, it instead fitted them with the shackles of hypocrisy."
Michael Ledeen at PajamasMedia was the first to pick up on this with a blog post.  Quoting (and linking) to Brian Lancaster at the Jumping in Pools blog, Ledeen was almost hysterical...

That’s quite an indictment, even for an Ivy League undergraduate.  I wonder if the prof–and I’d like to know who the prof was–made an appropriate marginal comment, something about historical context, about the Constitution’s revolutionary status in the history of freedom, and about the separation of powers in order to make the creation of any “shackles” as difficult as possible.

Maybe instead of fuming about words that Rush Limbaugh never uttered, the paladins of the free press might ask the president about words that he did write.  Maybe he’d like to parse “the so-called Founders,” for example.  I’d like to know what he thinks of those words today.  And what about the rest of the thesis?
According the story on the Jumping in Pools blog entitled "Obama College Thesis: 'Constitution Inherently Flawed'," Time Magazine "reporter" Joe Klein was looking into Obama's academic records for an upcoming article when he ran across the thesis entitled "Aristocracy Reborn."  He was only allowed to see the first ten pages of the 44-page thesis.  The first inkling most people had that the story might not be true was when Joe Klein (JokeLine to most of us) said, "Huh?" (That might not be an exact quote, but is close enough.)

The Jumping in Pools blog is written by one Matthew Avitabile, whom PolitiFact describes as a "22-year-old grad student in upstate New York."  Occasionally, he practices a journalistic technique commonly known as "making shit up," which is becoming more and more popular on the right.  He puts together a fake news story and runs with it with only the tag "satire" to indicate that the story might not be on the up-and-up.  I don't think this is a malicious thing.  I think he's trying to emulate The Onion or Andy Borowitz, but doesn't quite have the humor thing down yet on a consistent basis.  Although his story "Kanye West: I Had a Gluten Overdose" was fairly humorous.  Some other recent "satire" tagged stories are "HHS to Vaccinate All Schoolchildren for Swine Flu," "Obama Considering Turning Off Flame at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for New 'Green' Initiative," and "Nine-Year-Old Forcefully Removed from Town Hall Meeting after Question."  So guess which other story on his blog also has the "satire" tag.  That's right.  The one about the Obama thesis.

Enter Rush Limbaugh.  On Friday's radio broadcast he jumped all over the story with both feet, quoting Ledeen's PajamasMedia post and getting even more  apoplectic than Ledeen.  He spent a lot of time promo-ing Ledeen's latest book, quoting the Founding Fathers and lambasting Obama.  To his credit, before the end of the show, when things weren't checking out, he finally realized he might be getting punked.  Did he back down and, perhaps, apologize.  HA!

Now, I got a note from a researcher who has been scouring the Internet, and the note says this: 

"Rush Limbaugh: Mini-warning on these quotes."  Because the paper that Obama wrote, "Aristocracy Reborn," the first ten pages were all that reporter Joe Klein was permitted to see; and it says here that Klein did write about it for TIME Magazine.  A researcher has been scouring the Internet and can't find any sources for the quote.  "The blog that Ledeen cites doesn't have supporting info," supposedly.  The source post that was from August, says it's going to be in an upcoming report from Joe Klein, but the researcher can't find anything that has come out since, and nothing in Klein's blog.  There have been no matches found on the Internet for any of the info or quotes other than the source posting.  So I now say that the blog from which this came has no sourcing data other than Joe Klein upcoming report and Joe Klein hasn't written his upcoming report.

So we have to hold out the possibility that this is not accurate.  However, I have had this happen to me recently.  I have had quotes attributed to me that were made up, and when it was pointed out to the media that the quotes were made up, they said, "It doesn't matter! We know Limbaugh thinks it anyway."  Sort of like Dan Rather said, "I don't care if these documents are forged. I know that Bush did what he did at the National Guard.  I don't care if the documents are forged."  I don't care if the Limbaugh quotes are made up.  So, I can say, "I don't care if these quotes are made up. I know Obama thinks it.  You know why I know Obama thinks it?  Because I've heard him say it."  Not about the Constitution, but about the Supreme Court.
Fox Nation also didn't apologize or issue a correction.  They just removed the page and acted like it didn't happen.  Thank God for Google's cache!  Leeden did apologize in a later post, but threw in, "It worked because it's plausible."

PolitiFact got involved back in January over a different Avitabile story in which he claimed that Obama was changing the military oath.  Instead of pledging to uphold the Constitution, soldiers and officers would have to pledge loyalty to the Office of the Presidency.  PolitiFact jumped in when the story went viral, appearing on many blogs and chain e-mails, and set the record straight with a "Pants on Fire" rating...

Avitabile, a Republican who had previously poked fun at Obama with a tongue-in-cheek article that said scientists had determined that he was "genetically superior," is thankful for all the traffic it generated for his blog Jumping in Pools. In the past he was lucky to get 1,000 hits on a story, but this one got more than 50,000. Yet he's disappointed that so many people published his work without verifying it.

"Out of the 50,000 who looked at it, only three had the good sense to contact me and see if it was true," he told us (PolitiFact was one of the three).

Avitabile described himself as a moderate Republican — "I'm pro-gay rights, pro-wind energy" — but said he was surprised that so many in his party had such negative feelings about Obama.

"People wanted to believe this about the president so bad, that he would really go toward a dictatorship so much that they would go with it without checking it," he said.

posted at 3:11:00 AM by Duane Tate

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