James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Insurrection, conspiracy theories and truth snippets

Posted by James McPherson on July 7, 2010

Today offers more evidence of why media literacy is so important in this country–and, sadly, why many people who rely on one-sided blogs for information are so politically ignorant.

Some blogs that appeal to right-wingers and conspiracy theorists, such as this one (also here, here, here, here and here) now offer YouTube “evidence” that Barack Obama had admitting he was “born in Kenya.” Watch it quickly, the reader is warned, “before it’s pulled.” (By socialist/communist government agents who monitor the Internet from mosques and black helicopters, no doubt.)

But if you go to the original posted video–and are capable of reading–you see a description from the person who posted it that starts out: “The video starts out with some content from obamasnippets.com, which, of course is contrived. And yet, there seems to be a synthetic truth about what the president says.”

Aside from the question of what is “synthetic” (and therefore by definition, fake) “truth,” the words clearly state that Obama’s “admission” is a creation of whomever created the video. And who is that?  Someone who states that his/her site is “not ‘political,'” not anti- or pro-Obama, and  “just for fun.” One of those who has done most to promote the video, on the other hand, getting more than 200,000 hits on it, does have a clear agenda, listing his favorite “news sources” as “Hannity’s America, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity Radio Show, Roger Hedgecock, Michael Reagan, Gordon Liddy, Sec. Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove…”

Ironically, he also states on the same page, “May the Glory of God be revealed so Truth can prevail.” Perhaps God might have an easier time revealing truth if there weren’t so many supposed Christians working so hard to distort it.

Another conspiracy site unintentionally (I hope) further illustrates the silliness of the whole argument and the futility in trying to convince conspiracy theorists of anything when it states: “Was Obama born in Kenya or America? Kenya….But we will never know the truth!”

Go ahead, read that last quote again. Yep, that’s what it says: “We’ll never know the truth, but here’s the truth.”

One thing many of the conspiracy sites have in common is that they often warn against the “lies” of the mainstream media. One of those linked above also reminds us why there may be good reason to fear some of the Tea Party crowd–or at least there might be if they had the numbers, youth and courage to back up their inane words. One commenter writes:

Someday American’s will realize there are only two options left if the desire for a sane government is the objective.
Number one would be to de-legitimize DC and reform independent States, with State owned Banks, which negates the power of the federal Banksters, and provides a method of political segregation so we would not have people like [a previous commenter] for neighbors.
Number two is civil war! Take your pick.

Insurrection, anyone? Or instead, how about just doing a bit of reading from a history book, a copy of the Constitution, or Snopes.com?

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38 Responses to “Insurrection, conspiracy theories and truth snippets”

  1. josiahe said

    It’s too bad Mr. McPherson decided to call names rather than present the facts. Name calling is the refuge of one who does not have the ability to confront the truth.

    Mr. Obama, in his own words says, “Well, first of all, I’m not an American. I was not born in Hawaii; I wasn’t born in the United States of America. I come from Kenya and . . . so I think people saw . . . my last election . . . as . . . a . . . proof, as testimony …..”

    Some people will deny even a person’s own words if it’s to fly in the face of what they already believe.

    If one will look at the surroundings, where he says these things, on will realize they were said in either a Mosque, or in a Madrassa (sp?) Would that not be the most likely place Obama would tell the truth, for once?

  2. James McPherson said

    “It’s too bad Mr. McPherson decided to… present the facts … and … confront the truth… and … fly … in … the refuge of … a Mosque.”

    Josiah, you’ll notice I used only your own words, in the same way that the video cited uses Obama’s. Thanks for the comment.

  3. middleclassmessenge1 said

    Mr. Mcpherson you like Obama are sauve with your words but your intent is criminal the same as Obama. He is nothing more than an ignorant man with many strings being pulled like a puppet by those who write everything he speaks.For you to even to side with the anti Christan President as the educated voice of intellegence is such a farce. Go home and tell your wife and family you are a failure as you have consumed the koolaid. Redeem yourself go anti Obama which is pro America.It appears you are highly educated yet none of your education is expressed in your comments?

  4. Glad to see you stirring up some of your greatest fans once more, Jim, you crazy liberal you. 🙂

    This is a seriously good point, though. While I still have Fox News as my homepage (the new redesign makes their layout a little more bearable) and I do listen to Limbaugh and watch O’Reilly more than occasionally, I do my best to keep an eye on “liberal” news sites and blogs as well. It’s amazing what kind of differences you find in things supposedly reporting on the same story. As a former editor, it makes me cringe. Pretty sure I wouldn’t want *any* of these guys on my newspaper staff, to say the least.

  5. James McPherson said

    Yes, I keep building my fan club. 🙂

    By the way, I gave The Whitworthian a plug during a back-and-forth on one of those other sites (ppjg) today. Fortunately you and your staff are all better journalists than those folks.

  6. josiahe said

    My apologies for pointing it out, but someone with your education and background (if it’s true) ought to be able to make his points without derisive name-calling.

    If you and your “fans” are examples; it’s not a bad thing that Americas’ newspapers are dead and dying! Have you thought about a career in Athens?

    http://josiahe.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/changing-back-the-change/

    josiah

  7. James McPherson said

    Josiah, that’s twice that you’ve referred to my “name calling.” What term(s) is it that offends you? Right-winger? (I certainly don’t mind being called a left-winger.)

    Conspiracy theorist? Someone who buys into a theory that Obama somehow managed to violate the Constitution and sneak into office would certainly fit that definition, it seems.

    “If you and your ‘fans’ are examples…” Morgan’s “fans” comment, of course, was an ironic reference to YOU and others who disagree with me (as she does about most political issues, frankly).

    “Have you thought about a career in Athens?”

    Not seriously, though I admit that the point of your question is Greek to me. I have had friends at both Ohio University and the University of Georgia, though I’m glad I don’t have to deal with the humidity of either place. Thanks.

  8. osdc said

    HERE is the “original” video from ObamaSnippetsDotCom in its entirety, where Obama “admits” he’s from Kenya.

    <<>>

    http://www.youtube.com/user/ObamaSnippetsDotCom#p/u/6/dJUxsFBwcbs

    The other videos on this channel will help provide the context in which the “original” video was created.

  9. James McPherson said

    Thanks, osdc. I’d linked to your site above, but didn’t realize that the link didn’t go directly to that video so that a slight search on the site would be necessary.

    I hope I characterized you fairly. I’d also be interested in knowing what you think about so many people accepting it as real–as if someone who illegally snuck into office would then give speeches admitting it.

  10. osdc said

    Thank you, James. You described my site by quoting directly from my profile. You could not have characterized me any more fairly than that! (“his/her site” can henceforth be replaced with “his site”)

    ObamaSnippets.com is an Obama HUMOR youtube channel. All my Snippets are clearly labeled:
    Category: COMEDY
    Tags: obama, humor, spoof, satire, etc.

    My ORIGINAL video, “Birthers’ Delight,” even STARTS with the definition of the word, “SPOOF.” That video was my very first attempt at snippeting, so I wanted to be VERY CLEAR that I was just KIDDING! So, never in my wildest dreams could I imagine anyone accepting my video as real.

    However, I did not count on my video being reused outside of the ObamaSnippets context. Now, in defense of the creator of the video that STARTS with MY video, at least he DID clearly credit ObamaSnippets as its creator, and he DID clearly state that it “of course is contrived,” as you noted above.

    I just think he made a poor choice in starting a serious video with a JOKE video. I think he didn’t count on the fact that people are just too darned LAZY to read the Description (or check out ObamaSnippets.com). He wrote all the right words, but those words are invisible to those who do not want to see them.

    And do you realize there’s actually some debate on the authenticity of my “Obama DRUNK!” video??? I don’t know what else to say, except, “wow.” Just, “wow.”

    Anyway, thanks for your time, and be on the lookout for a followup video to this “Birthers’ Delight” drama.

  11. James McPherson said

    Thanks, osdc; I’ll look forward to checking back regularly with your channel. Sadly, even after I pointed out what I thought you’d made pretty obvious (and which, as you noted, the other guy muddied somewhat), some folks keep insisting that your video is real.

    One of those is the first one linked above, http://ppjg.wordpress.com/2010/07/07/the-amazing-part-of-this-travesty-is-americans-continue-allowing-themselves-to-be-ruled-by-an-illegal-alien/. Of course, she also considers Michael Webster to be a credible journalist.

    Thanks again, for the feedback and for the videos you’ve posted.

  12. Rick said

    James, why try? Even when you explain that these things are satire, they don’t get it. They’d rather dig their hole deeper than admit that they’ve been had.

    I had a case just like this a while back when engaging another FOX News-loving, Obama-hating, “real American”. He has been sent a “story” about the Communist Party bringing a lawsuit against the Democrats for stealing their platform. It originated on a comedy site similar to “The Onion”. We went ’round and ’round. When he finally realized that he had been had, he pulled his story from his blog with no apology or mention of his mistake. Later, he said something like “even though it didn’t apparently happen, it could have”.

    I’m not sure if it’s truly limited intelligence or just such overwhelming hatred that has them suspend their brains. I give you credit for maintaining a civil tone. Not always easy.

  13. James McPherson said

    “They’d rather dig their hole deeper than admit that they’ve been had.”

    I used to think that politicians were especially prone to that problem because they have to face re-election and the admission of guilt will come back to haunt them in later campaign commercials. But I’ve come to realize that this is apparently a common human failing, though I can’t decide if it correlates strongest to fear, stupidity or immaturity.

    “even though it didn’t apparently happen, it could have”

    Yes, I seen similar responses — yet these are the people who don’t trust the mainstream media because of “bias.” Thanks for the comment.

  14. James McPherson said

    osdc, you’ve apparently managed to convince the administrator of the site posted above. She now admits: “It turns out this video was created just for the fun of it and is actually just a skilled manipulation of soundbites and footage. The error was mine in posting it, believing it was real.”

    Congrats on getting the correction, even if it comes so late that probably none of her followers will see it. Or if they do, they’ll suspect that government agents actually made the correction, or forced her to do it. Thanks again for dropping by.

  15. osdc said

    Yes, I noticed that, James, thank you. But the comment / correction she made was directed at the video she posted, which was, “Truth Matters.” She failed to specify that she was referring to just the spoof in the beginning, thereby inadvertently discrediting the ENTIRE video! Oops!
    Yet another reason why using MY spoof was a poor choice…

  16. Why… yes… I do have… a (blog)site.

    Jim – Thanks for putting your bro wise to the John Stucke piece in Sunday’s paper. As our young friend and neighbor, David, said of it, after some chat about the article with me: “It coulda’ been worse!” Nothing rises to the level of a demanded retraction or correction, or even a lawsuit…. quite.

    ‘Tis a bit of a shame that S.R. circulation has fallen to some terrible fraction of what it must have been 30 or 40 years ago. Reading a newspaper (even online) must be a disease that afflicts, chiefly, people over 60 years old. I admit, I’m rather surprised at how little comment the article seems to have provoked so far. Perhaps, it just indicates I’m just not so damned avant garde as as I thought I was!

    I was surprised to find no mention of Joe Bageant (DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS) when I tried an archive search here, on your site. I just finished his book, and would still bet that you know about it if you haven’t read it. Your interest in the subject of “ignorance” reminds me of it. Can you believe it?…. when I read a book I find important, I cannot imagine that someone well informed (“well read”) hasn’t also read it.

    Dang! One of the worst things about my “wake” was that I did not manage to talk – in any “meaningful way” – with about 99.999% of the people there. You found your way (no fault of your own – that I know of ) into that elite group.
    Perhaps, this is a rectifiable failure. ( ? )

    Treecraft

  17. One more thing, Jim…. do you find it more pleasant, or more onerous, to read and reply to someone like “josiahe” ? (seriously) Is it a sort of “spiritual discipline” practice to respond to him and his fellow travelers with so much civility?
    Yes? No?
    Treecraft

  18. James McPherson said

    Dan, thanks for the reminder of Bageant’s book. I haven’t read it, in part because I once knew Joe in Moscow–between that and his blog, I pretty much assumed I knew what he’d say (and how).

    Besides, one of the drawbacks of graduate school and my ensuing academic career is that it has greatly reduced my ability to read things that don’t seem to apply directly to my job. I’m working on it, though.

    And though we didn’t get to visit at your “wake”–you just have too many friends, and most of us like to talk too much–my better half and I did have a nice chat with the lovely Jan. Perhaps one day soon you and I can do the same, exchanging stories about brother Guy among other things.

    As for dealing with all sorts of folks, I guess perhaps I do consider a bit of spiritual discipline–though I never thought of it that way before.

    Mostly, having spent most of my life in places where I was seriously outnumbered by folks who were wrong about most things (starting with growing up as a principal’s kid in an Idaho logging town and then living in Idaho, Arizona, North Carolina and Eastern Washington), and being a not-very-good fighter despite having more than my share of practice , I’ve found that I made a lot more friends by trying to avoid being overly obnoxious.

    Still, I do have this weird disorder (which my wife fears may someday prove fatal) that prompts me to regularly comment on conservative blogs. That sometimes leads to fireworks, and some folks (typically gutless anonymous sorts) there refuse to be civil (even trying to cause me problems at work: https://jmcpherson.wordpress.com/2009/12/07/electronic-klansmen-trying-to-make-me-famous/), but I’ve had good exchanges with others and at least three conservative bloggers now include mine on their blogrolls. If interested, you can see more about my perspective on that here: https://jmcpherson.wordpress.com/2008/06/09/begging-to-differ/.

    Thanks for the comment, and keep up your good fight.

  19. […] case provides further evidence that you cannot fully trust video unless you shot it yourself. Another sad but probably true reminder comes from Bob Cesca at […]

  20. […] 19, 2010 by James McPherson| Leave a comment OK, so we have to accept the fact that nutty conspiracy theorists, like the Biblical poor, will always be with us. But do the wacky purveyors of those theories  […]

  21. Stoccado said

    MacPerson – You are a glutton for punishment otherwise you would get on the right side of the argument. Socialism is wrong for America. I know that the educational system has been usurped by the left but this will change when people wise up to the fact that socialism always ends up with the fruits of labor being transferred to the hands of the governed. The proletariat have no incentive to work for sleaze and you would have more comments to your blog since July if you really had a point to present that Karl Marx has not already presented. Please take the pulse on November 2d, 2010 and see how you’re doing.

  22. James McPherson said

    Thanks for the comment. If you care to check further (and I admit there’s no particular reason you should) you’ll see that I did the blog as an academic experiment, posting almost daily for exactly a year. I then largely “retired” it in April 2009, but still maintain it mostly as a way to keep track of links (both conservative and liberal) and materials that I use for various media studies classes. https://jmcpherson.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/blogosphere-of-flying-leaving-cyberspace-to-become-more-grounded/

    I do still feel moved to post something occasionally, but most of my writing for the past 17 months has been for book chapters and other people’s blogs. Thanks again.

  23. Stoccado said

    I did read your last post on the other site. I have cut back on my reading in retirement. I thought that it would be a cakewalk because I was keeping up prior to that. I dropped my paid mail subscription to Stratfor (www.stratfor.com) because I just wasn’t interested in the number of fleas on an Afghan insurgent. In the early nineties Stratfor was relevant because it was predicting the upcoming rise of Islam and the impact that it would have. It is still relevant but it is information overload for me. I still get freebies from them but they are online. There were others, too. I have kept my surface mail subscriptions to Richard Maybury’s Early Warning Report (www.RichardMaybury.com), Don McAlvany’s The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor (www.MIAtoday.com), Lee Bellinger’s The American Sentinel (no website listed) and Martin Weiss’ Safe Money Report (www.martinweiss.com). There may be others but these are handy to me right now. My on-line subscriptions are to The Intelligence Daily (editor@inteldaily.com), News With Views (alerts@lists.newswithviewsalerts.com), Canada Free Press (business@canadafreepress.com), Uncommon Wisdom (eletter@e1.uncommonwisdomdaily.com), Money and Markets (eletter@e.moneyandmarkets.com), The Patriot Post (http://patriotpost.us/edition/2010/10/20/chronicle/) and last but not least Megavote (megavote@mailmanager.net). Nearly all of these are non partisan. The American Sentinel is slanted against communism and especially variations in our own government. I am slanted against communism in all it’s nasty incarnations. I try to be informed about whatever I blog or Tweet. I have noticed that recently I let grammatical and punctuation errors slip by even after proof reading. It’s not just embarrassing, it’s annoying. Here! I’ve contributed even more to your blog.

  24. James McPherson said

    Thanks. I commend your amount of reading, though the range seems a bit narrow–the ones I’m familiar with all seem pretty conservative (even if they call themselves non-partisan), and to rely heavily on scaring readers as much as enlightening them.

    Just my opinion, of course, though I’ve never understood the widespread fear (especially by Christians, whose faith ought to make them less fearful than others) of communism, socialism and Islam.

  25. Stoccado said

    Is it fear to despise Godless communism and socialism? Is it fear to despise the false god of Islam which calls for the destruction “where you find them” of Christians and non believers of the Islamic “faith?” The opposite of fear, I suppose, would be political correctness. Political correctness will be our downfall unless we wake up and defend our Christian values. Christianity does not call for the death of nonbelievers.

    The range of my reading may seem “narrow” to you but it is what interests me. Is it “narrow” because it is mostly apolitical? I’m not a political animal but I get riled up at people who espouse views counter to common sense. The web site we have both posted on reminds me of the yearly state fair here in Arkansas. As I walk the midway I enjoy seeing people who are drawn in from the mountains. Good people but not always eloquent in stating their opinions. Likewise, on the “site” a lot of the people are really interesting but not all that highly educated. Educated in America has come to mean indoctrinated into a leftist philosophy unless you are in the hard sciences and not the political sciences. I’m not impressed by the sheepskin anymore as I was decades ago. One of the stupidest people on earth that I ever knew was my sister’s previous husband who taught, of all things, math at the high school level. He was really “educated” too. But my sister had to do everything but tie his shoes for him. He had the book smarts but if he were left on the streets to fend for himself he would starve. I liked him but that doesn’t change the fact that he was really stupid. So you can understand why the waving the flag of education in front of me does nothing to promote one’s cause. I love this quote:

    Haim G. Ginott’s quote from “Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers” (Haim G. Ginott):

    Dear Teachers:
    I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness. Gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.

    So I am suspicious of education. My request is: help your students become more human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.

    Haim G. Ginott

  26. James McPherson said

    “Is it fear to despise Godless communism and socialism?”

    Not necessarily. But the idea that they’re “taking over” is far too often expressed in fearful terms. As for Islam, you’re obviously focusing on one narrow view expressed by a minority of the faith.

    “Educated in America has come to mean indoctrinated into a leftist philosophy…”

    That’s a sad joke, also generally promoted by the fearful. Most of my own students are conservatives when they get to college and still conservatives when they leave. Many of my professorial colleagues (even at state institutions) are conservatives.

    I will admit that liberals tend to be more prevalent in education and as reporters (not as publishers or station managers, however), though it’s not because there’s some grand commie plot–it’s because liberals are far more likely than conservatives to seek employment in service-related fields with low pay and long hours. Conservatives are more likely to use that same education to go for the dough.

    And I agree fully that modern education does not guarantee humanity–but neither does willful ignorance. And are you arguing that education decreases humanity? After all, learned engineers also build hospitals in which trained nurses save babies and women harmed by the uneducated sociopaths that are far more common in our society than are Eichmanns.

    What constitutes “common sense,” obviously, is something on which even the most human among us often disagree.

  27. Stoccado said

    >Not necessarily. But the idea that they’re “taking over” is far too often expressed in fearful terms.
    <That’s a sad joke, also generally promoted by the fearful.
    <Conservatives are more likely to use that same education to go for the dough.
    <And I agree fully that modern education does not guarantee humanity–but neither does willful ignorance.
    <And are you arguing that education decreases humanity?
    <What constitutes “common sense,” obviously, is something on which even the most human among us often disagree.
    <<I shouldn't have used common sense as an example because you might think that it would be just plain pure ole common sense to avoid stepping on the cracks in the sidewalk.
    Whoops! I'm missing the local news. Later!

  28. Stoccado said

    I used a right arrow to denote your comments and double left to denote mine. It came out a mess over which I had no control.

  29. James McPherson said

    No problem–technology isn’t always perfect, but I recognized which words were mine and which were yours (even if I didn’t quite understand your point–sorry about that). That’s why I put other people’s in quotation marks, as I did yours above. Thanks.

  30. Stoccado said

    So much for common sense.

  31. James McPherson said

    Funny–especially coming from a guy with whom I had an extended discussion over your belief that ObamaSnippets videos were direct, accurate portrayals of Obama’s words.

  32. Stoccado said

    No wonder you did not quite understand my remarks. I have just read my comments more thoroughly and it appears that all my comments except the very last were deleted and yours were included. I spent time trying to give you a good answer and it has been lost into the ethereal. Can you reclaim?

  33. James McPherson said

    If so, I don’t know how. I suspected what happened was that the symbols were read as html code, which unfortunately is something that’s largely a mystery to me. Sorry about that–I know how frustrating it is to lose something, and I appreciate the effort. And sorry, too, that I didn’t realize you’d made it.

  34. Stoccado said

    Some sites that I have been on will lose your blog with such frequency that I always copy before posting. I have never had half the post deleted and my half at that. I didn’t know that code was supposed to be read in a posting. Does that mean someone can hack into this account with ease? If it reads code doesn’t that mean that anyone can give commands?

  35. James McPherson said

    Great question. It seems you can use HTML coding for a few thing having to do with formatting (fonts or imbedding a link rather than having to include the whole link, for example) for your own post, but presumably only the original writer of a post or comment or the site moderator (me, in this case) can do so.

    The system may have thought that you were trying to put in other HTML code and just left it out. I admit that I’m guessing about that, though. And frankly, though perhaps I’m paranoid, I always suspect that someone somewhere can hack into about anything if there’s enough incentive to do so.

  36. […] could spend all day trying to debunk just the conspiracy theories promoted on Fox News, and typically it’s not worth the trouble. Most people aren’t […]

  37. […] in his latest post. It starts this way: One could spend all day trying to debunk just the conspiracy theories promoted on Fox News, and typically it’s not worth the trouble. Most people aren’t crazy […]

  38. […] style and the lengths the network went through to trick viewers. The fact that folks were duped isn’t a big surprise, though one might hope they would check things out before buying into the latest version of […]

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