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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Posts Tagged ‘conspiracy theories’

My gift to anti-Obama conspiracy freaks

Posted by James McPherson on August 7, 2012

I confess. I’ve finally removed my blinders and have been won over by the conspiracy theorists. Admittedly, in the past I’ve made fun of birthers, truthers, gun nuts, Islamophobes, homophobes, Rush Limbaugh, the Texas Board of EducationPUMAs, lying Catholics, David Horowitz, flag fetishists, Pat Robertson, “Christmas warriors,” Michelle Malkin, “border warriors,” and other batcrap-crazy conspiracy nuts. But suddenly, with the mass killings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the depth of the Obama world-domination plan has all become clear to me. Clearer to me, apparently, than to anyone else. But after I explain it, I’m sure it will be plain to everyone. I’ll use lots of exclamation points and capital letters to help you understand. If only I had Glenn Beck’s chalkboard.

We now know that the racist lunatic who killed six people in Wisconsin was part of a vast Democratic/Socialist/Communist/Muslim conspiracy! The killer was born on Veterans Day 1971, meaning he was destined to become an American patriot. By then, 10-year-old Barack Obama was well on his way to becoming president of the United States. (You may laugh, but remember, someone had the foresight to plant birth announcements in Hawaii newspapers a decade earlier.)

Not surprisingly, the Wisconsin killer eventually joined the military.  He did so in 1992–the SAME YEAR that Barack Obama took his wife to Kenya, probably to wipe out any record of his birth there, and when he was starting a period as a “lecturer” teaching the methods of Saul Alinsky at the University of Chicago Law School! Furthermore, in that exact SAME YEAR of 1992–and I’m quoting word for word from Wikipedia here–“Obama directed Illinois’s Project Vote, a voter registration campaign with ten staffers and seven hundred volunteer registrars; it achieved its goal of registering 150,000 of 400,000 unregistered African Americans in the state, leading Crain’s Chicago Business to name Obama to its 1993 list of ’40 under Forty’ powers to be.” Even more unbelievably, the husband of Obama’s future Secretary of State would win the presidency in that SAME YEAR, paving the way for America’s SECOND (the number is important, as I’m about to show) black president!

The Wisconsin nutjob apparently washed out of the military in 1998, the year Obama won his SECOND Illinois state Senate term, and the SAME YEAR in which eldest Obama daughter Malia was born on the FOURTH OF JULY! Gaining confidence in his power, he later gave his SECOND daughter, Natasha, a COMMUNIST name!

By the way, “they” want you to think the killer washed out of the military. Keep in mind that he had been working in psychological operations, making him the perfect patsy to turn into a Manchurian candidate time bomb waiting to go off. So who can really be surprised that he went off a mere 14 years later, as Obama was campaigning for his second presidential election?

No, it’s obvious. The attack couldn’t be on white people, because that had just happened. And it couldn’t be against Muslims, because that might generate sympathy for Islamists–and besides, Obama wouldn’t order an attack on his own religion, right? So Sikhs, who kinda look Muslim to lots of white folk anyway, were the ideal targets of this sinister plan.

And who better to take the blame, while supporting the Obama agenda, than a veteran “constitutionalist”? That’s the question prompted by Jone’s InfoWars (“because there is a war on for your mind and Jones has lost his”).

“The US government is not only coming after the 2nd Amendment, but now framing US Army veterans in a false flag operation where extremists are the new threat,” writes someone going by the name “Susanne Posel.” That name that just happens to be an anagram for “So Sensual Pen” or “Sees No US Plan” or “No US Paleness” or “Open Anus Less” or “Lone US Ass Pen.” Coincidence? I THINK NOT!

Posted in History, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

The daft and the spurious — another conservative conspiracy theory

Posted by James McPherson on June 21, 2012

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 enough to buy into the theories (and are too apathetic to pursue them, anyway). But one of the latest goofy theories on Fox News and elsewhere is apparently being promoted by an organization more powerful with legislators than Fox News — the National Rifle Association.

The claim comes from the current controversy over the truly stupid “Fast and Furious” program, which this week prompted House Republicans to recommend holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress (which means something different here than the “contempt of Congress” that most of us have). For its part, the Obama administration is maintaining that it has executive privilege to withhold some documents that House Republicans want. And frankly, I don’t care much about that — George W. Bush and Bill Clinton each successfully asserted executive privilege repeatedly (this is Obama’s first time), and this politically motivated attempt likely will go nowhere, and likely will hurt Republicans more than it hurts Obama.

But the NRA has latched onto a way to make the squabble into yet another way to bleed money from suckers while pressuring Congress to toe its any-gun-any-time line. In a letter to Congress, the organization supported the contempt citation — which, with the number of gutless folks eager to kiss the NRA’s brass, may actually prolong the inane process. It will still go nowhere, but will keep the issue alive for an extended period of time when Congress might instead be focusing on more important issues. And as a result, Obama gets to keep running against a partisan do-nothing Congress.

“Heightening the NRA’s concern — and requiring our involvement — is the White House’s use of this program to advance its gun control agenda,” the NRA letter states. Say what? What “gun control agenda”? It’s now easier to buy a gun in this country, and you can carry one in more places, causing destruction in more ways, than before Obama took office. In fact, Obama has been considerably weaker on the issue of gun control than Republicans Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, phony cowboy George W. Bush, or movie cowboy Ronald Reagan.

But Obama’s failure to try to take away our guns is simply a secret plot, say the NRA, Mitt Romney, and other loonies. He plans to start taking them after he’s re-elected. And while Obama’s re-election is likely, a thinking person might actually wonder … huh? Why would he wait? But if you actually followed that line of thought you’d foolishly be trying to apply reason.

For some of these folks, Obama’s lack of action — the fact that he’s done less to control guns than any president of our lifetimes — actually seems to be the evidence that he’s waiting to spring. They will not be deterred by something so basic as observable fact. The view of conspiracy theorists of all stripes might be well summarized by this paragraph (which is actually about media manipulation):

This manipulation is like one of those optical illusion pictures that you have to stare at until you suddenly see the image. Then, once you see it, you can see it every time you look for it, yet the person standing right next to you will insist there is no image in the picture – just like you did before you learned to see it. That’s what you need to do here: you need to start reading history – real history – until you start seeing how this works. Once you do and you start to see what they are doing to manipulate people and how their methods work, you will feel as though you have just been liberated. You will see it everywhere, and you’ll be right nearly every time. But I warn you, that sense of liberation will soon give way to a state of deep concern as you suddenly realize just how many of your friends are still denying the image in the picture. That’s when you come to understand just how much troublke [sic] we’re actually in.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

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?

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics, Religion, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 38 Comments »

God Bless America: Land of the Great American Conspiracy Loon

Posted by James McPherson on September 27, 2009

Moammar Gadhafi got some attention (his apparent primary goal in life) this week with a rambling United Nations speech in which he alleged a number of weird conspiracies. It’s good to remember, however, that most of the nutball conspiracies that Americans deal with are hatched right here at home, by the likes of “birthers,” “deathers” and “truthers,” among others.

One of the latest came to me via email today. It starts out: “Did you know that the ACLU has filed a suit to have all military cross-shaped headstones removed and another suit to end prayer from the military completely.  They’re making great progress.” After a few other distortions and some nice photos of soldiers praying, it urged each recipient to pray for the troops and then pass on the message.

As a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and a thinking person, I was relatively certain that claims had to be false. Less than a minute of research–which could have been done by any of the dozens of people whose email addresses showed up in the oft-forwarded message–showed four quick references discounting the fable. Though I probably had much more important things to do, I then took the time to send a message to each of the 30 or addresses on the list. It read:

I find it ironic that [name deleted] includes the words, “Think, Act, Survive” after his name. If he and others would do more of the former, we’d have fewer of these sorts of inflammatory lies whirling around the web, and we might actually pay more attention to the many real problems we face. Automatically forwarding myths that happen to support one’s preconceived biases do nothing but harm one’s credibility.

I’m always in favor of more prayers for those who serve in the military, but the claim made in this viral email is a blatant lie, perpetuated by people who don’t know, don’t care about and/or don’t bother to check the truth. Considering how many people receiving this are in education (judging by the email addresses), it seems more critical thinking would be in order.

Four sources I used to check this, in far less time than it took someone to write the original: http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/cemetery.asp, http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/jul/02/chain-email/no-aclu-lawsuit-over-cross-shaped-headstones/http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/print_is_the_aclu_suing_to_have_cross-shaped.html and http://www.aclu.org/images/asset_upload_file399_26244.pdf. You might also check out http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/marines.asp.

Now I trust that all you Christian people of integrity will pass on the truth as quickly and widely as you helped spread the falsehood.

I was kidding about the last part, of course. I assume that few if any of them will pass it on. I did get two responses back. One with a single word–“yea”–and a longer one, which tickled me enough that I’ll share it here (minus information that might identify the sender):

Mr. James McPherson thank you for kind rebuttal and quick checking of the facts. Also I commend you for noticing my many years of volunteer service to my community,  my Church and faith.

As to the forwarding of this important and patriotic email message. I can not speak for the many individuals cc’ed on this uplifting message, but I do speak for myself. This message is about supporting our troops not about the Anti-American Communist Liars Union (ACLU). It is about a love the awakened majority feels for our great nation.

It is understandable that persons of your ilk have no love for America, our Constitution, or our long history and way of life. Be forewarned, “We the People” are awake and we are coming for you, and your perversion of our country.

Lastly I do not give a Rat’s Rear End what these fine email messages of support for our American Patriots say, they will continue to be forwarded to all I know. Why because it is GOOD and RIGHT, something an educator like yourself knows little about. See, these people you sent your reply to are the backbone of our great nation. You Sir are an corrupter of young minds, and we the “backbone” count you with politicians, lawyers, used car salesmen, and journalist. Oh and I forgot pond scum.

As a Christian it is my obligation to call you to repentance, get with the program and forget your anal retentive fact checks.

Gee, how unChristian of me to check facts and to counter lies with truth (and grammar). And now that I know that the Backbone Brigade is “coming for me,” I’m not sure what to do in response. Flee in my black helicopter?

Of course I have to admit the fleeting unChristian notion that crossed my mind when the writer referred to himself as part of a “backbone”: I thought he was aiming a few inches high.

Same-day update: The guy mentioned above sent me a follow-up email, after I responded to his. Though it’s becoming increasingly tempting to do otherwise, I’ll still not include his identity, but will share part of his latest missive (I’ve simply copied and pasted, leaving spelling and grammar alone):

As to Whitworth University of Spokane Washington, a liberal arts institution, I’m sure they would be proud to know one of there own is picking fights with strangers, (who receives and forwards emails to their friends and family), over the web.

Your exhustive pursuit of this issue clearly puts you in the ranks of liberal zelot or those truly disturbed folks with and ax to grind…

Mr McPherson STOP your elitist little fingers right now. SEND no further emails. I’m sure this will be making a wide round on the web tomorrow. Either you will look foolish or I will. And like the content of the email that started this I don’t care what you think or find true. Have a pleasant day.

He also copied the message to my university’s human resources department, asking that they “forward this to your Deans to show what your faculty does with their free time.” But as I told him in response, the deans (and the university president) know about my various political activities. I suspect it may make them uncomfortable at times, but I don’t pretend to speak for them (you’ll notice the disclaimer at the top of this page), and they understand the role of political discussion in a free society.

Same-day update #2: I had emailed my new friend back, despite his request for me not to write again. I apologized for offending him, pointed out the relatively small number of people who had received my original message (with his name on the list), and noted that I had assumed his name had been passed on to me with his knowledge or permission. I also promised not to write him again, except at his own request. He promptly offered a most pleasant two-word reply: “Thank you.”

There are many lessons to be remembered regarding civility in this viral age, eh?

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Personal, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »