2007-11-20

Lies, damn lies and political rumours

From the department of believing-lies-is-bad-for-you:
What I heard several times in El Dorado is that people believe or fear that Obama is a Muslim. Unpalatable as it may be, it’s clear to me that this smear is not going to go away and it could cost Obama the Democratic nomination or even the presidency. The emails about Obama being a radical Muslim, which I blogged about back in January have spread far and wide.

A case in point is Clarence Kerns, 90, and his wife Rovilla, 85. Clarence, who worked in the oil industry for more than 40 years and has lived in the same house since 1939 is a straightforward, honest soul – ordinary in the very best sense of the word. So too is his wife. Their passion, apart from their great-grandchildren, is genealogy and Clarence was delighted when he realised that Stanley Dunham, with whom he was at high school in the class of 1935, was Barack Obama’s grandfather.

Mrs and Mrs Kerns spoke glowingly of Mr Obama’s speeches, his intelligence and his education. They appeared to care not a whit about his colour. But they won’t vote for him. Why? They think he might be a Muslim.
This has got to be one of the reasons I find American politics so sickening - not just politics in general, but American politics. The issue here is more than just the fact that there is a bunch of people who are obviously dedicated to spreading lies about a presidential candidate - the issue is that so many people end up believing it, or at least having doubt in their mind over the guy.

I'm no supporter of Barack Obama. My personal feeling about the Democratic presidential candidates is that none of them appeal to me (with the notable exception of Al Gore if he decides to run).

The spreading of lies in order to discredit a political leader is not new in America. In the past, it is what afflicted John Kerry, John McCain and Ann Richards. While the targets of this sort of smearing are a mixture of Democrats and Republicans, it is obvious that such lies have come from a Republican source.

The grand-daddy of this sort of mud slinging was the Republican political strategist Lee Atwater, who was able to sling enough lies and mud at Michael Dukakis to prevent him winning the 1988 presidential election. Atwater later developed cancer and repented of his actions after converting to Catholicism (if Wikipedia is to be believed) before dying.

But, as I have said, it is not the presence of these lies that bothers me, but rather the wholesale belief in them by the public at large. Within the context of Australia's current election campaign has been the smearing of Labor Party deputy leader Julia Gillard. Gillard was criticised for not having children a while ago, and she is now being labelled a "closet Communist" because of her political affiliations in her mid 20s (she's now 46). Since the Labor party is Australia's left-wing party, the fact that one of its members was reasonably left wing in her early days is nothing to be surprised about. Yet, despite these amateur attempts at smearing her, Gillard is in no danger of being a liability to the ALP.

I'd like to think that Australians are more immune to the ridiculous smearing that goes on in the US, but I'm not convinced. I've fallen for lies a number of times in the past - yet when I discover that I have been lied to it awakes in me a desire to seek facts on both sides of the political fence rather than blithely ignoring it.

5 comments:

Ron Lankshear said...

The trouble with the Obama stuff is that there is a substance to the "lie". He did go to a school in Indonesia - of course I am British Imperialist Oppressor also based on school. I know he has written books with the facts and he is reported as saying he beliefs in Jesus but if this stuff is still around then he needs someone to ask him on one of these Democrats hopefuls debates.

a CNN poll in January
Who is behind the Obama lies
Right wing opponents 65%
Left 35%

Similar here about Kev - when asked at some sport event he said "I go to Church". That was not strong enough for a lot of people so the rumours fly around.

BLBeamer said...

Two uninformed old fogeys are hardly representative of "the wholesale public at large."

If you don't like the innuendo and so-called "code speak" described here (it is hardly new to the US, by the way) then of course you will categorically condemn the same thing when done by the likes of Krugman and Herbert when they are able to determine what Republicans "really" mean when they give speeches.

Won't you???

BLBeamer said...

The best way to not fall for lies is to disbelieve everything a candidate says about an opponent. You must be careful to also disbelieve everything they say about themselves, however.

Regarding Kerry, I look forward to this clearing things up. Kerry has been claiming he will "clear things up" for some time now. America is still waiting.

Neil, from your comments blaming only Republicans for all campaign chicanery, do you believe that the GOP was also behind this mess?

Or this one?

One Salient Oversight said...

Are there any Democrats worthy of the mantle of Lee Atwater or Karl Rove?

Not James Carville. He's just an idiot who looks like a mad scientist.

BLBeamer said...

I'm not sure Rove is worthy of the mantle the Democrats have bestowed on him. I think they have to use Rove as a distraction to keep the faithful from noticing the fact that they have had crappy candidates or campaigns.

I remember when Ann Richards was beat in Texas. It was interesting at the time because she was highly thought of and he was considered to be running only on his father's name.

She blew it. She did not take the frat boy seriously, and her views on firearms were out of step with most of the rest of the state.

The alleged "lesbian whisper" campaign was unknown to me until years later, but I don't think it was a factor compared to her cockiness and lack of respect for the voters and her opponent.

I agree with your opinion on Carville, but lightning struck on the '92 Clinton campaign for him.