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Profile: Free Republic
Free Republic was a participant or observer in the following events:
The cover of an April issue of Entertainment Weekly featuring nearly-nude depictions of the Dixie Chicks, all with words written on their skin used in commentaries about the band. [Source: Associated Press / Guardian]The Dixie Chicks, a modern country band from Texas, plays a concert in London. The band consists of three singers and multi-instrumentalists, Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, and Emily Robison, and backing musicians. During the show, Maines says to the audience: “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.” The London Guardian, in a review of the show, reports the comments on March 12. Within days, Maines and the Dixie Chicks become the targets of intense and heavy criticism from conservative commentators and Bush supporters in the United States. Country music radio stations across the nation begin dropping their songs from their playlists, even though the Chicks currently have the top song in country music airplay, “Travelin’ Man.” Radio stations set up trash cans outside their stations for listeners to publicly discard their Dixie Chicks CDs, and some radio stations hold “disc-burning” and “disc-smashing” festivals featuring bonfires and tractors. Two radio station chains, Cox and Cumulus, ban the Chicks from being played on all the stations they own. Critics on Fox News and conservative radio shows nickname the band “the Dixie Sluts,” “Saddam’s Angels,” and other monikers. Country musician Toby Keith, a conservative and frequent guest on Fox News and radio talk shows, begins using a backdrop at his concerts featuring a photo montage putting Maines together with Saddam Hussein. Maines reluctantly accepts 24-hour security from the barrage of death threats she receives. She quickly issues an apology, saying, “Whoever holds that office [the presidency] should be treated with the utmost respect,” but the apology makes little difference to many. Indeed, the band does not back away from its position: Robison will later say: “Everybody talks about how this war was over quickly and not that many people died. Tell that to the parents of people coming home in body bags.… Natalie’s comment came from frustration that we all shared—we were apparently days away from war (see March 19, 2003) and still left with a lot of questions.” Maines will later say: “The thing is, it wasn’t even a political statement. It was a joke made to get cheers and applause and to entertain, and it did. But it didn’t entertain America.” Maines will later say the controversy starts on a right-wing message board and blog called Free Republic. Music producer and comedian Simon Renshaw, a close friend of the band members, agrees with Maines, saying: “The extreme right-wing group, for their own political reasons, are attempting to manipulate the American media, and the American media is falling for it. The Free Republic is very well organized. There’s definitely a Free Republic hit list with all of the radio stations they’re trying to affect, and they are totally focused, and the girls are going to get whacked.” Documentary maker Barbara Kopple, who is making a film about the group, will later say: “[The c]ountry music [industry] put[s] sort of their musicians in a box, and they’re expected to be very conservative in their leanings, and these were three all-American girls that nobody ever expected this from. So when Natalie made her statement, it was as if she had betrayed country music. There was a massive boycott on playing any of their music. There was this group called the Free Republic that immediately got on Web sites and blogs and everything else to make sure that their music was not shown, their CDs were trampled, and for this, they even got death threats. So they had to have bomb-sniffing dogs, they had security, and nothing could stop these women from playing.” Kopple cites one example of a very specific and credible death threat issued for a July 6, 2003 concert in Dallas, but the three band members insist on playing, and the concert goes off without incident. In April 2003, Maines says: “People think this’ll scare us and shut us up and it’s gonna do the opposite. They just served themselves a huge headache.” [Guardian, 3/12/2003; Guardian, 4/25/2003; Democracy Now!, 2/15/2007] Eventually, their CD sales begin to rebound, and in 2007, they will win five Grammy awards, an accomplishment many will see as a vindication of the Dixie Chicks’s music and their right to freedom of speech, as well as something of a repudiation of the Nashville-based country music industry. Music executive Jeff Ayeroff will note that “the artist community… was very angry at what radio did, because it was not very American.” Music executive Mike Dungan, a powerful member of the country music industry, says of the awards, “I think it says that, by and large, the creative community sees what has happened to the Dixie Chicks as unfair and unjust.” [New York Times, 2/13/2007]
Talon News logo. [Source: Talon News / AmericaBlog (.com)]Media Matters, the left-leaning media watchdog organization, questions White House reporter Jeff Gannon’s credentials as well as the legitimacy of the Internet news organization he works for, Talon News. Media Matters is as yet unaware that Gannon’s true name is James Guckert, and that he has no journalistic experience and his livelihood is apparently made by moonlighting as a gay prostitute (see January 26, 2005). The organization shows that several Gannon/Guckert pieces for Talon News are little more than what it calls “reprints of Republican and Bush administration releases,” and demonstrates that Gannon is a frequent “lifesaver” for White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who regularly calls on Gannon/Guckert when he needs a safe question to allow him to get back on track. Media Matters has found out more about Talon News itself; it reports that the information unearthed “casts additional doubt on Talon’s claim to be a media outlet and raises questions about whether Gannon/Guckert should be a credentialed member of the White House press corps.” Talon News is owned by Bobby Eberle, a Texas Republican Party operative who also owns the conservative Internet organization “GOPUSA,” which proclaims itself to be a “conservative news, information, and design company dedicated to promoting conservative ideals.” Though Eberle claims that GOPUSA and Talon News are separate organizations, in fact they are not. Eberle is the owner and chief operator of both entities. Both domain names—“TalonNews.com” and “GOPUSA.com”—are registered to the same Pearland, Texas, street address, which appears to be Eberle’s home address. The domain name contact is Eberle’s GOPUSA email address. Most of the articles on Talon News’s Web site consist of short introductory paragraphs with “Read more” links that take the reader to a page that announces, “This story can be found on our #1 client—GOPUSA!” Readers are then redirected to the GOPUSA.com site. GOPUSA and Talon News are both staffed by Eberle, Gannon/Guckert, and several volunteers. Media Matters concludes that the two organizations are “virtually indistinguishable.” Interestingly, both Eberle and Gannon/Guckert post on the right-wing Internet forum Free Republic, and Gannon/Guckert has hosted a radio show on Radio Free Republic. Another poster once suggested that McClellan “appreciated” Gannon/Guckert’s questions “from the smirk he was trying to hold back,” and Gannon/Guckert responded, “It’s hard to say with Scott but he usually knows what he’s going to get from me.” None of the other volunteers on Talon News seem to have any journalistic experience, but all are heavily involved in Republican politics, including a high school student who is president of his school’s Young Republicans’ Club; the owner of the Wisconsin Conservative Digest; a county GOP chairman and campaign manager for a Maine Republican candidate for the House of Representatives; a South Carolina GOP campaign operative; and a Nebraska freelance writer who has worked as a speechwriter for conservative candidates and organizations. Members of GOPUSA’s board of directors have no more journalistic experience than the writers of Talon News, but all are active GOP operatives, consultants, and financial managers. [Media Matters, 1/25/2005]
Cover of ‘The Obama Nation’ [Source: Threshold / FactCheck (.org)]Dr. Jerome Corsi, a conservative author and blogger who was deeply involved in the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign to besmirch presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA), publishes a book, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality. The title is a play on the word ‘abomination.’ In his book, Corsi, who writes for the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily and blogs at the extremist Free Republic, attacks Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in a fashion similar to that used against Kerry—combining fact, hyperbole, speculation, and outright falsehoods in an attempt to demean and disparage Obama’s character and professional career. The publisher, Threshold (a division of Simon and Schuster devoted to publishing conservative political works), calls the book “[s]crupolously sourced” and “[m]eticulously researched and documented…” Among other allegations, Corsi accuses Obama of growing up under the influence of Communist, socialist, and radical Islamic mentors; of deep and secretive affiliations with ‘60s radicals William Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn; of espousing what he calls “black liberation theology” through his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright; connections to socialists and radical Islamists in Kenya, his father’s home country; deep and criminal ties to Chicago real-estate mogul Tony Rezko; and an intent to, if elected president, implement what Corsi calls “far-left” domestic and foreign policies. [Simon and Schuster, 8/1/2008; New York Times, 8/12/2008; St. Petersburg Times, 8/20/2008] The book debuts as number one on the New York Times bestseller list, propelled by large bulk sales (large buys by particular organizations designed to artificially elevate sales figures) and an intensive marketing campaign carried out on conservative talk radio shows. “The goal is to defeat Obama,” Corsi says. “I don’t want Obama to be in office.” [New York Times, 8/12/2008]
Allegations Roundly Debunked - Unfortunately for Corsi, his allegations do not stand up to scrutiny. FactCheck.org, a non-partisan “‘consumer advocate’ for voters” site run by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, finds that Corsi’s book “is a mishmash of unsupported conjecture, half-truths, logical fallacies and outright falsehoods.” It “is not a reliable source of facts about Obama.” FactCheck notes: “Corsi cites opinion columns and unsourced, anonymous blogs as if they were evidence of factual claims. Where he does cite legitimate news sources, he frequently distorts the facts. In some cases, Corsi simply ignores readily accessible information when it conflicts with his arguments.” The organization notes that Threshold’s chief editor, Republican operative Mary Matalin, said the book was not political, but rather “a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that.” FactCheck responds: “The prominent display of Corsi’s academic title (he holds a Ph.D. in political science) seems clearly calculated to convey academic rigor. But as a scholarly work, The Obama Nation does not measure up. We judge it to be what a hack journalist might call a ‘paste-up job,’ gluing together snippets from here and there without much regard for their truthfulness or accuracy.” [FactCheck (.org), 2008; FactCheck (.org), 9/15/2008] The St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact finds, “Taken as a whole, the book’s primary argument is that Obama is a likely communist sympathizer with ties to Islam who has skillfully hidden his true agenda as he ruthlessly pursues elected office,” an argument that the organization concludes is wholly unsupported by Corsi’s arguments and sources. [St. Petersburg Times, 8/1/2008] And an Associated Press article finds the book a “collect[ion of] false rumors and distortions [designed] to portray Obama as a sort of secret radical who can’t be trusted.” [Associated Press, 8/16/2008]
Unreliable Sources - As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Corsi’s sources are often unreliable: for example, his allegation that Obama’s father divorced his mother according to “Islamic sharia law” is based on a single and unverifiable post made by an anonymous blogger. [Media Matters, 8/4/2008] FactCheck notes that although Corsi points to his over 600 endnotes as proof of his “rigorous” sourcing, many of those endnotes refer to obscure, unverifiable Internet postings, blog posts, and opinion columns. Four of Corsi’s sources refer to his own work. “Where Corsi does cite news sources,” the site says, “he sometimes presents only those that are consistent with his case while ignoring evidence that doesn’t fit the picture he paints.” [FactCheck (.org), 9/15/2008]
Demonstrably False Claims - Some of Corsi’s claims are completely false: his statement that Obama did not dedicate his 2004 memoir, Dreams from My Father, to his parents or grandparents is easily debunked merely by reading the book’s introduction, in which Obama wrote, “It is to my family, though—my mother, my grandparents, my siblings, stretched across oceans and continents—that I owe the deepest gratitude and to whom I dedicated this book.” [Media Matters, 8/4/2008; St. Petersburg Times, 8/20/2008] Corsi also claims, falsely, that Obama holds dual citizenship in the US and Kenya, though the Kenyan Constitution specifically prohibits dual citizenship. [FactCheck (.org), 9/15/2008] Corsi goes on to claim that Obama has long rejected his white family members from his mother’s side, including his grandparents in Hawaii who raised him for much of his childhood. This is part of Corsi’s argument about Obama’s secret embrace of the so-called “radical black rage” teachings of American activist Malcolm X. According to Corsi’s reading of Obama’s memoir: “His race, he self-determines, is African-American. In making that determination, he rejects everyone white, including his mother and his grandparents. We do not have to speculate about this. Obama tells this to us outright; his words are direct, defying us to miss his meaning.” But PolitiFact calls this “a significant misreading of Obama’s memoir,” and notes that Corsi ignores a large amount of evidence that points to Obama’s continued close relationship with his white family members throughout his life. PolitiFact concludes, “To conclude that Obama rejects everyone white, including his mother and his grandparents, Corsi has to significantly read against the memoir’s stated meaning. We find factual evidence also contradicts this statement, indicating that Obama maintained lifelong relations with his white relatives.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/1/2008]
Insinuations and Leading Questions - Many of Corsi’s allegations are based on little more than questions and insinuations: for example, Corsi insinuates that Obama may not have stopped using marijuana and cocaine, as he admitted to doing during his high school years. Corsi writes: “Still, Obama has yet to answer questions whether he ever dealt drugs, or if he stopped using marijuana and cocaine completely in college, or whether his drug usage extended into his law school days or beyond. Did Obama ever use drugs in his days as a community organizer in Chicago, or when he was a state senator from Illinois? How about in the US Senate? If Obama quit using drugs, the public inquiry certain to occur in a general election campaign for the presidency will most certainly aim at the when, how and why…?” According to Media Matters, Obama wrote in his book Dreams from My Father that he stopped using drugs shortly after beginning college. [Media Matters, 8/4/2008] FactCheck notes: “Corsi… slyly insinuates—without offering any evidence—that Obama might have ‘dealt drugs’ in addition to using them. And he falsely claims that Obama has ‘yet to answer’ whether he continued using drugs during his law school days or afterward.… In fact, Obama has answered that question twice, including once in the autobiography that Corsi reviews in his book.”
Guilt by Association - Corsi alleges that Obama has links to Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga, and claims that Obama is somehow linked to the violence surrounding the 2007 Kenyan presidential election. He bases his claim on a single visit by Obama and his wife, Michelle, to Kenya, where they publicly took AIDS tests to demonstrate the tests’ safety. In the testing process, Obama spoke briefly to the crowd. Odinga was on stage while Obama spoke. Corsi construes the speech as an Obama endorsement of Odinga, and, as FactCheck writes, “[h]e goes on to attribute all the violence in Kenya to an elaborate Odinga plot.” Corsi ignores the fact that during that trip, Obama also met with the other Kenyan presidential candidate, Mwai Kibaki, and with opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta. Human Rights Watch blamed the violence following the election on both Odinga and Kibaki and their followers. FactCheck notes that Corsi uses the logical fallacy of “guilt by association” to fill Chapters 3 through 7. [FactCheck (.org), 9/15/2008]
Misquoting Other Sources - Media Matters finds that Corsi sometimes misquotes and rewrites source material, as when he attributed a claim concerning Obama’s supposedly untoward business relationship with Rezko to articles in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Boston Globe, and Salon (.com) that made none of the claims Corsi attributes to them. Corsi also misquoted the conservative Web site NewsMax when he used one of its articles to falsely claim that Obama had been present at Chicago’s Trinity United Church during Reverend Wright’s denunciation of America’s “white arrogance.” (Obama was actually in Miami during Wright’s sermon.) [Media Matters, 8/4/2008] Corsi uses a man he calls one of Obama’s “closest” childhood friends, Indonesian Zulfan Adi, to back his assertion that Obama was once a practicing Muslim. However, Corsi does not report that Adi later retracted his claims about Obama’s religious practices, and admitted to knowing Obama for only a few months. Corsi also ignores a Chicago Tribune story that contains interviews with “dozens of former classmates, teachers, neighbors and friends [who] show that Obama was not a regular practicing Muslim when he was in Indonesia,” and other media reports that have conclusively proven Obama was never a Muslim (see January 22-24, 2008).
Ignoring the Obvious - Corsi repeatedly claims that Obama is a master speaker who bedazzles crowds with soaring flights of rhetoric, but never actually gives any specifics of what he intends to do as president. He writes: “At the end of every rhetorically uplifting speech Obama gives about the future of hope, millions of listeners are still left pondering, ‘Now what exactly did he say?’ If the politician is the message, as [campaign manager David] Axelrod and Obama have proclaimed, they can’t forever avoid telling us what precisely that message is.” But FactCheck notes that “Obama’s Web site is packed with details of what he proposes to do if elected. He lays out descriptions of his policy proposals, including tax cuts for most families and increases for those making more than $250,000 per year; a $150 billion, 10-year program to develop alternative energy sources and more efficient vehicles; a proposal to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 troops and another to create a public health insurance plan for those whose employers don’t offer health coverage. Whether or not one agrees with them, Obama has indeed presented detailed plans for dozens of policies. It’s hard to see how anyone writing a book on Obama could fail to acknowledge their existence.”
Conspiracy Theorist, 'Bigot,' and Veteran Liar - FactCheck notes: “Corsi is a renowned conspiracy theorist who says that [President] George Bush is attempting to create a North American Union… and that there is evidence that the World Trade Center may have collapsed [after the 9/11 attacks] because it was seeded with explosives. More recently, Corsi claimed that Obama released a fake birth certificate. We’ve debunked that twice now. [M]any of the themes in The Obama Nation are reworked versions of bogus chain e-mail smears.” [FactCheck (.org), 9/15/2008] In August 2004, Media Matters found that Corsi routinely embraced both extremist opinions and personal invective. Corsi called Islam “a worthless, dangerous Satanic religion.” Of Catholicism, he wrote, “Boy buggering in both Islam and Catholicism is okay with the Pope as long as it isn’t reported by the liberal press.” Of Muslims themselves, he wrote, “RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters—it all goes together.” And of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), he wrote: “Anybody ask why HELLary couldn’t keep BJ Bill [former President Clinton] satisfied? Not lesbo or anything, is she?” [Media Matters, 8/6/2004] (Corsi posted these comments on the Free Republic under the moniker “jrlc,” and identified himself as “jrlc” on March 19, 2004.) [Free Republic, 3/18/2004; Jerome Corsi, 8/7/2004] An Obama campaign spokesman calls Corsi “a discredited, fringe bigot.” [Associated Press, 8/16/2008] FactCheck concludes, “In Corsi’s case, we judge that both his reputation and his latest book fall short when measured by the standards of good scholarship, or even of mediocre journalism.” [FactCheck (.org), 9/15/2008] PolitiFact concludes: “A reader might think that because the book is printed by a mainstream publishing house it is well-researched and credible. On the contrary—we find The Obama Nation to be an unreliable document for factual information about Barack Obama.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/20/2008]
Entity Tags: Mwai Kibaki, NewsMax, Salon (.com), Raila Odinga, Simon and Schuster, Trinity United Church of Christ, Tony Rezko, Michelle Obama, St. Petersburg Times, Zulfan Adi, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ayers, Media Matters, Hillary Clinton, Malcolm X, Boston Globe, Bernadette Dohrn, Barack Obama, Associated Press, Annenberg Public Policy Center, Chicago Sun-Times, Mary Matalin, Chicago Tribune, FactCheck (.org), John Kerry, Jerome Corsi, David Axelrod, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr, Free Republic, WorldNetDaily, George W. Bush
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections
Andy Martin. [Source: Andy Martin]Hawaiian resident Andy Martin files a writ of mandamus in Hawaii’s Supreme Court to compel Governor Linda Lingle (R-HI) to release a certified copy of presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)‘s “vital statistics record,” apparently asking that Hawaii ignore federal privacy laws and release the “long form” birth certificate on file for Obama (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, and August 21, 2008). His request is denied. [WorldNetDaily, 11/13/2008] When his lawsuit is dismissed, Martin responds on a blog for defeated Democratic primary opponent Hillary Clinton (D-NY), in a posting reprinted on the Free Republic and a number of other conservative blogs. Martin expresses his doubt that Obama has just flown to Hawaii to visit his dying grandmother, apparently referencing conspiracy theories on right-wing radio that Obama went to Hawaii to “scrub” his birth records (see November 10, 2008). He suggests that it is his lawsuit that caused the Obama campaign “to panic and suspend his presidential campaign to head off Andy’s stories.” (Martin has been posting a number of blog entries about Obama being a “covert Islamist”—see October 1, 2007 and April 18, 2008). He is, he boasts, “on the verge of taking down the Obama campaign,” calling himself “the good sheriff stand[ing] alone against the Obama Gang. Eliot Ness and the Untouchables? The Long Ranger? Pick your own hero. Martin vs. Obama explodes into a Hollywood classic.” Martin writes: “I will do my best to defeat Obama even though I essentially stand alone. I stand tall. All of the protagonists are from Chicago. Despite ridicule and envy from Chicago’s corrupt mainstream media, I have spent over forty years successfully fighting crooked politicians like Barack Obama and his Daley Machine cronies.” He cites “support” from Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity, and his own participation as a blog commenter on FoxNews.com and YouTube. He says he “became the target of a massive liberal assault at the [New York] Times” after one Hannity broadcast: “On direct orders from the Emperor Obama, the New York Times then unleashed its smear machine on me.” He says his “investigative team” defeated the Times’s attempt to “destroy me,” writing: “I am still standing and the Times’ credibility is going into the toilet.… High Noon.… Barack Obama vs. Andy Martin. The drama builds as we move closer and closer to disclosing the dramatic truth about Barack Obama.… Barack Obama is an enemy of the Constitution. He is using tens of millions of dollars in clandestine campaign cash from unknown sources to stage an electoral coup d’etat in our nation. That is why I keep fighting for the truth. Barack Obama has been lying to the American people. And his Big Lie is about to be exposed.” [Andy Martin, 10/21/2008] Shortly after the lawsuit’s dismissal, Martin will abruptly abandon his accusations that Obama is a Muslim, and will begin asserting that Obama is a secret Communist taught by his “father,” a black activist named Frank Marshall Davis (see Before October 27, 2008). In a wide-ranging article about the “birther” controversy, Salon columnist Alex Koppelman will later note that Martin was denied an Illinois law license on the grounds that he was mentally unfit to practice law. [Salon, 12/5/2008]
One of Hayden’s Twitter posts. [Source: Twitteradar (.com)]Daniel Knight Hayden, an Oklahoma man who has declared himself affiliated with local tea party organizations and the “Oath Keeper” movement (see March 9, 2009 and March 2010), is arrested by FBI agents after posting a series of messages on Twitter threatening to unleash a violent attack on Oklahoma state government officials on April 15, “Tax Day.” On April 13, under the moniker “CitizenQuasar,” Hayden began posting a blizzard of “tweets” about his intention to be on the Oklahoma State Capitol steps on the 15th, at first as part of a peaceful tea party event, then escalating into harsher rhetoric, and eventually threats of violence. On April 14, he wrote: “Tea Parties: And Poot Gingrich wants to stand in the limelight. He is a NWO operative,” referring to former Republican House Speaker and tea party favorite Newt Gingrich, and accusing him of being an “operative” for the “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990). Towards midnight of April 14, Hayden begins the following series of posts: “Maybe it’s time to die. Let’s see if I can video record the Highway Patrol at the entrance to the Oklahoma State Capitol.” “While trying to inform them of Oath Keepers” (and links to the Oath Keepers blog). “And post it on the internet. Since i live on this sorry f_cking state,that is as good a place as ANY to die and start a WAR. WEshallsee.” “I WISH I had someone to watch my back with MY camera.” “AND, no matter WHAT happens, to post it on the internet IMMEDIATELY, AND send it to Alex Jones!!!!!!!!!!!!” (referring to radio talk show host Alex Jones). “Damnit!” “Alas… WE SHALL see the TRUTH about this sorry f_cking state!!!!!!!” After a few more posts, Dyer begins posting direct threats of violence (later removed from the Twitter account, but presented in the FBI affidavit). “The WAR wWIL start on the stepes of the Oklahoma State Capitol. I will cast the first stone. In the meantime, I await the police.” “START THE KILLING NOW! I am wiling to be the FIRST DEATH! I Await the police. They will kill me in my home.” “After I am killed on the Capitol Steps like REAL man, the rest of you will REMEMBER ME!!!” “I really don’ give a sh_t anymore. Send the cops around. I will cut their heads off the heads and throw the on the State Capitol steps.” Hayden is taken into custody before he can go to the Capitol building, and arrested for transmitting threats to kill or injure people using interstate communication tools over the Internet. FBI agent Michael Puskas confirms that Dyer posted under the moniker “CitizenQuasar,” and says Dyer also has MySpace and Blogger accounts under similar monikers. Wired magazine says it “appears to be [the] first criminal prosecution to stem from posts on the microblogging site,” and calls Dyer’s MySpace page “a breathtaking gallery of right-wing memes about the ‘New World Order,’ gun control as Nazi fascism, and Barack Obama’s covert use of television hypnosis, among many others.” Dyer will be arraigned on April 16 and ordered released to a halfway house, a move the Associated Press reports as suggesting “the magistrate judge does not consider him a genuine threat.” [Wired News, 4/24/2009; Associated Press, 4/26/2009] Posters on the conservative blog Free Republic, commenting on Hayden’s arrest, label him a “leftist” who intended to kill tea party protesters, a contention they say is proven by Hayden’s vows to seek revenge for the government’s execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). One poster writes: “Hayden appears to be one of those mixtures of far out ideologies. On one hand he seems to support nazism but accused Obama of using mind control.” [Free Republic, 4/24/2009]
Within hours of the murder of a security guard by white supremacist James von Brunn (see June 10, 2009 and After), Web sites that had praised von Brunn’s cultural and political stances begin removing his material. Wikipedia had already eradicated his user page and changes because, according to a spokesman, von Brunn violated the site’s policy on hate speech. An art site removes posts from von Brunn, including an image of a painting he created. [New York Times, 6/10/2009] The progressive Internet news site Talking Points Memo finds a cached copy of a December 2008 anti-Obama post by Von Brunn on the far-right Free Republic news and commentary site; Free Republic had removed it from its listings soon after the shooting became known. Von Brunn’s post garnered over 200 responses, almost all positive and supportive. [TPM Muckraker, 6/10/2009]
Lawyer Orly Taitz (left) and Army Reserve Major Stefan Cook, during an interview for a television news crew. [Source: Anna Raccoon (.com)]US Army Reserve Major Stefan Frederick Cook says he should not be deployed to Afghanistan because President Obama is not a US citizen and therefore lacks the constitutional authority to order troops to do anything. Cook’s counsel, “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz (see November 12, 2008 and After and March 13, 2009), files a request in the US District Court for the Middle District of Georgia asking that the court bar Cook from deploying, and seeking conscientious objector status for her client. Taitz says in the filing that Cook believes Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, and July 28, 2009) and therefore has no obligation to obey orders from his superior officers that generate from Obama. Moreover, the filing says, Cook “would be acting in violation of international law by engaging in military actions outside the United States under this president’s command.… simultaneously subjecting himself to possible prosecution as a war criminal by the faithful execution of these duties.” Cook is ordered to mobilize for active duty tomorrow. He is to report to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, and then report to Fort Benning, Georgia, for overseas deployment. A week later, the Army revokes Cook’s deployment orders, instead ordering Cook to await an upcoming hearing on his court filing. Army Public Affairs Officer Lieutenant Colonel Maria Quan says that reservists such as Cook have the right to ask for revocation of their orders up to the day they are scheduled to report for active duty, but adds that Cook has not asked for such revocation. The Army has learned that Cook volunteered for deployment in May 2009, while simultaneously conferring with Taitz to file the complaint. [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 7/14/2009; Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 7/14/2009] Cook has posted on the Free Republic, a far-right Web site and forum, for six years under the moniker “roaddog727.” As early as March 2010, Cook had exchanged emails with Taitz, suggested that he was one of a number of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit challenging Obama’s citizenship, and had posted a long discourse on Obama’s lack of citizenship on the Free Republic. Taitz has repeatedly solicited soldiers to take part in her anti-Obama lawsuits. [Washington Independent, 7/14/2009; Mudville Gazette, 7/15/2009] On July 16, the day of the hearing, Cook is joined in the complaint by retired Army Major General Carol Dean Childers and active reserve Air Force Lieutenant Colonel David Earl Graeff. The government says that because Cook’s orders have been revoked, the complaint filed by Taitz is “moot”: “The commanding general of SOCCENT (US Special Operations Central Command) has determined that he does not want the services of Major Cook, and has revoked his deployment orders.” Taitz revises the complaint to add Childers and Graeff to the suit, “because it is a matter of unparalleled public interest and importance and because it is clearly a matter arising from issues of a recurring nature that will escape review unless the Court exercises its discretionary jurisdiction.” The lawsuit now says the injunction is necessary to encompass the possibility of Cook receiving future orders for deployment as well as to address and prevent “negative collateral consequences such as retaliation against” Cook. The filing notes that Cook lost his job at defense contractor corporation Simtech because of the lawsuit, and complains that Cook is the target of “gossip” from people who believe he was “manipulating his deployment orders to create a platform for political purposes.” [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 7/16/2009] Federal judge Clay Land dismisses the suit, siding with the defense which calls the lawsuit “moot.” Land rules: “Federal court only has authority of actual cases and controversies. The entire action is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” Cook says after the ruling: “I love the Army and I want to continue to serve in the Army. If we can establish that [Obama] is in fact president of the United States legally, I’m on the airplane the next day over to Afghanistan… if they cut my deployment orders, so I can do the job that I want to do.… If one cannot establish the validity and legality of the order… we would be following illegal orders and subject to prosecution. I could be prosecuted by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and if captured I would not be privy to protections under the Geneva Convention.” [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 7/16/2009] Taitz claims victory. The military has shown its cards “and they have nothing to play with,” she says. “By revoking the orders, it’s clear to anybody. Think reasonably: Why would the military undermine itself by revoking its orders?” She says the Army revoked Cook’s orders because the government could not prove in court that Obama was born in the United States and is therefore the legitimate commander in chief. CENTCOM spokesman Lieutenant Commander Bill Speaks calls Taitz’s claim “ridiculous” and Cook’s position “a bizarre conspiracy theory. Suffice to say [that revoking the orders] is certainly not an acknowledgement or validation in any way of his claims.” [Stars and Stripes, 7/30/2009]
Entity Tags: Orly Taitz, Maria Quan, Clay Land, Carol Dean Childers, Free Republic, Bill Speaks, US Department of the Army, Stefan Frederick Cook, David Earl Graeff, Barack Obama
Timeline Tags: US Military, Domestic Propaganda
Tom Ridge and Rachel Maddow. [Source: Armchair Generalist]Former Homeland Security head Tom Ridge is interviewed by progressive television host Rachel Maddow. Ridge has authored a book, The Test of Our Times, a memoir of his tenure in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from October 2001 through the end of President Bush’s first term. Maddow notes that 22 federal agencies were incorporated under the leadership of DHS, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Border Patrol to the Coast Guard and the Secret Service, “the biggest change in what we pay federal tax dollars for since we got a unified Defense Department in 1947.” She goes on to note that one of the new agency’s biggest failures was its lackadaisical and incompetent response to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, though the Coast Guard, one of DHS’s daughter agencies, did eventually deliver what she calls “belated but frankly relatively competent aid,” and Ridge was not DHS secretary when Katrina struck.
Raising the Threat Level - Maddow’s primary focus during much of the interview is the Bush administration’s raising of the so-called “threat level” during 2004, as the presidential elections heated up (see July 8, 2004, for example). In his book, Ridge noted that he wasn’t sure events justified the raising of the threat level.
October 2004 Threat Level Escalation 'Not Political,' Ridge Says - In his book, Ridge wrote that the administration tried to raise the threat level to “orange” just days before the presidential election, on October 29, 2004 (see October 29, 2004). However, when pressed on the subject, Ridge backs away from the implications he raised in his book that politics, not national security, prompted the escalation. “Well, that’s not quite the argument that I put in here,” he tells Maddow. “That passage has generated a lot of heat, so I would like to generate a little light on it.… Further in the book, I remind everybody that the system we designed to raise the threat level could not be manipulated, could not be orchestrated, directed, or pressured by any single individual. Regardless of what anybody says, the system was designed by the president to include the homeland security cabinet group sitting around from time to time when the intelligence warranted that group discussion. If you had a YouTube video of it, you would see the secretary of defense, the attorney general, the secretary of state, and others, having a conversation as to whether the intelligence generates enough concern that we want to raise the threat level. That happened many, many times. This is a particularly dramatic moment, because it is the weekend before the election.… We don’t see anything in the department that generates it, and certainly other people agreed with us. But Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General Ashcroft, very strong in their opinions, as everybody had expressed opinions on any other occasions that you never heard about because we never—we never raised the threat level. At the end of the day, I am using in the book, is there more intelligence, is there something—that is new.… [A]t no time—at no time—at no time did politics enter in my judgment, anybody’s equation. These are tough judgment calls. We made them on a series of occasions throughout two years. Rarely did we make those decisions to go up. Politics was not involved.” Ridge says flatly, “I was not pressured” to raise the threat level. Maddow reads from the fly leaf of Ridge’s book, “He recounts episodes such as the pressure that the DHS received to raise the security alert on the eve of the ‘04 presidential election,” to which Ridge retorts: “Those aren’t my words.… It’s the dust jacket.”
Raising the Threat Level for Political Reasons - Maddow reminds Ridge that both in interviews and his book, he has frequently asked the question of whether the decision to raise the threat level during his tenure was made for political reasons, and notes: “I think that I am persuaded by the argument that I think you make in the book, and you may not have intended it from what you said earlier, that it is a pernicious thing for the American people to perceive that the parts of our government responsible for ensuring our security are actually making decisions that aren’t about our security at all. They’re telling us it’s about security and it’s not.” In 2005, she notes, “you said at a forum about the terror alert level, you said there were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, ‘for that?’ (see May 10, 2005) Were there times—were there times when you felt like people were wanting to raise it for reasons that weren’t about the country’s safety?” Ridge denies ever raising the question, and explains: “I do admit, there were some times when we took a look at the intelligence. Some of my colleagues said, ‘Yes, I think we better go up.’ But none of those colleagues had the responsibility of dealing with the consequences of taking the country to a higher level. And so we were always very modest.… I don’t doubt for a moment that any of my colleagues who were involved in those discussions felt the reason we should either go up or not go up, add more security or reduce the security, was based on what they thought was in the best interest of the security of the country, period.… When I said, ‘for what?’ I must tell you, a couple of times I would come back to the office and say, ‘I don’t get it.‘… I don’t think that’s enough to go up. And part of that is yours truly saying to his leadership team who has responsibilities to oversee what’s going to go on, there’s not enough here to tell the governors and the mayors and the security professionals, you have got to raise another level, you have got to increase expenses, you have got to call in personnel. In my judgment, it wasn’t enough. And by the way, at the time we made the right decision, I believe.” Maddow reminds Ridge that in his book he wrote: “[I]t seemed possible to me that something could be afoot. I wondered, is this about security or politics?” She asks, “You’re saying now that you wondered that and you shouldn’t have?” Ridge replies: “No. I mused at the time, ‘Is there something else here?’ I said, ‘Is it politics? Is it security?‘… But there wasn’t anything there.”
Praising the President in 2004 - After a brief discussion of DHS’s response to Hurricane Katrina, Maddow asks about an incident in August 2004, when Ridge praised President Bush’s leadership in the Middle East. As Maddow describes it, Ridge was asked to praise Bush’s leadership. During a subsequent press conference, Ridge said that Bush’s leadership “was causing us to better target our defensive measures here and away from home. And the implication was that going to war in Iraq was a defensive measure like homeland security stuff that we do here at home.” She asks if he regrets making that statement. Ridge says he agrees with his 2004 assessment, and says he merely “threw the sentence into the press conference.” He says his comment became a “sideshow” that “marginalized the process” and caused people to question his objectivity. Ridge tries to deny that he was specifically talking about the war effort in Iraq, though, as Maddow notes, “[W]hen you said ‘targeting our defensive measures away from home,’ this is August ‘04, so we are more than a year into the war in Iraq with the implication there was that you were talking about Iraq.” Ridge now says that he meant the general war against terrorism. “I should have never mentioned the president’s name,” he says, “because it, again, created a perception—we talked about this earlier—that somehow politics were involved, but and politics was not involved in that decision. It was driven by intelligence.”
Making the Case for War with Iraq - Maddow segues into a statement Ridge made in February 2003, when he said on ABC: “I agree that as the president has said, the world community has said this is a rogue regime that has chemical biological weapons, trying to develop nuclear weapons, has means of delivery. That’s the reason this individual needs to be disarmed. The point in fact is that the world community has known for 12 years he’s got chemical biological weapons, means of delivery, and that’s precisely the reason of the United States and its partners are trying to disarm Saddam Hussein. He’s a threat to his region, he’s a threat to our allies. He’s a threat to us.” Maddow notes: “You were a crucial authoritative part of making what turned out to be a false case to the American people about Iraq being a threat, and us needing to attack them.… You made that case on national television a month before we started invading. Do you regret that?” Ridge replies: “No.… At the time, I think [sic] it’s true, and subsequent to that, the president’s leadership and the things we have done have kept America safe.” Ridge goes on to note that “everyone” believed the intelligence showed Iraq was an imminent threat to the US at the time the invasion was being considered. “You believed it at the time,” Maddow confirms, and then asks, “You don’t still believe it, do you?” Ridge replies: “Well, it’s pretty clear that the intelligence communities of several countries who had assessed his—who claimed that he had weapons of mass destruction, we haven’t found them.… But there were other reasons to go in. That was the one that was—that everybody focused on, and everyone who has been critical of the president for going into Iraq said we never found them. But I think the president made the decisions based on the facts and the intelligence as he knew it at the time, and I think it was the right decision at the time.” He denies that anyone in the administration did anything to “skew” or politicize the intelligence on Iraq’s WMD programs. “There’s no way that anybody in that group—I just—they would commit our blood and our treasure to a cause if they didn’t think it was necessary to commit our blood and treasure to a cause to keep America safe. The intelligence may have proven to be false, but there was no doubt in my mind that they were motivated to keep America safe. In retrospect, we can say that the intelligence was faulty.”
Maddow: No Credibility on National Security until GOP Admits Fault - Maddow tells Ridge: “I think you making that argument right now is why Republicans after the Bush and Cheney administration are not going to get back the country’s trust on national security. To look back at that decision and say, we got it wrong but it was in good faith and not acknowledge the foregone conclusion that we are going to invade Iraq that pervaded every decision that was made about intelligence—looking back at that decision-making process, it sounds like you’re making the argument you would have made the same decision again. Americans need to believe that our government would not make that wrong a decision, that would not make such a foregone conclusion—take such a foregone conclusion to such an important issue, that the intelligence that proved the opposite point was all discounted, that the intelligence was combed through for any bit that would support the foregone conclusion of the policy makers. The system was broken. And if you don’t see that the system was broken and you think it was just that the intel was wrong, I think that you’re one of the most trusted voices on national security for the Republican Party, and I think that’s the elephant in the room. I don’t think you guys get back your credibility on national security until you realize that was a wrong decision made by policy makers. It wasn’t the spies’ fault.” Ridge says any suggestion that anyone would have deliberately skewed or misinterpreted the intelligence on Iraq is “radical.… Later on, it may have proven that some of the information was inaccurate, but there were plenty of reasons to go into Iraq at the time; the foremost was weapons of mass destruction. That obviously proven [sic] to be faulty. But the fact of the matter is, at that time, given what they knew—and they knew more than you and I did—it seemed to be the right thing to do, and the decision was made in what they considered to be the best interests of our country.” When democracy in Iraq is finally established, Ridge says, “the notion that we went in improperly will be obviously reversed, and the history has yet to be written.” Maddow replies: “If you can go back in time and sell the American people on the idea that 4,000 Americans ought to lose their lives and we ought to lose those trillions of dollars for democracy in Iraq, you have a wilder imagination than I do. We were sold that war because of 9/11. We were sold that war because of the threat of weapons of mass destruction from this guy who didn’t have them, and our government should have known it. And, frankly, a lot of people believe that our government did know it, and that it was a cynical decision. And maybe everybody wasn’t in on it, maybe that is a radical thing to conclude, but I think that…” Ridge interjects: “I don’t share that point of view. You do.” [MSNBC, 9/2/2009]
Reactions - Reactions to the interview are predictably split, with progressives noting how much Ridge backpedals on questions he himself raised, and conservatives declaring victory for Ridge. Talking Points Memo notes the irony in Ridge’s claim that while his words should be trusted, the words on the dust jacket of his book should not be. [TPM LiveWire, 9/2/2009] Posters on the conservative blog Free Republic write that Ridge “pwned” Maddow, video game slang for dominating or “owning” someone. [Free Republic, 9/1/2009]
Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Free Republic, Talking Points Memo, George W. Bush, US Secret Service, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), Republican Party, Tom Ridge, Rachel Maddow, US Border Patrol, US Department of Homeland Security, US Coast Guard
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
A post on the conservative Internet forum Free Republic triggers a wave of overtly racist comments and death threats towards African-Americans. The post links to an Associated Press article, “GOP Spending Cuts Would Affect Millions of People,” which projects some of the funding cuts that would ensue if the new Republican majority in the House were able to pass its “Pledge to America” economic legislation. The “Pledge” demands $84 billion in appropriations cuts. The article notes that “[l]ow-income students may get smaller grants”; low-income Americans would lose home heating subsidies; low-income mothers would lose food subsidies for their infant children; disabled Americans will have benefits delayed; public schools will suffer draconian funding reductions; the FBI, the IRS, and the National Parks Service, among other government bureaus and agencies, would lose millions in funding; and more. Many posters on Free Republic immediately begin pointing to African-Americans as the main ones to suffer the cuts. One poster, “traditional1,” posts a picture of a department store entrance crowded with African-American shoppers and writes: “Start defunding here. Then we’ll see who will ‘tone down the rhetoric.’” His signature line, a crude parody of what he apparently considers to be “black English,” reads, “Don’t gotsta worry ‘bout no mo’gage, don’t gotsta worry ‘bout no gas; Obama gonna take care o’ me!” Another poster, “Hoffer_Rand,” references the EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) government assistance program by saying the picture depicts “EBT night at Wally World,” meaning Wal-Mart. “Something like that. It was a program to apply for rent assistance, but the word got out that they were giving out money to help pay people’s rent. They just about had riots when people in the crowd found out that all they were handing out were applications and not free money, especially because they’d been standing in line for hours. I said at the time they needed to send somebody with a bullhorn up and down through the crowd, telling people that they were only going to get an application and not any cash. That crowd would have been cut by 90 percent in no time.” Another poster, “cripplecreek,” warns of urban violence, presumably among African-Americans, if the budget cuts pass: “Better lay in some extra ammo, though, if you live near a major urban area… the Dem voterbase will be heading to the suburbs to take what they believe that they have a ‘right’ to.” Poster “Dick Bachert” advises Free Republic readers to shoot down angry welfare recipients: “My guess is that the REAL ‘trouble’ will start when the welfare checks stop going out. If you live in a major urban area, lock and load ‘cause I suspect it WILL be a target-rich environment.” Poster “Panzerlied,” whose nickname references a song made famous by the Nazi Wehrmacht, writes in response to Bachert’s post, “I’ll deliver what they deserve, 9mm from a MAC-11. 900 RPM.” [Free Republic, 1/19/2011; Associated Press, 1/19/2011]
A screenshot of Fox News (.com)‘s headline announcing the release of Obama’s birth certificate. [Source: Think Progress]Responses to President Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) are mixed. Fox News places a banner headline on its Web site saying, “White House Releases What It Says is President Obama’s Long-Form Birth Certificate.” [Think Progress, 4/27/2011] Fox News later replaces the original headline with the more conventional, “White House Releases Obama Birth Certificate.” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011] Influential conservative blogger and political pundit Erick Erickson, echoing billionaire television host and rumored 2012 presidential candidate Donald Trump, demands that Obama release his college transcripts, saying, “That’s the issue for me.” Erickson concludes: “When the birth certificate is reviewed and we can see what most of us have always known—that he was born in Hawaii—we can move on. For some, moving on will be to wonder what religion the man is” (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008). Commenters on Erickson’s blog immediately begin calling the newly released certificate a “fake,” and one says, “I just wish he’d release the actual real certificate.” Another demands the release of all of Obama’s college and medical transcripts, and another recommends, “We need someone to start looking into recent purchases of printing apparatuses from the 60s.” Comments posted on the conservative news and gossip site Drudge Report are heavily skewed towards calling the certificate a fake. [Erick Erickson, 4/27/2011] Conservative news blog WorldNetDaily (WND), which has trumpeted much of the “birther” controversy, headlines its article, “Born in the USA?” Its article includes a caveat, “If the document proves valid…” and goes on to claim: “[I]t also could prove his ineligibility because of its references to his father. Some of the cases challenging Obama have explained that he was a dual citizen through his father at his birth, and they contend the framers of the Constitution excluded dual citizens from qualifying as natural born citizens.” WND is referring to a host of lawsuits challenging Obama’s status as a “natural born citizen” that have been thrown out of court and debunked as contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. WND publisher Joseph Farah says: “But it is important to remember there are still dozens of other questions concerning this question of eligibility that need to be resolved to assure what has become a very skeptical public concerning Barack Obama’s parentage, his adoption, his citizenship status throughout his life, and why he continues to cultivate a culture of secrecy around his life.” Farah says the document “raises as many questions as it answers.” Bloggers at Free Republic echo WND’s claims, saying that the new document proves Obama is “not a natural born citizen.” Some say that since Obama “renounced his [US] citizenship” for Kenyan citizenship, the new document proves nothing. Another commenter posts a picture of a debunked, faked “birth certificate” showing Obama as being born in Kenya. [WorldNetDaily, 4/27/2011; Free Republic (.com), 4/27/2011; Washington Independent, 4/27/2011] Farah is joined in his doubts about the veracity of the certificate by Paul Joseph Watson, a writer and editor for Alex Jones’s Web site Prison Planet. Watson again raises the issue of Obama being a “natural born citizen,” because of his father’s Kenyan ancestry and citizenship, and writes, “Since the American people have been habitually lied to about everything under the sun, with trust in government at an all time low, a PDF file put out directly by the Obama administration itself isn’t going to make the furore die down at all, and will only lead to claims that the document is a carefully crafted fake.” [Paul Joseph Watson, 4/27/2011] Blogger Karl Denninger of Market-Ticker says the doctor’s signature on the certificate is false, and alleges that information on the certificate was “tampered with.” [Karl Denninger, 4/27/2011; Karl Denninger, 4/27/2011] Two lawyers who filed rejected suits challenging Obama’s citizenship, Philip Berg (see August 21-24, 2008) and Orly Taitz (see August 1-4, 2009), weigh in on the issue. Berg says that Obama was adopted by his Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, and thus lost his US citizenship: “I think the issue is that he’s not any more natural born. I don’t care if he releases his birth certificate or whatever. Let’s see his records coming back through immigration.” Taitz says her “analysis” of the document shows that Obama is using a fake Social Security number: “In Obama’s Selective Service [document], his social security is listed as a Connecticut Social Security number” (see April 27, 2011). Politico’s Ben Smith reminds readers that “Taitz… has tried to have forgeries introduced into court filings before.” [Politico, 4/27/2011] Author Jerome Corsi has made similar allegations about Obama’s Social Security number (see September 21, 2010). Barbara Morrill, writing for the progressive blog Daily Kos, says flatly, “Birthers aren’t satisfied because no matter how many documents Barack Obama releases it will never be enough, because there isn’t a document in the world that will turn him white.” [Barbara Morrill, 4/27/2011]
Entity Tags: Drudge Report, Barack Obama, WorldNetDaily, Barbara Morrill, Ben Smith, Donald Trump, Erick Erickson, Prison Planet (.com), Fox News, Paul Joseph Watson, Philip J. Berg, Jerome Corsi, Free Republic, Karl Denninger, Joseph Farah, Orly Taitz, Obama administration
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Less than two hours after President Obama releases his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) and posts a PDF (Portable Data File) copy on the Internet, Bryan Michael Nixon, an art director with an Atlanta advertising firm, makes a blog post about his initial examination of the PDF copy. Nixon says that after opening the file in the Adobe graphics program Illustrator, it is clear that the document is composed of “multiple elements.” He writes, “This in no way proves that anything on it is fake… [h]ow to interpret that is up to the viewer.” He opens his blog post with a capitalized declaration, “I AM NOT A BIRTHER!” [Bryan Keith Nixon, 4/27/2011] By the afternoon, Nixon’s post is a front-page headline on the conservative news and gossip Web site Drudge Report, sparks a storm of claims and counterclaims about the document’s authenticity, and is quickly picked up by radio host Alex Jones and a plethora of Web sites. The claims that the certificate is “fake” are based in part on Nixon’s observation that the PDF file contains “multiple elements,” or “layers,” particularly two separate “layers” of background image and foreground text. Within minutes of the Nixon post, a forum participant at the Free Republic, a conservative blog and message board, writes: “No, I am analyzing an eloctronice [sic] document and saying that there is no way that this was a scanned image [sic] It was made of LAYERS in software [sic]” Another poster writes: “I opened it in Photoshop Elements and saw those white areas behind the text. YES! That image was built up, not scanned from a document.” The claim that the “layers” “prove” the certificate is fake is based on what experts call a fundamental lack of understanding of how PDF files work. Many PDFs, including the Obama certificate image, use optical character recognition (OCR) to recognize and reproduce lettering, and place those letters into a separate image. Reporter Benjy Sarlin will write, “This explains why you’re able to highlight and copy raw text from some PDF files even though it’s actually not a word processing document.” Shortly after Drudge headlines Nixon’s blog post, the National Review, inundated with emails about the “layer” theory, issues a comprehensive debunking of the “fraud” claim. “We looked into it and dismissed it,” reporter Nathan Goulding writes. Goulding uses a scanned copy of his magazine’s cover to make a PDF file, and, opening the file in Adobe Illustrator, shows that the PDF scan contains multiple layers. He writes of the layers: “Quite simply, they look like they were created programmatically, not by a human. What’s plausible is that somewhere along the way—from the scanning device to the PDF-creation software, both of which can perform OCR (optical character recognition)—these partial/pseudo-text images were created and saved. What’s not plausible is that the government spent all this time manufacturing Obama’s birth certificate only to commit the laughably rookie mistake of exporting the layers from Photoshop, or whatever photo editing software they are meant to have used. It’s likely that whoever scanned the birth certificate in Hawaii forgot to turn off the OCR setting on the scanner. Let’s leave it at that.” Sarlin writes: “The fringe theory’s rapid spread within hours of the certificate’s release presents almost a perfect example of one of the White House’s justifications for taking on the birther issue—namely, that thanks to the Internet, conspiracy theories can migrate quickly from the fringe and into the mainstream if left unchecked. In this case, it took only hours.” He concludes, “[B]irthers have wasted no time in promoting alternate theories undermining the president’s legitimacy since the release of the long form birth certificate.” [Free Republic (.com), 4/27/2011; National Review, 4/27/2011; TPM Muckraker, 4/29/2011] Two days later, an Adobe Illustrator expert proclaims the certificate genuine (see April 29, 2011).
Former Army Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin is discharged from military prison after serving five months of a six-month term for refusing to obey deployment orders. Lakin refused to be deployed in April 2010 because, he said at the time, President Obama was not a true American citizen and therefore could not give him or any other member of the military any orders to deploy (see Before April 13, 2010). Lakin was court-martialed, dishonorably discharged, and sentenced to prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (see December 16, 2010). He pled guilty after a military court refused to allow what he and the “birther” organization that supported him, the American Patriot Foundation, called “evidence” of Obama’s lack of US citizenship (see September 2, 2010). [Associated Press, 5/13/2011] Some “birthers” continue to use Lakin’s case to advance their cause. One “birther” blog devoted to advocating the anti-gay “Defense of Marriage Act” writes: “Lieutenant Terry Lakin was sentenced as a result of a judicial meltdown in our courts transpiring and sweeping across America, as Mr. Lakin was not allowed the right to justly defend himself. He was denied the opportunity to call forth witnesses or to submit crucial evidence to the court involving our Head-in-Chief.” [DOMA News, 5/15/2011] A commenter on the Free Republic blog writes: “When did overlooking and ignoring fraud, deceit, identity theft, forgery, and corruption in the chain of command become part of the military code of honor? Is this how our very highest military officers fulfill their responsibilities to the brave men and women serving under them and to their oath to defend the Constitution. [sic] Do they feel shame when accepting the salutes of our dedicated and honorable troops? Are our highest military [sic] the least bit suspicious that Obama sits in the White House because of forgery, deceit, fraud, and identity theft? Where is the evidence that they peacefully and lawfully sought certifiable clarification of Obama’s status from Congress, the courts, and/or Obama himself?” [Free Republic (.com), 5/12/2011]
Whitney Houston. [Source: Sandra Rose (.com)]Fox News posts a story about the sudden and as-yet-unexplained death of African-American singer Whitney Houston. Within minutes, the story receives numerous comments featuring a variety of racial slurs against Houston and African-Americans in general. Conservative blogger Charles Johnson lambasts the commenters and Fox News for the posts. Johnson writes: “I don’t even know what to say about this any more. There’s a real sickness running rampant in the right wing; the Fox News comment thread on Whitney Houston’s death is yet another disgusting deluge of outright racism.… There are almost 5,000 comments posted in the thread.” He quotes a number of the comments posted on the first few pages, noting that “the racist b_stards deliberately misspell their slurs or insert random spaces, so they aren’t caught by word filters. And many of the worst comments have numerous ‘likes’ from other commenters.” Calling Houston a “n_gger” is the most common slur used, with the first comment Johnson quotes calling her “just an inferior lo w life ni gg er that needed to go,no tragedy,no loss.” Many inaccurately call Houston a “thug” from the “ghetto” and speculate that she died from a drug overdose, with some labeling her a “crack ho.” Others insult African-Americans’ intelligence, physical type, and work ethic. Some call her a “monkey,” and many reference her “jungle” origins. Many insult her as a woman and make crude sexual references to her. Many celebrate her death as another African-American “off the public social rolls,” while others cheer the loss of another “Obama voter.” One poster writes, “To bad it wasnt the monkey in the White House.” Another poster writes: “I am now patiently waiting for the grand messiah Obama to have a blk fundraiser in honor of Whitley with Kevin Costner as guest of honor with all the Hollywood elites invited along with Alan Colmes, Al Sharpton, Jeremia Wright, Charles Rangel, etc. with a menu featuring blk eyed peas, grits, Imported Kobe steak, Dom Perignon, sweet potato pie and a mus lll im scarf as a momento of this great occasion. Of course the door prize will be an all expense paid trip to Kenya to visit the Obama tribe and birthplace of his ancestors while the American people still look for this imposter’s birth certificate in Hawaii !!!” The commenter deliberately misspells “Muslim,” presumably to avoid having his or her comment filtered. Another poster blames “the black gene pool” for being genetically inferior and thereby unable to “handle fame and fortune whether it’s derived from music, acting, sports or just plain entertainment.” Another poster says African-Americans are not “included in the human race.” Another accuses Houston of smoking crack with President Obama, and of having sexual relations with him, accusations echoed by subsequent posters. One asks why “Afro-Americans” are allowed to “use English names” when they should be named “Kunta Kinti or Moguba Magaba.” After quoting several pages of comments, Johnson writes: “There’s more. A lot more. But I have to stop now because it’s making me physically ill.” [Fox News, 2/12/2012; Charles Johnson, 2/12/2012] The day after, Fox News deletes the entire comments thread and purges all of the comments from public view. Johnson writes: “It was probably easier to just trash the whole thing than try to moderate 5,000 comments full of racial slurs. I’ll bet somebody at Fox News is pretty pissed off at me today.” [Charles Johnson, 2/13/2012] At the far-right blog Free Republic, a poster blames “liberals” for posting the comments as part of what he calls a “COINTELPRO” (or counterintelligence program) operation, and implies Johnson is behind the “scheme.” The Free Republic post features its own racist comments about Houston, with one commenter calling her a “schvatza,” a Yiddish racial slur. [Free Republic (.com), 2/13/2012]
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