Sometimes you just have to marvel at the almost-transcendent inanity of the conservative blogosphere. For a few years now, some conservative media figures -- led by conservative bloggers like Jack Cashill -- have been obsessed with proving that Bill Ayers is the true author of President Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father.
If you were under the impression that this conspiracy theory couldn't sink any lower than Cashill's column in February highlighting how Obama and Ayers both use words like "skillet" and "ice cream" in their writing, you were mistaken.
This week, seeking to add more "evidence" to this theory, some conservative blogs are running with the claim that Google has joined in on the conspiracy and is now listing Ayers as the author of Dreams on Google Books.
That might be somewhat interesting if it actually happened. But it didn't.
A recent New York Times article highlighted two studies that the article claimed "question the pairing of food deserts and obesity" and may "raise questions about the efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods." While right-wing media have seized on the article to claim that food deserts are a "make-believe" issue, food experts have called the Times article "sloppy" and have said the two studies it highlights are "definitely outliers," in the face of "over 50 studies" in the past three years finding "the opposite."
In the fall of 2009, Lou Dobbs left CNN amid a furor over his embrace of conspiracy theories about President Obama's birth certificate. It looks like he didn't learn much from that experience.
Friday, a graphic on Dobbs' Fox Business show cited the right-wing website American Thinker as the source for a figure about Michelle Obama's vacations:
American Thinker has published the writings of Jack Cashill, a shameless birther conspiracy theorist, and hosted Cashill's suggestion that the president's father was not Barack Obama Sr., but Frank Marshall Davis, a writer and labor activist.
Aside from other instances of birther nuttiness, American Thinker has also published prominent white nationalist Jared Taylor and an array of right-wing conspiracy theories: Texas Gov. Rick Perry is in the thrall of radical Islamists, climate scientists are hoaxing the world about global warming, etc.
Dobbs may have gone quiet on Obama's birth certificate, but he's still comfortable citing the same fringe websites that have fueled the birther story.
The calculation about the first lady's vacations is highly suspect, as well.
The right-wing media have launched another round of attacks on President Obama for supposedly being anti-Israel. However, Obama has regularly supported Israel, and according to a recent poll, the majority of Israeli Jews support him.
Anonymous hackers recently released another batch of emails taken from a climate research group at the University of East Anglia in 2009, along with a document containing numbered excerpts of purportedly incriminating material. Many of these selections have been cropped in a way that completely distorts their meaning, but they were nonetheless repeated by conservative media outlets who believe climate change is a "hoax" and a "conspiracy."
Right-wing media seized on a comment Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made about Catholics and health care providers to suggest that Pelosi was mocking Catholics for having a "conscience." In fact, Pelosi, who is Catholic, was discussing Republican-backed "conscience exemptions" for health care providers that refuse to perform abortions, which Pelosi has said could endanger the health of women.
UPDATE: Kristina Schake, communications director for First Lady Michelle Obama, made the following statement about these attacks:
The words, meaning and context in these claims are all wildly off the mark. The First Lady was commenting to the President on how moving and powerful it always is to watch all that America's firefighters and police officers do to honor the flag. It was an emotional moment on a powerful day and she was awed by the ceremony and all that the flag symbolizes.
The Washington Times' senior editorial writer for foreign affairs James Robbins and right-wing bloggers are claiming that Michelle Obama likely disparaged the American flag during a ceremony commemorating the 9/11 attacks.
They have posted video of Michelle Obama whispering something inaudible to her husband during the ceremony and are speculating that she said "all this just for a flag," "all that for a flag," or "all of this for a damn flag." (They disagree on exactly what she said.)
Blogger Jim Hoft, still in the running for the Dumbest Man on the Internet, didn't even have the confidence to type the fake Michelle Obama quotation himself. He instead provided a link to an American Thinker post making the accusation for him.
The video the bloggers have posted has no audio of Michelle Obama at the relevant point, and their lip-reading is hindered by the fact that Michelle Obama's lips disappear behind a partition at one point:
But they still believe Michelle Obama must have said something extremely controversial. We leave you with the ramblings of Debbie Schlussel, who seems to believe it doesn't matter what Michelle Obama said, because we all know what "she's thinkin' ":
I can't really tell for sure, but a number of people are abuzz about this video of Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Hussein Obama Idi Amin Dada. The consensus seems to be that the First Ms. Thang is saying to hubby Barack, "All of this for a damn flag." (She said this about the American flag -- you know the one brave men died for.) Wouldn't be surprised if that's what she said because we know she hates America and previously said she wasn't proud of our country until Obama had a chance to become Prez. Looks like that's what she said, but I can't tell for sure. I would need a deaf person or other expert lip reader to confirm. Watch and see if you agree (like I said, even if she didn't say exactly that, we know she's thinkin' it).
The anti-Muslim segment of the conservative media has identified yet another Republican as a traitor to America because he is supposedly too close to Muslims. The current target is Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), labeled as the "5th column candidate" by Pamela Geller because of his ties to Muslim leader Aga Khan IV and others.
Even after the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a statement saying that it will not require farmers to obtain commercial driver's licenses (CDLs), members of the right-wing media continued to promote the claim.
Right-wing media have attacked President Obama for his decision to stop receiving daily in-person economic briefings. In fact, Obama still receives a daily economic briefing on paper and regularly meets with members of his economic team as well as outside economists and experts.
Right-wing media seized on the leak of an undated, "early working draft" of a proposed transportation authorization bill to suggest that President Obama plans to tax automobile drivers based on how many miles they drive and that the government will use it to spy on their driving habits. But the Obama administration has not embraced such a proposal, and, in any event, such an idea is hardly new or controversial, as House Republicans have passed similar bills.
For Americans who get their history primarily through postage stamps, a startling trend has emerged recently: stamps have become "childish, silly, and racist."
That's the concern of American Thinker writer Alan Fraser, who reports that while "for years we would use stamps with the figures of Lincoln, FDR, Washington represented," a "5 minute cruise of the USPS website shows that these kinds of men have been erased."
What has taken their place? According to Fraser, "Polar bears, lots of women and blacks no one has ever heard of."
Take it away, Alan:
There's Julia de Burgos (who?), Mother Teresa (an Albanian saint), Oscar Micheaux (a black guy I never heard of), Kate Smith, Katharine Hepburn, Love, Pansies in a Basket, the Year of the Rabbit (Forever, a Navajo necklace, Anna Julia Cooper (a black woman I never heard of), Adopt a Shelter Pet, Butterfly, Tiffany lamps, Chinese bracelets, Kwanzaa, Mary Lasker (who?), Richard Wright (another black guy), playing cards, balloons, daisies, cherries, all the NFL Teams, Hollywood personalities, the Simpsons, and don't forget...you guessed it...the all-important-never-thing-that-one-cannot-know-too-much-about...wait for it... Negro Baseball Leagues.
Oh, and there is a stamp of the U.S flag and one of the Liberty Bell as well as one of Reagan and a white cartoonist.
That's it. Oh, and there's also some kind of Muslim stamp. No stamp that reminds us of September 11th, nothing of the landing at Normandy (everyone's including even Hollywood's favorite war), none of our aircraft carriers or the fighter jets of today, no Eisenhower, Grant (who liberated more black Americans than any black man ever did), Audie Murphy, Thomas Edison, George Patton, Lewis and Clark, or Chesty Puller.
It's almost as though a law had been enacted to prevent the intelligent representation of American History through its postage stamps.
And before you dismiss American Thinker as merely a collection of fringe conservatives complaining about accidentally learning something about black people from their postage stamps, keep in mind that it remains an influential conservative website.
Rush Limbaugh regularly cites articles from the Thinker on his radio show, and even promoted their conspiracy alleging Obama secretly skipped his daughter's soccer game last year to do unsavory, unspecified things while the press wasn't looking. Limbaugh has said [subscription required] that it is "one of my favorite and most thoughtful blogs."
It truly is a special brand of human who does not grasp when he or she is being mocked. Case-in-point, Media Matters has previously reported that the right-wing media has vigorously tried to spread the idea that Bill Ayers, political activist, personally penned the president's first book - Dreams From My Father.
Recently, Ayers appeared at Montclair State, where he very clearly mocked right-wing conspiracy nuts who have previously credited him with this particular feat. The right took this as an admission that he actually did write Dreams.
Janice Shaw Crouse -- a speechwriter during the first Bush Administration who currently serves as a senior fellow for the Concerned Women for America and blogs regularly at the American Thinker -- wrote in a January 25 American Thinker post that President Obama's 2011 State of the Union address contains a "subliminal bow to Mecca" because it reportedly focuses on five points, or "pillars":
According to the White House, President Obama is planning to focus on "five pillars" during his 2011 State of the Union address -- innovation, education, infrastructure, deficit reduction, and reforming government. Poor choice to focus on five points and call them "pillars." As the president surely knows, there are "five pillars" of Islam which are the foundation for the Muslim life. Is this subliminal bow to Mecca worth opening that "can of worms" at the same time Obama is making a head-fake towards center? [emphasis added]
On the January 25 edition of his Fox News show, Glenn Beck said: "You'll never guess how many pillars the President is going to focus on tonight. Yeah, five. Five. The five pillars." He added, "Has anybody ever heard of the five pillars of Islam? ... Five pillars of Islam -- Mr. President, I mean, c'mon, now you're just poking people, because they know it has nothing to do with that, but you're just poking people."
Yesterday, FoxNews.com published an article outlining the recent public spat between National Public Radio and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) over his recently reintroduced bill to defund NPR. After playing stenographer to both Rep. Lamborn and NPR, the article concludes:
NPR says only 1 percent to 3 percent of its $166 million budget is funded by taxpayer dollars. But a recent report by the Congressional Research Service found that taxpayers fund at least 4 percent of NPR's budget, while an analyst at the conservative American Thinker estimated it was closer to 25 percent.
So, we have a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service being placed on equal footing with an unnamed "analyst" at a conservative blog.
The "analyst" in question is Mark Browning, who probably does not fit most readers' definition of that term: he teaches English at Johnson County Community College. After he published his piece at American Thinker and a similar op-ed in the New York Post, Browning appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss NPR. The chyron during that appearance billed him as an English professor, and made no mention of any other experience which might qualify him to accurately estimate the funding sources of NPR's budget. To uncritically bill him as an "analyst" implies a level of credibility that simply does not exist, given the available details about his background.
Further, the comparison between these two completely leaves out a number of assumptions Browning makes in his so-called "estimate." Browning contends that federal funds trickle into NPR's national budget in several ways, among them grants from publicly funded organizations, tax-funded university dollars, and deductions for donations. Browning tries to estimate the sum of those funds, and in doing so runs fast and reckless with the numbers. From Browning's article:
At first glance, this distribution of funds seems to confirm that public radio's support does not come in large amounts from the direct allocation of tax moneys. After all, 5.6% is not a gigantic portion of the budget, is it? But let's look more closely. That 10.1% that comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is 99% provided by -- you guessed it -- the federal government. Those university funds, whenever they are provided by a public university, represent taxpayer-provided dollars. We can safely assert that three out of four university-supported stations are publicly funded, which means that more than 10% (three-quarters of that 13.6%) is taken from the taxpayer's pockets.
99 percent of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's budget comes from the federal government? That would come as news to the authors of the Fox article that cites Browning's estimate, seeing as how they report that only 13 percent of CPB's budget is federally funded:
NPR issued a statement this week blasting Lamborn's two bills, one which would defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which receives 13 percent of its funding from taxpayers and awards NPR some grant money. The other would eliminate federal funding just for NPR. Local public radio stations are more dependent on federal funding than NPR is.
Who would have thought we'd see the day when Fox News published an estimate relying on data debunked in its own reporting? Browning continues:
Those university funds, whenever they are provided by a public university, represent taxpayer-provided dollars. We can safely assert that three out of four university-supported stations are publicly funded, which means that more than 10% (three-quarters of that 13.6%) is taken from the taxpayer's pockets.
Uh-huh. That might make sense, if one could credibly argue that public university budgets were entirely comprised of tax dollars. Apparently, despite working for an institution of higher learning, Browning is unfamiliar with the concept of tuition, or donations from graduates. More from Browning:
Obviously the support by individuals, businesses, and foundations does not constitute taxpayer funding, right? Not so fast. These donations are tax-deductible; thus, they are subsidized by the government. Granted, not every gift is actually reflected on an individual or business tax return, and not all of those that are itemized wind up offsetting high marginal tax rates. Still, it is reasonable to believe that on average, these gifts result in deductions at the 25% tax bracket. Since these three categories add up to roughly 64% of station funds, we can reasonably argue that 16% of that money (64% x 0.25) is subsidized by the tax code.
If one considers tax-deductible donations to be a federal subsidy, then all manner of organizations receive so-called federal funding: The Heritage Foundation, Save the Children, The American Civil Liberties Union, and (Gasp!) Media Matters for America. Representatives of conservative organizations would likely balk at the suggestion that their acceptance of tax-deductible donations constitutes federal funding... because that's ridiculous.
If FoxNews.com is going to put an American Thinker post on the same level as a CRS report, they should at least explain how that post arrived at its absurdly higher number.
So to review the entire process chronologically: (1) Browning writes flimsy, hole-ridden estimate of NPR's funding. (2) Fox & Friends, a Fox News opinion program, brings Browning on to discuss NPR. (3) FoxNews.com cites Browning's work, as that of an unnamed analyst, on par with that of the Congressional Research Service, in supposedly straight news reporting. In other words, this is one more time Fox has used opinions from its commentary programming to manufacture so-called straight news.