At least one major right-wing smear attack on Obama may be gearing up. I’ll call it the “Who Sent You” campaign. As weird as it sounds — and it is weird stuff — the gist of it is that Obama’s birth was part of a secret plan by communists, Jews and one-worlders to take over the world. As you read this it is going to sound so fanatically wingnut/John Birch Society/black helicopter/precious bodily fluids weird that you are likely to dismiss it as the rantings of crazy people. But I have learned over the years that this stuff resonates with a certain crowd, and they are remarkably effective at tapping the fears of Americans.
Keep in mind how weird and unbelievable the Swift Boat accusations seemed — and remember the powerful effect they had on the public and election results. In The Swiftboaters Are Back in the Water I wrote about the effectiveness of the dishonest accusations,
. . . [one] reason it works is because it is (excuse the pun) offensive. They say that the best defense is a good offense, and considering their candidates, the Republicans certainly needed a defense.
[. . .] So with swiftboating you spread a smear to raise questions with the public about the opponent’s patriotism or service. It doesn’t have to be true (how quaint) it just has to raise questions. This “neutralizes” the honorable record of or otherwise “discredits” the advantages that opponent has against a Republican with a poor (like George W. Bush’s) or no (like Saxby Chambliss or any number of other “chickenhawks”) record.
That post also cited the following description of the results of that smear:
The Nation has a great article out on the Obama smears that are circulating, and looks at where they come from.
The purpose of the smear is to paint him as an Arab-loving, Israel-hating, terrorist-coddling, radical black nationalist. That picture couldn’t be further from the truth, but you’d be surprised how many people have fallen for it.
[. . .] We may not know who started the smears, but we do know who’s amplifying them. The “Obama is a Muslim” rumor began in the fringe conservative blogosphere. “Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always a Muslim,” blogger Debbie Schlussel wrote on December 18, 2006. Schlussel had a history of inflammatory rhetoric and baseless accusations. She said journalist Jill Carroll, who was kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents in 2006, “hates America” and “hates Israel”; labeled George Soros a “fake Holocaust survivor”; and speculated that Pakistani terrorists were somehow to blame for last year’s shootings at Virginia Tech. Yet her post on Obama gained traction; one month later, the Washington Times’s Insight magazine alleged that Obama had attended “a so-called Madrassa” and was a secret Muslim.
We who read and write blogs are what I call “hyper-informed.” We not only know about everything that is going on, but we often know about it within minutes or hours.
This can cause us to forget that most people are not up to speed with the kinds of things that you and I take for granted. For example, most people know nothing about the billions of dollars in cash that disappeared in Iraq. You and I know all about it. It was widely reported in the blogs and everyone who frequents blogs read about it. And it is discussed as a given. It forms a foundation of our understanding of what is happening in America – yet it means nothing to most people. There are so many examples like this.
The information gap is so wide that people think something is wrong with you if you try to explain to them what is going on.
Where am I going with this? Yesterday someone told me that most people where she works think that Barack Obama is a Muslim. It’s one of those “everyone knows” things.