In an earlier story I published here at NowPublic entitled, "Floyd G. Brown: "Obama Supporters Threaten the Opposition", Brown alleges Obama supporters are threatening the opposition, including his wife and family, via telephone calls and emails. Brown's allegations are not the only ones circulating the internet, and Senator Obama's Campaign is fighting back.
One of the presidential campaign's most pitched battles is already blazing away. But the action won't be coming to you live from Denver or St. Paul in the next two weeks, pollsters can barely track it and -- most important -- there aren't any rules.
For months, anonymous e-mail chain letters, blog posts and message board items attacking Barack Obama have been flying around the country. Obama's campaign is concerned enough about the rumor mill to devote an entire Web site to fighting them. While some of the messages are blatantly false, the most dangerous ones mix lies and out-of-context facts just well enough to sound legit, playing not too subtly on racism and ignorance to make the truths they include sound sinister. (Now a book that basically collects some of the bogus accusations by Jerome Corsi is sitting at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.)
Two such messages, circulating by e-mail and popping up in comments on blogs for months, are reproduced below -- and annotated and debunked, point by point -- to illustrate the tactics Obama's been up against for most of the campaign. The first e-mail attacks the candidate's wife, attempting to paint Michelle Obama –- and by extension, Barack Obama -- as an America-hating black separatist radical. Democratic pollsters say many voters don't know much about Michelle Obama. This e-mail, which began circulating during the Democratic primaries, seems to be a deliberate attempt to fill in a mostly blank mental canvas with negative associations before the Obama campaign can tell her story itself.
A second, more recent e-mail, received just a few days ago, shows that the spurious but very durable belief that Obama is a Muslim continues to ricochet around the Internet. Follow along (any typos and punctuation errors are in the original e-mails) as we deconstruct two anti-Obama e-mails:
According to Snopes.com, Princeton was requested to put a "restriction" on distribution of any copies of the thesis of Michelle Obama (a/k/a Michelle laVaughn Robinson) saying it could not be made available until November 5, 2008 but when it was published on a political website they decided they would lift the restriction.
Right from the start, the message purports to be authenticated by Snopes, the urban-legend-busting site that's already compiled a list of nearly two dozen phony allegations against Obama. By the time the e-mail started circulating widely, though, Snopes had already debunked most of it, and Princeton's restriction had already been lifted. It wasn't clear why Princeton refused to release it, but it eventually got wide distribution to the media after Politico published it. And how did it obtain a copy? It asked the campaign, which promptly handed it over.