A recent story by the Politico describes a smear campaign which alleges Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslim. This campaign is remarkably similar to one waged against John McCain, yet the medium through which the smear is being propagated has changed – this time the smear is originating in spam email.
During the 2000 presidential primary, John McCain was the subject of an effective smear campaign in South Carolina. After having beat George Bush in the New Hampshire primary, the South Carolina primary was considered a must win for Bush. McCain went on to lose in South Carolina and Bush …
Richard Davis, McCain’s former campaign manager, has attributed this loss to an anonymous smear campaign which alleged McCain had an illegitimate interracial child (he has an adopted Bangladeshi daughter…). Davis describes the anatomy of this smear in a Boston Globe Op-Ed:
Anonymous opponents used “push polling” to suggest that McCain’s Bangladeshi born daughter was his own, illegitimate black child. In push polling, a voter gets a call, ostensibly from a polling company, asking which candidate the voter supports. In this case, if the “pollster” determined that the person was a McCain supporter, he made statements designed to create doubt about the senator.
The smear then transferred from one medium to another, as a prominent Professor at Bob Jones University emailed to his “fellow South Carolinians” warning of McCain’s alleged sin. The smear then jumped to another medium as this email blast prompted recognition from CNN who interviewed the professor – dedicating national TV time to McCain’s alleged “illegitimate interracial child.” Of course this smear campaign wasn’t the first of its kind and it certainly wasn’t the last.
Instead of push-polling, the smear campaign against Obama (again taking place in South Carolina…) is being advanced through spam – through anonymous, untraceable emails. According to the Politico, the email makes doubt-inducing statements:
“Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background,” warns an e-mail titled “Who Is Barack Obama,” that was circulating in South Carolina political circles this summer and sent to Politico by a South Carolina Democrat.
The email ends with:
“Please forward to everyone you know”
The article goes on to note that “barack obama muslim” is now the 3rd most popular Google search for Obama. It looks like this smear is already taking on a life of its own as it self-legitimizes though mass self-communication – the more its discussed in media space, the more presence it achieves. It will be interesting to trace the anatomy of this smear.