Preparing for the Obama backlash

Though the AP has called the Democratic nomination for Barack Obama based on its own private delegate counts, I think it’s too early–or maybe too late–to celebrate. Cause the weirdness is just beginning.

Aside: An email list I’m on recently sent out an article advising blog authors to focus on one thing only, and I’m about to break that rule in a big way by writing about the Democratic nomination. But it’s because of other things that I do–namely, genealogical research–that I have the perspective I’m about to share.

I have a distant relation who sends information about the family from time to time. We’ve never met, and aside from the family connection six generations or so back we have nothing in common, which is made abundantly clear from the right-wing emails bashing Obama (not HRC) that he regularly sends out. But getting his email is an interesting opportunity to see how the unofficial smear machine will take on Obama’s candidacy, because every one of them that pops up is getting forwarded.

Last night he sent one that consisted of a collection of supposedly inflammatory quotations from Obama’s books closing with this line and editorial:

And FINALLY the Most Damming one of ALL of them!!!

From Audacity of Hope: ‘I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.’

Now, it’s hard to imagine how this is supposed to be damning. To begin with, it’s incoherent as a standalone quotation, and it’s only damning if you think that standing with “the Muslims” is unequivocally bad. But if you put it into context, it’s even more puzzling. Here’s the quotation from the book, as sourced by “Right Truth”:

Of course, not all my conversations in immigrant communities follow this easy pattern. In the wake of 9/11, my meetings with Arab and Pakistani Americans, for example, have a more urgent quality, for the stories of detentions and FBI questioning and hard stares from neighbors have shaken their sense of security and belonging. They have been reminded that the history of immigration in this country has a dark underbelly; they need specific reassurances that their citizenship really means something, that America has learned the right lessons from the Japanese internments during World War II, and that I will stand with them should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.

Now, I have some basic reading comprehension skills, and I have no problem parsing this: concern that the nation’s xenophobia unfairly penalizes immigrants during national emergencies, remembrance of overreactions of the past, and a recognition that immigrants want national leaders to help them and safeguard their rights. The quotation does not say “I will stand by the Muslims,” but that he sees that the immigrants want their adopted country to stand by them.

I sent an email back to the author pointing this out. He replied,”Thank you so very much for this statement. It does say that he will stand with the Pakiasttani and Arab Americans if the Political winds shift etc.”

Um, WTF? Not at all what it said, or I said. But this is the sort of “logic” that opponents of Barack will use to try to block his campaign for the white house.

We all need to be alert to this and help put out these smears as they come up. The stakes in this election are too high for our reason to be led astray by those who would manipulate our fears.

2 thoughts on “Preparing for the Obama backlash”

  1. I have to question the judgment of a person who sends out mass political emails to people he doesn’t even know, relative or not.

  2. Yep, and if it’s just him I agree with you. But my parents and a lot of other people do the same thing (though my parents don’t share his views). For people of a certain age, mass-forwarding semi-hysterical political statements is the equivalent of Drudge or Instapundit, and the unchecked spread of this sort of disinformation probably does account for at least some of the age gap on Obama.

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