Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Whisper Campaigning

From A Whisper To A Scream
by John Brake

To some political observers, the return of “whispering campaigns” is reminiscent of the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano. But if the latest anti-Barack Obama murmur to hit my in-box is any indication, it makes more sense to compare the sneaky mudslinging tactic to a backed-up sewer.

For the uninitiated, whispering campaigns are how supporters of a given candidate -- say, John McSame -- spread lies and innuendo about his or her opponent.

They are comprised of disingenuous and dishonest talking points that candidates want voters to hear, but are too afraid to say themselves. These are sometimes silly (think "Al Gore claims he invented the internet"), but most often they are vicious and baseless smears ("Barack Obama is a radical Muslim who refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance").

A variety of media collude to deliver the whispers to your eyes and ears. Radio and TV waves are saturated by callers who spread these lies on political talk shows. The editorial pages of our newspapers are filled with this garbage, often in the form of head-scratching conclusions to fallacious and illogical arguments.

Even our poor email in-boxes have become a battleground for this type of under-the-radar campaigning, and I got one today that took me from a whisper to a scream.

It arrived with the subject line, "Fw: Random Thoughts by Thomas Sowell."

I groaned in anticipation of what was to come.

We know Sowell to be a right-wing author and social commentator. Not the worst of that ilk, but not everyone can be Ann Coulter.

The email -- sent by an old classmate I invited to a high school reunion years ago who, inexplicably, added me to her permanent friends list -- was copied to dozens of addresses. Unsuspecting victims, I thought, as I scrolled down for the content.

The disclaimer read: "The article below was written by syndicated columnist, Thomas Sowell. He wrote it in a humorous way this past week in a column titled 'Random Thoughts' and published it in newspapers nationally, so maybe you've already seen it. If not, be my guest."

Fair enough, I thought.

Boy, was I was wrong.

Not only was the attack NOT written in a humorous way, it wasn't even written by Sowell -- a fact I quickly uncovered thanks to our friends at www.truthorfiction.com.

I will decline the opportunity to reprint the (disgusting) email here. But if you want to check it out, click here.

The gist is that only Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could convince Sowell to vote for McCain, and then he lists a variety of examples of how the two have done just that.

The "reasons" he gives are -- surprise, surprise -- the same shopworn GOP talking points that Obama has tackled head on via his web site, www.fightthesmears.com, since day one.

I am sure that this will not be the last word on the GOP's sneaky whispering campaign against Barack Obama. But I’m glad it gave me the opportunity to share with you, in case you didn't know already, how to determine if the charges contained within are valid.

There are some good web sites that deal with political urban legends. My favorites are www.snopes.com and www.truthorfiction.com.

Book mark them now. You will need to visit them repeatedly between now and November. Count on it.

About the author: John Brake is the former chairman of the Williamson County Democratic Party and a political columnist for the Williamson Herald. Email him at johnbrake61@gmail.com


Stephen W. Moody said...

Hi John. It's great to have you on board as an ElectBlue blogger! Your point here is well made. The Republican whisper campaign against Senator Obama is just now kicking into high gear. It's great to have easily accessed sources to check the facts. Again, welcome!

Bill Newsome said...

You hit the nail on the head! We knew the whisper campaign was coming. Republicans can't talk about accomplishments because they haven't had any. So, this is what they're left with.

Welcome to Elect Blue John!