Friday, June 27, 2008

Sources of Obama Smear Chain Email Uncovered

We all know that email by now, the one that says Obama is a radical Muslim. Well, the very bright Danielle Allen, discovered that there are a few known sources of the emails-- a former opponent of Obama's, Andy Martin, Donna Shaw, a 60-year old teacher (shame on her especially), and "Beckwith."
It started in 2004. Here's the rumor timeline
Here you'll see hordes of stupid people who fell for it. They're still spreading rumors amongst their loser selves here at, under the obamatruthfile. Be prepared, it is a total hate site. 
Can you imagine having nothing better to do with your life? I wonder what they do for a living? They're probably like Donna, teaching our children in the day, spreading hate on the Internet at night. 
The point is, we can't let stupid people drag the nation into the gutter this time. 
This is a must-read story in the Washington Post
Laid out before Allen, a razor-sharp, 36-year-old political theorist, was what purported to be a biographical sketch of Barack Obama that has become one of the most effective -- and baseless -- Internet attacks of the 2008 presidential season. The anonymous chain e-mail makes the false claim that Obama is concealing a radical Islamic background. By the time it reached Allen on Jan. 11, 2008, it had spread with viral efficiency for more than a year.

During that time, polls show the number of voters who mistakenly believe Obama is a Muslim rose -- from 8 percent to 13 percent between November 2007 and March 2008. And some cited this religious mis-affiliation when explaining their primary votes against him.

The process:
As Allen scrolled through the e-mail about Obama, she saw that the list of people who had received the missive consumed several full screens. Her first thought was to try to learn about the people behind the addresses. She traced a number to North Carolina Web sites about golf, but quickly hit a dead end. Then she had another thought: What if she took some of the unusual phrases from the text of the e-mail and Googled them?

Her eyes fell on this untrue sentence: "ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Kuran (Their equivalency to our Bible, but very different beliefs)."

The use of "their equivalency" and the spelling of "Kuran" instead of "Koran" made the sentence her point of departure.

That search showed that the first mention of the e-mail on the Internet had come more than a year earlier. A participant on the conservative Web site posted a copy of the e-mail on Jan. 8, 2007, and added this line at the end: "Don't know who the original author is, but this email should be sent out to family and friends."

Allen discovered that theories about Obama's religious background had circulated for many years on the Internet. And that the man who takes credit for posting the first article to assert that the Illinois senator was a Muslim is Andy Martin.

Martin was trying to launch a Senate bid against Obama when he says he first ran the Democrat's name by a contact in London. "They said he must be a Muslim. That was interesting to me because it was an angle that nobody had covered. We started looking. As a candidate you learn how to harness the Internet. You end up really learning how to work the street. I sort of picked this story up as a sideline." Martin said the primary basis for his belief was simple -- Obama's father was a Muslim. In a defamation lawsuit he filed against the New York Times and others several months ago, Martin says that Obama "eventually became a Christian" but that "as a matter of Islamic law began life as a Muslim" due to his father's religion.

The belief that Obama unavoidably inherited his religion was not uniquely Martin's -- as recently as May, it was proffered by Edward N. Luttwak, a fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, in a New York Times op-ed piece.


That was easier when the rumors flew off a printing press, or when they appeared -- as with Swift boat attacks against Kerry -- in television ads paid for by a well-funded group of partisans. The attacks on Obama are different, Allen says. The level of anonymity, the technical efficiency, and above all the electoral impact of Internet-based smears all represent a new challenge.

"What I've come to realize is, the labor of generating an e-mail smear is divided and distributed amongst parties whose identities are secret even to each other," she says. A first group of people published articles that created the basis for the attack. A second group recirculated the claims from those articles without ever having been asked to do so. "No one coordinates the roles," Allen said. Instead the participants swim toward their goal like a school of fish -- moving on their own, but also in unison.
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