Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 24, 2009

RIGHT FALLS FOR 'THESIS' HOAX.... Right-wing pundit Michael Ledeen published an item this week on Barack Obama's "college thesis," which Obama allegedly wrote as a student at Columbia 25 years ago. Leeden cited some website, which ran a piece in August.

The paper was called "Aristocracy Reborn," and in the first ten pages (which were all that reporter Joe Klein -- who wrote about it for Time -- was permitted to see), the young Obama wrote:

"... the Constitution allows for many things, but what it does not allow is the most revealing. The so-called Founders did not allow for economic freedom. While political freedom is supposedly a cornerstone of the document, the distribution of wealth is not even mentioned. While many believed that the new Constitution gave them liberty, it instead fitted them with the shackles of hypocrisy."

That's quite an indictment, even for an Ivy League undergraduate.... Maybe instead of fuming about words that Rush Limbaugh never uttered, the paladins of the free press might ask the president about words that he did write.

Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh picked up on Leeden's report, blasting Obama for the alleged paper.

The first sign of trouble was when Joe Klein noted that he's never seen or written about Obama's college thesis, and has "no idea where this report comes from."

The second sign of trouble was when one stopped to notice that Obama didn't write a senior thesis (though he did write a thesis-length paper on Soviet nuclear disarmament).

The third sign of trouble was when one clicked on the link that Leeden provided as support and found the word "satire."

Yes, Leeden and Limbaugh got all worked up, trashing the president for a paper he didn't write in college 25 years ago, relying on a satirical blog post. And for real entertainment value, notice what Leeden and Limbaugh did when they realized they'd fallen for a dumb joke -- they blamed Obama anyway.

Leeden conceded he was wrong and apologized, but added, "It worked because it's plausible." Limbaugh said the text he touted was fake, but it didn't matter because, "I know Obama thinks it." Yep, even when they're wrong, it's only because the president makes it easy for them to be confused.

Remember, the Washington Post and New York Times are committed to paying much closer attention to what's generating buzz among far-right talk-show hosts and bloggers. Here's hoping the dailies noticed the Leeden/Limbaugh journalistic breakthrough.

Steve Benen 8:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

Defenders of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" did and do like to claim that even if it was demonstrably a forgery, it must have been based on true information since it "precisely describes the behavior of the Jews." I wonder how Ledeen likes being in that company. I'm sure Limbaugh doesn't mind.

To those who scoff at the idea of fact-checking entertainment or commentary, THIS IS WHY IT'S IMPORTANT!

Posted by: T-Rex on October 24, 2009 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

When, for the sake of our nation's heritage they proclaim to hold so dear, will they just go away? -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on October 24, 2009 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

It was a clever sting operation - get conservative columnists to believe the fake thesis and comment on it, and then reveal it as a hoax to discredit them.

BHO and his operatives are cunning, I'll give them that.

Posted by: Al on October 24, 2009 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

"It was a clever sting operation - get conservative columnists to believe the fake thesis and comment on it, and then reveal it as a hoax to discredit them."

It's easy to do, because conservative columnists aren't real journalists and will print/shout anything as long as it makes money and fits with their pre-concieved notions of reality. Hopefully "BHO and his operatives" will continue sting operations such as this one until they bring what passes for conservative journalism to its pudgy knees.

Posted by: sweaty guy on October 24, 2009 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Leeden [sic] conceded he was wrong and apologized, but added, "It worked because it's plausible."

Michael Ledeen was the same guy with connections to the Italian intelligence organization, SISMI, and was considered a strong possiblility for involvement in the Niger Document forgeries. I would guess the "It worked because..." quote is well practiced by Ledeen.

Posted by: Danp on October 24, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

It was a clever sting operation - get conservative columnists to believe the fake thesis and comment on it, and then reveal it as a hoax to discredit them.

I have a cunning plan (h/t Blackadder):

Let's post a fake Obama thesis story on August 25, tag the story as "Satire", make sure that it lacks any confirming details at all that would prompt a reputable researcher to question its legitimacy, wait two months for someone from the Right blogosphere with a bad, bad case of confirmation bias to come along and mistake it for the real thing, and then scream "GOTCHA!"

Foolproof plan, don't you think?

Posted by: de stijl on October 24, 2009 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

A week from now some Repub congresscritter will be on teevee repeating the story as if it had been true.

And he won't be challenged on it.


.

Posted by: spork_incident on October 24, 2009 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Ledeen was also forehead deep into Iran-Contra.

That is, he helped arm an enemy nation.

There's word for that I can't quite remember...


.

Posted by: spork_incident on October 24, 2009 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

From wiki on Ledeen:

Regarding regime change in Iraq, in 2002 Ledeen criticized the views of former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, writing:[18]

He fears that if we attack Iraq "I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region into a cauldron and destroy the War on Terror."
One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today. If we wage the war effectively, we will bring down the terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and either bring down the Saudi monarchy or force it to abandon its global assembly line to indoctrinate young terrorists.
That's our mission in the war against terror.

Guess the name of Ledeen's blog. It's Faster, Please.

The man is a sociopath.

Posted by: de stijl on October 24, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

what gives me a larger than usual tingle down the leg is hearing the sound of all that tin foil crinkling as the faithful jump on the pile to attack Obama for comments from a satirical piece that Obama didn't write.

I couldn't bring myself to go very far down the list, but the horror when word was revealed that it was all a hoax must have been mind blowing.....

Well, that assumes there is a mind to be blown...

As Emily Latella would say...."Never mind."

Posted by: dweb on October 24, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

"It worked because it's plausible."

Well, sure. So are the newly discovered Kenyan birth certificates; the secret adherence to radical Islam; and the rumors of internment camps under construction, intention of obtaining slave reparations, and mass disarming of the gun-owning public.

If you're a fucking idiot.

Posted by: shortstop on October 24, 2009 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

I read a paper Rush wrote about the joys of traveling overseas with tremendous amounts of Oxycontin in order to partake in underage prostitutes, and if he kills one, you'd be surprised how little "hush money" one needs to get back in the drugged-up buggery saddle.

Turns out Rush didn't write this paper (probably because I did), but it doesn't matter. "I know Rush thinks it."

Here's hoping this gets linked to the "Did Glenn Back Rape and murder a girl in 1990" website.

Posted by: slappy magoo on October 24, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

It was a clever sting operation

setting a world-record low bar for "cleverness." And Al is Limbo Champ!

Posted by: benjoya on October 24, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

"It worked because it's plausible." Not "True"; but "plausible". And there it is: the wingnut credo. Thanks for the rare honesty, Ledeen.

Posted by: bikelib on October 24, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

"It worked because it's plausible." Not "True"; but "plausible".

Well, Ledeen almost pulled it off with the Yellowcake forgeries.

Posted by: de stijl on October 24, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

They got their dirty little war. Ledeen's not in jail; and he's still out there spewing his horseshit. I'd say he pulled it off.

Posted by: bikelib on October 24, 2009 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

And here I was feeling bad for Rush, who was cut out of his bid for the Rams in part for comments he didn't actually make.

So, alas, maybe Rush didn't say slavery was a good thing. It's apparently now fair game to say that I know he thinks it. Awesome.

Posted by: Mike from Detroit on October 24, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

"So, alas, maybe Rush didn't say slavery was a good thing. It's apparently now fair game to say that I know he thinks it."

I'm pretty sure I know what he thinks about Dominican boys.

Posted by: bikelib on October 24, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

gawd damn, i wish i lived somewhere safe,with a big stock of popcorn to watch this mass social schizophrenia sweep thru "pig nation" and have abbie hoffman rise up from the dead and laugh his ass off.

but that would be a mean and heartless fantasy.

we are surely living in a dark time that just seems to be heading towards chaos and societal madness...

Posted by: neill on October 24, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

"New York Times." "Washington Post." Didn't those use to be newspapers?

Posted by: Greg Worley on October 24, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Hmm. The Oxycontin Kid and friends get worked into a lather over something that isn't even remotely true. Yeah, okay. Why is this news? It happens every day.

Posted by: josef on October 24, 2009 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

We hear that Obama isn't a muslim communist Nazi and anti-whitefolk bigot, but we also know that he really wants to be.

Posted by: qwerty on October 24, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

So the right finally does what the left does as a matter of course and you are all over it... Yep Rush and the other guy were wrong.

But this is what the left does ALL THE TIME! How does it feel? Not very good. So stop doing this to us--Shauna

Evidence, please.

Posted by: JD on October 24, 2009 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

The best part is that they've done this before with the exact same website. It's like running with that story on the Onion that claimed JK Rowling really is teaching kids witchcraft, getting caught, and then doing it again because this time it totally must be true!

Posted by: Mnemosyne on October 24, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

bush didn't fulfill his service obligations:
http://www.boston.com/news/politics/president/bush/articles/2004/09/08/bush_fell_short_on_duty_at_guard/

rush on obama jan/09 "We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles ..bend over forward, backward....whichever, because his father was black"

july/09 "i believe obama is an angry black man."

june/09 "Obama's entire economic program is reparations"

Posted by: dj spellchecka on October 24, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

"It worked because it's plausible."

Translation: our stupid beliefs are consistent with satire making fun of our stupid beliefs.

Posted by: DH Walker on October 24, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

for bonus fail, check out the comment thread at the original ladeen post....pretty much eveybody fell for it..weeping and wailing over the fate of our fair country

Posted by: dj spellchecka on October 24, 2009 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Tawana Brawley story a hoax, and Sharpton's a venal flim-flam man, but nobody pays for smearing innocent men.

You mean, other than Brawley and Sharpton, who were successfully sued by one of the victims? I'm not quite sure what you mean by "no one paid" since they literally paid money to him after he won the lawsuit.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on October 24, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

"It worked because it's plausible."

That's the "fake but accurate" defense that Dan Rather used unsuccessfully for his Bush/TXANG report. It didn't work for Rather and it won't work for Ledeen.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on October 24, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

CNN has announced its' rigorous fact checking department can now state unequivocably that the killer bees do NOT ride motorcycles, listen to Steppenwolf music, nor do they resemble Belushi and Ackroyd. Also Steve Martin really doesn't have an arrow through his head.
In a related story, CNN's crack investigative unit announced that the Moon IS NOT constructed of green cheese.
Wouldn't it have been nice if the same curiousity and extensive examination had been directed at recent presidential candidates ?

Posted by: kevin tennant on October 24, 2009 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

It worked because it's plausible.

Stephen Colbert coined a word for this: Truthiness. It's not that it's true, it's just that his gut tells him it's true.

Posted by: micalk on October 24, 2009 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

If they had just checked the kerning they would have known it was a fake.

Posted by: short on October 24, 2009 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

"...Obama's anti-American outlook-..."

Which American are you talking about that Obama is against ("anti")?

Seriously though (I've always wondered why the word isn't "anti-America"), people who have an outlook against country x usually don't want to be president of x...but that's just me using pesky logic. To the Jim Anderson's of the world, if you ain't a conservative, you ain't a patriot.


[The comments have been turned off on this thread and the sockpuppeted comments have been removed. -Mod]

Posted by: daniel rotter on October 24, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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