BEHOLD THE SECRET MUSLIM

Posted in Election 2008 on May 20th, 2008 by Ed

The Obama campaign is unveiling a new, coordinated direct mail campaign in Kentucky emphasizing the Senator's Christianity. This is due in no small part to the rumors circulated among the ultraconservative (a few of whom hang out online at places like Free Republic, but most of whom spread information in annoying email forwards accessed by dial-up AOL accounts) that he is a Secret Muslim. While the campaign certainly has money to burn right now, I find this to be a rather wasteful use of resources.

What value can there be in targeting voters who have decided to dislike Obama for such a ridiculous and demonstrably false reason? This argument sounds like a dispatch from the LaRouche campaign, the 1958-era John Birch Society, or the Anti-Masonic Party of the early 19th Century. Beware the false prophet! He (Obama/Eisenhower/John Quincy Adams) is secretly a (Muslim/Commie/Freemason). I understand the campaign's desire to clear up an unfounded rumor, but I suspect that anyone ignorant or unbalanced enough to decide that Obama is covertly plotting to place the U.S. under Sharia Law is probably not going to vote for him anyway. If their Secret Muslim theory is rebutted, they will find some other reason to dislike him.

Second, since the theory relies on the belief that he is a Secret Muslim it is not falsifiable. No amount of evidence or strident claims by the candidate can disprove that he is a Secret Muslim in the "mind" of someone who wants to believe it. This is the fundamental logic underlying every tinfoil-hatted, flat-earth, Illuminati conspiracy theorist's beliefs: claim something idiotic and then use the fact that it can't be disproven as evidence that it is proven.

Competing in the Kentucky primary is obviously important for Obama, but there are some voters who just aren't going to be reached. Anyone clinging to such a flimsy rationale has a long list of them in reserve. Knocking one down simply makes the next one pop up. If he's not a Secret Muslim, he's a foreigner. If he's not a foreigner, he hates America and won't wear a flag pin. If he doesn't hate America, he's too liberal. If he's not too liberal, he's too inexperienced. We could play this game forever, and Obama looks like he is about to give it a shot.