Last week, Chris Hayes had a great story in the Nation about the phenomenon of the right wing email forward, and how this new form of "folk media" serves to keep various rumors and urban legends alive. One of the most notorious of these is the notion that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim extremist who plans to throw a burkha over the Statue of Liberty and institute shari'a law after taking his oath of office on the Qur'an while munching on falafel, or something. Today, the Washington Post demonstrates how "respectable" news outlets keep these rumors moving in the media bloodstream:
"Since declaring his candidacy for president in February, Obama, a member of a congregation of the United Church of Christ in Chicago, has had to address assertions that he is a Muslim or that he had received training in Islam in Indonesia, where he lived from ages 6 to 10. While his father was an atheist and his mother did not practice religion, Obama's stepfather did occasionally attend services at a mosque there.
Despite his denials, rumors and e-mails circulating on the Internet continue to allege that Obama (D-Ill.) is a Muslim, a "Muslim plant" in a conspiracy against America, and that, if elected president, he would take the oath of office using a Koran, rather than a Bible, as did Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the only Muslim in Congress, when he was sworn in earlier this year."
We are then treated to a clown parade of right-wing operatives, pseudo-scholars, Limbaughs, and Savages, who continue to float these stories like so much stale gas. At no point in the article is there any indication that these rumors, which are nothing more than lies designed to stoke base cultural prejudices, have been exhaustively investigated and disproven. Astonishingly, the article even references an email rumor featured on Snopes.com without bothering to mention that Snopes then debunks the rumor.
Of course, we also get the requisite denials from Obama's defenders, all of which creates (and is designed to create) the impression that there is "controversy" where there is only gossip, "questions" where there is only innuendo.
Stay classy, Post.