Inside Story: US 2012
Obama hounded by conspiracy theories
Lies and half-truths are nothing new in US elections but why is this cycle seeing new lows in campaign standards?
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2012 12:12

The title 2016: Obama's America – Love him, Hate him, You don't know him is for a film based on a book by Dinesh D'Souza, a conservative author who says he is showing Americans what truly motivates the US president and what to expect if he is re-elected.

"[The Republicans] are painting Obama as an outsider and as un-American… one of the reasons this works is that people have retreated into media camps, they only watch, read media that confirms their existing biases, and increasingly the media in this country has become partisan."

- Rob Lorei, the director of news, WMNF Tampa

D'Souza travels to Kenya to seek out what shaped Barack Obama. He concludes that the president was so hurt by his father's abandonment that he has adopted Barack Obama Senior's anti-colonialist views.

As a result, says the author, the US president has been working to undermine US power through excessive government spending and reducing its military might.

Among other things, the film also claims that if Obama is re-elected it will lead to a United States of Islam.

Conspiracy theories questioning whether Obama is a "real" American have surrounded the president since his 2008 presidential campaign.

Among the so-called 'birther' movement which claims that Obama was not born in the US and is, therefore, an illegitimate president. A poll released by the Pew Forum last month on Religion and Public Life shows that 17 per cent of Americans believe that he is Muslim.

Just a few weeks ago during a television interview, a local judge from Texas warned that if Obama is re-elected, there would be civil war in the US, and that the president would have UN troops take over the country.

"The case that D'Souza lays out [in his film] is so paltry, so thin it's based on minutiae and claims that don't really stack up under any scrutiny whatsoever that when all that falls apart what you're left with is just the cynical manipulation of the audience."

- Simon Maloy, a progressive media analyst

In a speech at the Republican convention on Wednesday Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, falsely accused Obama of slashing funding for Medicare and gave a misleading account of the closure of the General Motors plant in his hometown, Janesville.

"When he [Obama] talked about change, many people liked the sound of it especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory… Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day."

Inside Story: US 2012 asks: Has Obama been a greater target of lies and conspiracies than other US presidents?

Joining presenter Shihab Rattansi for the discussion are guests: Rob Lorei, the director of news and public affairs for WMNF, a Tampa community radio station; Kathryn Olmsted, the author of Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11; and Simon Maloy, a research fellow with Media Matters for America, a web-based not-for-profit US media monitor.

"Throughout American history there have been concerns that there would be un-Americans who would sneak into and infiltrate the US government, so this [current campaign] is nothing new… What's different about this is that it's a different dimension because that it does involve race."

Kathryn Olmsted, a professor of history

In one of many conspiracy theories surrounding Obama, Wayne LaPierre, the vice-president of the National Rifle Association, said at a recent Conservative Political Action Conference: "We see the president's strategy crystal clear. Get re-elected, and with no more elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms freedom."


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