by Reid Fitzsimons
Barak Obama is a liar, which is not a preposterous thing to say. Bad people lie and good people lie. Sometimes lies are told out of cowardice, other times to help a person through a troubled period, sometimes to facilitate a seemingly greater good, and other times to facilitate a selfishly desired goal. At times people lie to themselves, at times to others, and sometimes to both. Politicians are probably more accomplished liars than average though some are notoriously unskilled and hence entertaining, Richard Nixon, Gary Hart, and John Edwards being examples. The Clintons are not particularly adept at lying in that the truth eventually reveals itself. Their success is based more on the concept found in the lyrics of Are You Lonesome Tonight- “I'd rather go on hearing your lies than to go on living without you.” As difficult as it may be for a rational person to accept, just as there are people who actually watch and receive pleasure from morning network news programs and reality shows, there are masses totally enamored with Bill and Hillary. The Clintons may not be particularly adept liars but they know their intended audience, and this has served them well for many years.
Obama knows his audience as well, which allows him to at times be blatant. The “you can keep your doctor” non-sense was a completely uncomplicated lie- he knew he was lying and he equally knew he was saying what people wanted to hear; it helped him accomplish his desired outcome. This straightforward lie well demonstrated his almost preternatural ability not blink while prevaricating. And while Barak Obama can be applauded for his mastery of the simple lie, where he really shines is misdirection. The permutations of misdirection are many and don’t even necessarily require lying. For example, in May of 2011, in order to avoid reasoned arguments opposed to his desire for a generous immigration policy, he simply mocked his opponents: "Maybe they'll need a moat, maybe they want alligators in the moat." He certainly puts the Bully in Bully Pulpit. One can almost imagine a young Barry/Barak drilling a dodge ball into the face of the dorky kid then telling him he should have ducked as he sat crying on the floor holding his broken glasses.
Obama knows if something is said with the right amount of gravitas it is likely to be believed, and he might even believe what he says at that moment. His 2012 “red line” declaration in regards to chemical weapons in Syria likely made him feel like a tough guy at the time, a misdirection to make him seem to be a forceful leader, but it was more of a theatrical thing. It’s possible he barely realized his statement might be considered significant and, as he later clarified, if it was misinterpreted it was the fault of the audience, not him. Remember that Obama grew up in a rarefied world where philosophical victory was paramount, where well crafted, audacious, and often grandiose mission statements were accepted as sufficient substitutes for actually accomplishing the mission. Hence, he can misdirect people from reality by giving the appearance of sincerity, a situation seen in everything from the VA to economic matters to, especially, race relations. It’s much easier to pit one group against another than to actually address the problem- as long as he’s talking about Michael Brown and Ferguson, MO or the like he needn’t concern himself with 6,000 plus black people murdered in 2014, over 90% at the hands of other black people. This is absurd, of course, but that is largely the process of misdirection.
For some reason I’ve been thinking about Obama’s speech to the UN on Sept. 25, 2012, where, mixed in among a number of predictable platitudes pertaining to tolerance, he asserted, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” This was not entirely a non sequitur given that at the time he was pushing the fable that the idiotic 13-minute video, Innocence of Muslims, was the proximate cause of the deadly anti-American attacks in Libya, which had occurred two weeks previously. His statement kind of sounds profound, but look closer and it’s more silly than meaningful, more like “the future must not belong to those who prefer Coke over Pepsi” as compared to, say, the inspiring words of Winston Churchill during the dark days of the Blitz. So what does “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” actually mean?
“Slander” is one of those commonly misused words, similar to “literally (e.g. ‘Hillary Clinton literally makes my skin crawl’ captures the sentiment but is grammatically incorrect).” It is more of a legal term under the banner of defamation and, by definition, is spoken- the other half of defamation is libel, which something printed or otherwise visible. Notwithstanding that Our President is Harvard educated lawyer, he perhaps meant to use the more inclusive “defame.” One key element of defamation is that whatever was said or suggested must be false. So to paraphrase Barak Obama: the future must not belong to those who say bad things about Muhammad that are not true.
While again noting that Obama’s own actions demonstrate truth for him is a fluid function of ends as compared to means (in simpler terms- he lies whenever it suits his agenda), there is not always consensus on what is true and what is false, especially historically. Detractors of Islam often claim that Mohammed was a pedophile, certainly not a favorable description, but is it slander (or libel)? In the year 613 or 614 Aisha was born. She was a notable figure in the earliest days of Islam but, perhaps of more modern significance, she married Muhammad when she was six (Muhammad being close to 50 at the time). This in itself doesn’t mean too much in that in many cultures marriage is somewhat of a contract between families- think of the complex web of European royalty. What is significant is that the preponderance of evidence suggests that Muhammad consummated the marriage (i.e. had sex with her) when she was nine. Assuming this is true (Aisha herself apparently said so) one can noisily proclaim the prophet of Islam was a pedophile and this would not be defamatory.
Since, however, Obama made his “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam” statement seemingly as a response to a lame and inane video, he was probably trying to make a more generalized, and pernicious, declaration- check your freedom of expression when it involves Muhammad or Islam. Don’t insult, mock, even light heartedly joke, regardless of the truth involved. This likely means our dour President won’t crack a smile at a joke that begins with, “So Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were together on a cruise ship…,” partly because Muhammad is included but also because humor, irreverent or otherwise, seems incompatible with his own self-righteousness.
Might a non-religious person such as myself my be singled out simply due to the word “prophet?” The non-believer can comprehend that history has assigned Muhammad the title “Prophet,” but that doesn’t mean we believe he had supernatural encounters. There is a long list of Dukes and Emperors, etc given the title “The Great” but I’m pretty sure there is no requirement for us to say, “Man, he was Great!” Many, probably a majority, of Christians believe scripturally and doctrinally that all prophecy ended with the New Testament, so is Obama somehow mandating that they acknowledge Mohammad was actually a prophet? In other words, is it slander to deny that Muhammad (not Obama) was in fact a prophet?
Our President, Barak Obama, on occasion enjoys using imperative words and phrases, such as “I will Not tolerate,” “I will Not accept,” and in this case, “…must not…” Sometimes, of course, strong words are a strategic necessity for furthering a goal, but in Obama’s case it seems histrionic, more of an Inset Strongly Worded Language Here kind of thing. Perhaps there are times he likes to feel less of a celebrity hipster and more of a man. The problem, however, with phrases such as “must not” is that they imply there is a consequence- “You Must Not be late again tomorrow or you Will be fired.” In asserting, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam” does he envision some type of sanction for those who slander the prophet, perhaps legal repercussions or military action? One can’t help but wonder if Obama was ever privy to the concept of thinking before speaking.
Back in the 1960s and 70s it was popular to contemplate ostensibly profound statements and questions, generally to be preceded and/or followed by, “Far out.” For example, “The Eskimos have 99 different words for snow, far out, man” or the classic, “Like far out, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, did it make a sound?” With enough bong hits pretty much everything seems profound (or profoundly funny). I fear Obama spent too much time in the salons of his impressionable youth listening to dope addled progressive intellectuals spout pseudo-profundities. Perhaps this helped him develop his cleverness when it comes to making something superficial or absurd sound deep or thought provoking, a classic technique in the art of misdirection. Perhaps at the next opportunity he might say something less absurd: The future must not belong to those who destroy and kill in the name of God or religion, and it is the obligation of those adhering to that faith to most loudly and unequivocally denounce both the violence and the mindset! Now that would be audacious. We can only hope.