Barack Obama can take heart in one possible result of his unexpected New Hampshire loss Tuesday; perhaps his friends and supporters in the media will quit spending so much time and energy predicting and promoting his assassination.
Dark fantasies of Obama’s pending death have been brewing for over a year, well before his win over Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses on January 3. His recent success has proven to be fertile ground for those promoting more paranoia.
A day after the Iowa caucuses, Huffington Post contributor Joseph A. Palermo wasted no time in stating that Obama might be assassinated, and went so far as to preemptively assert blame:
In 2008, Obama is gaining momentum, and hopefully people inside his organization are cognizant of the fact that he constitutes a very real threat to the likes of Blackwater, Dyncorps, Halliburton, and the hundreds of other private companies currently profiteering from the Iraq occupation…
… Let’s hope that the Blackwater elements can be thoroughly flushed out of the federal security services. Let’s also hope that the Secret Service does a better job protecting Obama in the coming election year than Pakistan’s ISI did in protecting Benazir Bhutto, who didn’t live to see election day.
Two days later another Huffington Post contributor, Robert Brustein, carried the assassination meme forward:
After the recent murder of Benazir Bhutto, we realize once again that nothing excites the forces of hate and fear more than the prospect of decency and reconciliation. And if Obama wins the New Hampshire primary, as now looks likely, the incidence of violence on the campaign trial will increase exponentially.
On the day of the New Hampshire primary, numerous polls (wrongly) indicated that Barack Obama would defeat Hillary Clinton by a substantial margin. Three foreign news organizations used the occasion of a pending Obama victory to push the meme yet further.
Phillip Adams of The Australian opined:
BARACK Obama is crazy brave. His victory in Iowa puts him in the crosshairs of many a gun-toting racist for whom the thought of a black president is an abomination.
The prospect, even the likelihood, of assassination played a significant role in Colin Powell’s decision — and that of his wife — to abandon any thought of a presidential run.
They were thinking hat-trick: Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Colin Powell. As was Ted Kennedy when he abandoned any White House ambitions: Jack, Bobby, Teddy.
Across the US, a fatalism was provoked by a culture of pervasive violence, hundreds of millions of guns, conspiracy theories, and bitter experience.
Just how Mr. Adams knows a hypothetical assassin was thinking “hat-trick” goes unexplained. Nor did he explain how he arrived at the determination that “many a gun-toting racist” is actively targeting the Illinois senator. Perhaps he had John Edwards channel that for him, as evidence for that charge is certainly lacking elsewhere.
From Toby Harnden of the British Telegraph, we find this gem:
A few voters even say they are reluctant to vote for Mr. Obama because a Southern racist might shoot him.
“There are people in this country who will not accept a black president,” said Marvin Henderson, 32, at a Bill Clinton rally in Amherst, New Hampshire. “Even before he got elected, I think some redneck or the Ku Klux Klan would try to do something about it.”
Any possible assassin may be racist and is therefore Southern according to Harnden, who goes quite a bit further than the generalized “some redneck” of the person he interviewed. We have found our bigot; it turns out that he is a reporter armed with little more than a dulled mind.
By comparison, Diane Francis was sedate in her Canadian National Post column:
It is hardly surprising to learn that Barack Obama now enjoys the same level of Secret Service protection that President George Bush does. It’s also a necessary development.
The blogosphere is buzzing with threats and fears about his safety and the speculation has more to do with his religion than with his race. It represents a notably frightening development.
But where are these threats against Barack Obama coming from in the blogosphere and on other corners of the internet, and who is making them?
The simple answer is “the usual suspects” — the pundits themselves.
The first 100 results of a Google search for “Obama assassination,” along with the first 100 results of a Yahoo! search for “assassinate Obama,” lead to news articles discussing vague claims of online threats against Barack Obama, and the response of bloggers talking about the vague threats mentioned in the news articles in an apparently baseless, self-feeding cycle. There is no “there,” there.
Like the myths of his messianic ascendance, rumors of Barack Obama’s pending martyrdom are greatly exaggerated.
Bob Owens blogs at Confederate Yankee.