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Obama's a Muslim, Reports Globe

The crackpot tabloid Globe, that is. And that's how the body politic gets infected by nutty, wrong ideas.

By Steve Burgess 1 Sep 2010 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about culture, high and very, very low, for The Tyee.

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Prayer of a chance? Not if people will believe anything.

A recent poll reported that 18 per cent of Americans believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim. That works out to over 55 million Americans. And as the famous album cover put it: 50,000,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong.

That should be enough to settle the matter. But should you want more, here is the proof -- the shocking proof -- from a recent headline: Shocking Proof; Obama IS a Muslim!

It comes straight from the front page of The Globe. Also in the same issue: True Crime; Beheaded By Her Own Son! And: Real Dirt on Smelly Britney!

To be clear, this is The Globe published by American Media out of New York City, available at checkout stands everywhere. More generally concerned with issues involving Tom Cruise's sexuality or Kirstie Alley's current weight, The Globe this week takes a political tack with a story titled: Obama's Muslim Cover-Up!:

"Now in an explosive Special Report, Globe rips the lid off what Obama's critics say is a chilling White House cover-up and bombshell proof of his incredible lies. And the charges are supported by a top government official!"

Truly a shocking tale. Although to clarify once again, the "top government official" is not a member of the American government, but Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. More from the Globe story: "'The American president told me in confidence that he is a Muslim,' Gheit said on a major TV network. His stunning disclosure was then picked up by a top daily newspaper in Israel...'"

Stunning indeed. Still more clarification, though -- "top daily newspaper" might be a bit of a fudge. It was Israel Today, a fringe right-wing publication published by one Aviel Schneider, a man whose mission is to convert Jews to Christianity, and who recently gained infamy for claiming that a recently-deceased rabbi had left behind a secret coded message claiming Jesus really is the Messiah. The Globe story calls Israel Today "the Mideast nation's second-largest newspaper" -- a puzzling claim, suggesting that the intrepid Globe may have confused Israel Today with Israel HaYom (Hebrew for "Israel Today") which is, unlike Israel Today, widely read.

'Picked up' by slippery hands

To be clearer still: the "Obama told me he is a Muslim" quote wasn't really "picked up" by Israel Today. In fact Israel Today is the only publication that reported the statement, apparently made on an Egyptian talk show. IT editor Schneider claims to have heard it, and a blogger connected with the paper also says he heard it. No, check that -- the blogger says his wife heard it. No one connected to the TV broadcast itself, and no one else in Israel or Egypt who owns a TV, has confirmed the quote. Perhaps there aren't many TVs in Israel.

But onward. Right-wing blogs have been all over the Gheit "quote," even printing "transcripts" of the Egyptian broadcast, and decrying the fact that the "lamestream media" have failed to report on it. The ultra-patriot blogosphere can take heart, though -- as the poll suggests, the "Obama is a Muslim" claim is certainly gaining traction. It isn't just that 18 per cent, either. Forty-three per cent in the Pew poll said they didn't know what faith Obama professed. A Newsweek poll showed an even higher number who believed him to be Muslim than in the Pew poll.

Meanwhile the "birther" movement continues to chug along. A CNN poll showed a quarter of Americans believe that Obama was not, or was probably not, born in the U.S. Those kinds of poll results become a legitimate news story in themselves, opening the door even wider to mainstream dissemination of wing-nut fantasies. A recent straw poll at Slate.com asks: "Is Obama an American citizen?"

Pulse of the underbelly

The Globe has been on the "birther" bandwagon as well, with an earlier cover story exploring the controversy over the president's birthplace. Many major magazines have done the same, of course. But perhaps not with the Globe headline: Obama Born in Africa!

Putting aside the issue of why Obama being Muslim would be such a bad thing, the poll numbers are remarkable. And so are the Globe cover stories, in their own freakish way. Easily dismissed as crackpot stuff from the rag whose recent scoops have included Chelsea Baby Surprise and Where is Michael's Corpse? perhaps. But regardless of its many forest-depleting crimes, the Globe at least knows its audience. And that knowledge has led them away from baseless speculation on Brangelina, toward a new focus on Islamophobic, race-baiting Obama features. If an underbelly can have a pulse, the Globe seems to have tapped it. Just a half-step lower than Fox News on the sewer ladder, the Globe joins the ranks of American media outlets amplifying the feedback loop of dangerous public delusion.

As newspaper editor Maxwell Scott says in John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

It sounded better in the movie.  [Tyee]

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