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Scraping the barrel
by Asa Butcher
2007-01-29 11:27:59
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Barack Hussein Obama has a foreign-sounding name, so what? Oh yes, I forgot, we are living in the period of unbridled paranoia and frightening idiocy, which means that anything or anybody different from apple pie Americans should be treated with suspicion. Therefore, why should we be surprised to hear that Senator Obama is already defending himself from absurdity?

Are you ready for this? Obama has been forced to fight claims that he attended a radical Islamist school when he was seven-years-old. The story was picked up by the Fox News Channel and suddenly America was adding two and two and discovering it totalled five. Thankfully, an ABC News producer and crew visited the school in Jakarta, Indonesia, and - can you believe it? - found it to be a normal government public school.

What is going on? Defamation of character is a serious legal issue, but for a so-called journalist to throw mud at a possible candidate for the 2008 presidential election defies belief. Where were the facts? Where was the proof? They had none; instead, they conjured an accusation from thin air, abused their power of position and damaged the reputation of an innocent man. They wasted his time, the time of his exploratory committee and the time of the media outlets obediently reporting the story.

How many do you ask why politicians don't do more to change the world? Well the answer may be because they are wasting time fighting unfounded rumours made by biased and lazy journalists. The fact that Obama has taken the allegation seriously and has put a great deal of energy debunking the lie shows how concerned he is over America's ignorance of his name.

I'm certain that Obama was prepared for some smear campaigns, but to face this within days of announcing his candidacy is outrageous. Obama described the allegation as indicative of the "climate of smear" associated with presidential campaigns and called on the press to make sure "stories are substantiated". I hope that the press heed this request and ensure a fair battle between candidates concentrating upon the issues rather than where they went to school or which girl's pigtails they pulled.

As a journalist, I hope that the offhand story written by the journalist responsible is buried and forgotten while the individual receives a serious reprimand, or even sacked. Defamation of character is a severe crime, especially without proof and this applies to talk show hosts in the US to newspaper editors in Finland. If you damage the reputation, character, or good name of anybody by slander or libel, even if you say it to just one person, it is defamation and can land you in a courtroom. So, beware!

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