Friday, October 1, 2010

"Obama Crotch Salute": Lies, Damned Lies and Right WIng Forwards

A recent posting on this blog:
"Mass Muslim Marriage in Gaza 450 Grooms Wed GIRLS Under Ten In Gaza"( illustrated how real news photos can be used to illustrate totally made up stories.

I use the expression "Right Wing Forward" to refer to a phenomenon I explained inMy Not-Really Right-Wing Mom and her Adventures in Email-Land
Of course not all misleading forwarded emails come from right wing, or whatever you would call it, sources.

NPR's "On the Media" radio magazine did a story on false rumor-mongering emails, and (bending over backwards to be "fair-minded", IMHO), they only mentioned a spate of email slurs against Sarah Palin. Such slurs were very much in the news just after the Palin nomination.  Still, if there is a well-oiled machine for putting out patently untrue Left Wing attack emails by the hundreds, please show me some evidence.

Re the use of the term "Right Wingers"-- to me, whoever is responsible these emails (not to mention the more extreme blogs) behave more like 60s/70s "Yippees", and they want to tear down existing institutions and traditions, so I am unable to call them conservatives. Frankly, conservativism is something we could use, but there are precious few real conservatives left -- certainly very few to be found in the Republican party.

Anyway, I wanted to show another example of the tactic used in a whole class of emails, of pairing real news photos with made-up stories to which too many people have the reaction"Pictures don't lie" and accept the whole story.

The most recent "Crotch Salute" email consisted of a picture and a one-paragraph preface:
At the Ft. Hood Memorial Service.
The Crotch Salute Returns.....
I'm sorry folks, but is this the turkey that was elected President of our
country? You know, the United States of America ? I do believe that
saluting the flag goes with that, and also to honor the servicemen who died, or
is he above that? Shower us all with flowery words and dazzle us with B.S.
but actions speak louder.
This stinks!!!

and it claims to illustrate the myth that Obama pointedly fails to salute or cross his heart when the national anthem is played.

Supposedly, it shows Obama at the Fort Hood shooting memorial service, but it is the same picture used earlier to make the same claim about a Veterans' Day, 2009 ceremony.

In the previous use of the same picture, the text says:
Subject: Picture from last week's Veterans Day Ceremony
Check out this latest picture from Veterans Day Ceremony, 11/11/09, Arlington National Cemetery. It may be the National Anthem or the Flag being presented, but EVERYBODY in the picture is either saluting or has his hand over the HEART ... except ONE.
You form your own opinion.
The picture has been traced to newsreel footage of Obama standing with his hands folded in front of him (hence "crotch salute"), while as one can tell by viewing the full footage, "Hail to the Chief" is being played, and 3 officers on the stand are saluting and one civilian has his hand over his heart.

Feel free to dispute what is really going on in the picture, but I offer a couple of refutations of the claims in the emails:


"Sodahead", which seems to be if anything anti-Obama, had presented one variant of this email with no comment, implying agreement with its message, but tucked in among the many expressions of outrage at the "disrespectful" president, was this comment, presented in full:

I have to interject, not because I support BHO (Obama) , but because there are so many real things to be upset about. The left can ignore the REAL issues when false rumors are spread that have been discredited by snopes, urbanlegends, and ever other fact checking site (and backed up by actual video of the events). It gives them ammunition and could lend credence to libs who argue that those opposed to Obama are just extremists who will 1. lie to manipulate the public and 2. say and believe anything.It doesn't help the cause and makes us seem like loons.

The pictures were taken at the Wreath Laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Memorial Day, 2009. It was taken as Hail to the Chief was playing just as he took his place on the stage. They were saluting him, and whether we like it or not, it's not appropriate for
him to salute himself. You can verify this yourself if you fast forward to 11minutes into the ceremony: video of the whole ceremony is at

Again, whether we like it or not (and I think we all can agree that we SHOULD like it when the president behaves appropriately), he saluted at all the right points and put his hand over his heart during the national anthem. He did this both at the Memorial day ceremony AND at
the Ft Hood ceremony (video of that is at and on Fox).

We need to cross check and double check everything before we post. Although I believed it too when I first saw the photos, I realize that the more honest and forthright we are, the better our own moral standing when it comes to fighting the things that are truly wrong and devastating to our country.

In case you think I'm just making up a random defense, please watch the videos and search the internet for keywords: "ft hood" obama salute (you can add "hoax" or "snopes" to see related videos and to see photos of moments before and this one was taken.

Please don't flame me...I believe that the number one hope for America right now is that people are willing to research claims and discover the truth. I just want what they read from us to be 100% true, in contrast to the lies they may discover when they research things 'political leaders' have said or even what they hear from the mainstream media.

I've already sent a correction out to everyone I forwarded this to (and I forwarded the email I got to my entire mailing list!!). I think it'd be a good idea for us all to do that, because when they discover someone lied about the date and the events, some people will assume we're liars, will shut down, and won't listen to anything else.
If I thought this kind of thing was being turned out by an uncoordinated set of individuals misunderstanding the news, or it could be explained by the "telephone effect" -- each time you retell a story it is likely to get embellished until it bears no resemblance to the original -- I'd say it's sad but what can we do?
Granted, I believe many anti-liberal emails are indeed written by regular people exorcizing their outrage and displaying their cleverness -- e.g. Obama in a beret which is actually a giant acorn cap.  But I think it takes a different sort of person to turn out such cleverly constructed deceptions.
But I have just seen far too many such emails full of deliberate deceptions and lies which are uniformly well written with no spelling errors and the deceptions are very clever. Emails like this are not the work of amateurs.


  1. It isn't exactly surprising to think that there are people intentionally spreading lies and misinformation for political reasons, but it is disturbing. One wonders how this could be countered.

    One thought would be to catch each of these deceptive emails, and try to deluge the internet with corrections. "Obama doe not grab his crotch at the National Anthem". This might backfire. George Lakoff has argued (for example in "The Political Mind") that countering an argument merely serves as a reminder of that argument. Repeatedly saying "Obama is not an anti-American" might simply strengthen the association between "Obama" and "anti-american".

    Another alternative would be to simply flood the internet with equally egregious misrepresentations, only with the contrary slant. For those of us with moral qualms about lying, this is not an attractive alternative.

    Perhaps the best approach would be to send mass chain emails that describe events truthfully, but with a tone of outrage.Take for example today's news story about Mike Huckabee claiming that Obama grew up in Kenya with anti-British values (
    An outrage email could have the subject "Very disturbing: Politician spreads lies to undermine our relationship with British allies". This would tempt readers prone to rage at politicians to open the email. However the outrage would be directed at Mike Huckabee for spreading lies about Obama that could potentially damage our relationship with Britain.

    And there is nothing disingenuous about this; outrage at blatant lies is appropriate.

  2. Your link for youtube doesn't show him saluting all it shows is him giving a speech. why don't you back up your words with truth

    1. I know it's a pretty long posting,but you might try reading it before firing your accusation of lying.

      You say "Your link for youtube doesn't show him saluting".

      What I wrote is that the video is of Obama while "Hail to the Chief" -- NOT the "National Anthem" is being played. And what is the "Chief" supposed to be doing in that case? Saluting himself?

      If I accumulate a big enough database of snaps and film clips, I can show Obama saluting or not saluting, or maybe standing on his head (that might require some photo-shopping), and I can write any caption I please to go with it. This is exactly what I've seen over and over again in these anonymous emails.