Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Would a Right Wing Source Make Up a Phoney 'Charles Krauthammer' Speech? And What Might This Say About Right Wing Forwards?

I started this blog with far broader, and more exploratory and less argumentative aims than just trying to combat "Right Wing Forwards" and their misinformation. But I suspect their effect is far beyond what most people imagine, and there is a near-total lack of media focus on them.
I've recently noticed a subclass of the Right Wing Forward which may shed some light on them. Many of them seek, in one way or another, an air of legitimacy through putting outrages statements in the mouths of people who never said them. But one type of RMF makes up whole speeches or editorials by right wing celebrities. Why not let these people speak for themselves?

There is an email centered on a purported intimate speech by Charles Krauthammer (the original that I received is at, which is shown to be made-up at:

Summary of the eRumor:
A forwarded email with comments by journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer about President Obama.
The Truth:
Charles Krauthammer has issued a statement about this eRumor saying it is "neither accurate nor authoritative."

He said the email is "somebody putting his own ideological stamp on and spin on my views."

Krauthammer said, "One giveaway of the superimposition of someone else's views on mine is the rather amusing use of phrases that I never use. To take just a few examples randomly: 'God forbid,' 'far left secular progressive,' 'this is the first president ever who has chastised our allies and appeased our enemies!' 'no country had ever spent themselves into prosperity,' and, the real doozy, 'states rights.'"

He said his views are clearly spelled out in a series of columns that can
be found on his web site.
My mother was rather impressed with the email. One clue to why someone faked a Krauthammer speech is one of her comments that she'd read some of his articles but "always found it a little confusing what side he was on".

So it seems like Krauthammer for people who don't read Krauthammer and wouldn't, because they'd find him too abstract or something. But they've heard of him as a great intellectual, and are primed to be impressed by his thoughts if they can understand them.

From a 2007 Christopher Hayes article in The Nation titled "The New Right Wing Smear Machine":
For a certain kind of conservative, these e-mails, along with talk-radio, are an informational staple, a means of getting the real stories that the mainstream media ignore. "I get a million of them!" says Gerald DeSimone, a 74-year-old veteran from Ridgewood, New Jersey, who describes his politics as "to the right of Attila the Hun." "If I forwarded every one on, everyone would hate me.... I'm trying to cut back. I try to send no more than two or three a day. I must get thirty or forty a day."
I think part of the key may be the need for volume: what seems to be effective is such a constant high-volume flow of these messages that people will (1) come to rely on them as an alternative news source (for stories that the mainstream media is "suppressing", like that Obama is a Muslim), and (2) even to those who are somewhat skeptical, there is just so much, and it seems to be stuff that friends of friends of friends simply transposed from some source, that some of it is bound to be true.

The web site has archived, by my count of some weeks ago, 1285 emails of this general type. I believe somebody has a need to crank out a lot of stuff to make this work, so all sorts of shortcuts are taken. It helps that they are mostly false, because if they were true, they wouldn't be "adding" to the general public knowledge. All sorts of articles, speechs, chopped scrambled, or just collections of thoughts that someone thinks a celebrity might have said -- Jokes about Obama that Jay Leno never actually made, have to be thrown into the mix. If Obama is accused of having committed some outrageous behavior (with "photographic proof") on Memorial Day 2009, the same picture and context (except some details) will reappear on Labor Day, 2010.

[to be continued??]