The Left’s Shorthand Smear Tactics
“Birtherism” lives. Not because Kenyan birth conspiracists refuse to let it go, but because the Democrat-Media Complex won’t let the term die. The label and its interchangeable charge of “racism” are too useful to them as a shorthand silencing tactic. And if Republicans allow the tactic to flourish, any hope of effectively reforming our nation’s immigration policies will fade in proportion. Just hours before the House of Representatives was to vote on a resolution condemning President Trump’s tweet storm about the four freshmen called “The Squad,” CBS News ran the headline: “From birtherism to racist tweets: Trump’s history of inflaming racial tensions.” A couple of weeks ago, Dean Obeidallah tweeted: “Birtherism has become shorthand for smearing people of color in politics with lies. And Trump is the father and long time champion of bitherism [sic].”
Obeidallah, defending criticism of Kamala Harris following the Democratic debates by essentially repeating lines from the complex’s script, has it partly right: “birtherism” has indeed become an ugly shorthand smear. But the rest of the claim is entirely wrong.
Bringing up truths -- even when uncomfortable or inconvenient -- is not “smearing.” Neither is asking legitimate questions about the ideology, background or constitutional eligibility of “people of color in politics.” The “smearing” happens when the media, in near-perfect unison, silences the askers with the awful charge of racism. And it was this media cabal, not Trump, who is the “father” of this smear tactic.
Apparently it was this tweet about Kamala Harris by Ali Alexander, who describes himself as a “Black American activist,” that reignited the recent “birtherism” talk:
Kamala Harris is *not* an American Black. She is half Indian and half Jamaican. I'm so sick of people robbing American Blacks (like myself) of our history. It's disgusting. Now using it for debate time at #DemDebate2? These are my people not her people. Freaking disgusting.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore
Donald Trump Jr. then retweeted it, preceded by “Is this true?” And all birther hell broke loose.
Senator Harris, who often dodges difficult questions with something like “I’d be interested in having a conversation about that,” had her campaign manager, Lily Adams, effectively shut down this one. “[T]his is the same type of racist attacks,” Adams told both CNN and CBS News, “used to attack Barack Obama. It didn't work then and it won't work now.”
Other candidates dutifully tweeted anti-birther responses in support of Harris. Joe Biden’s mentioned racism and Obama’s citizenship, while Elizabeth Warren demanded tech companies help in silencing such “attacks.” Articles and news programs immediately followed with uncannily similar wording. The NYT, Washington Post, Time, CNN, Buzzfeed, Daily Beast, Huffington Post, USA Today, etc. offered no relevant facts to discount Alexander’s comment as a “lie,” but instead assured readers and listeners that the comments/commenters and retweets/retweeters were racism/racists, birtherism/birthers, and/or conspiracy theories/theorists. Many referred to the birtherism of Trump, to Trump Jr.’s “stoking birtherism conspiracies,” and the “alt-right” “bots” who supposedly caused the offending tweet to trend on Twitter.
Two weeks later, Trump’s tweets recommending that “’Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” “go back” and fix their home countries were, of course, immediately dubbed “racist” in near perfect unison by the complex, with pieces and statements too numerous to link here. The Washington Post also bashed Twitter for refusing to do its part by deleting the tweets for violating its “rules against racism.”
This -- the way these stories were really not covered but instead covered up with the effective silencer of “racist” and “birther” labels -- is remarkably reminiscent of the coordination of the JournoLists in its creation and subsequent morphing application of the “birther” terminology. The usefulness to the Left of those labels -- to the Obama campaign initially, then over the broader issues of racism and immigration, to now over practically any issue -- cannot be overstated.
JournoList was the media cabal created in 2007, exposed in 2010 by the Daily Caller in its investigation of the coordinated efforts during the 2008 campaign to bury the Jeremiah Wright story. (JournoList was supposedly disbanded in 2010, however in unison the media covered up the 2012 revelation that Wright was bribed $150,000 to keep quiet. Probably by then JournoList no longer needed an email list to direct the show. Its members and the rest of the Democrat-media complex cast already knew their parts.)
Although the original “birthers” were actually Hillary supporters who circulated rumors during the 2008 primaries that Obama was born in Kenya, over time and in actual practice the “birther” label was applied to a much larger swath of people on the right -- most of whom accepted Obama’s Hawaiian birthplace but doubted his “natural born” status due to his dual citizenship and temporarily resident non-US-citizen father and were skeptical or critical of Obama’s purported personal history.
JournoList member David Weigel claimed the credit for creating the “birther” label. His sarcastic post about a Kenyan birth was written in 2008, long before Breitbart’s 2012 discovery of the 1991 literary agency biography that claimed Obama was born in Kenya. When the media finally covered the story it asserted it had been “discredited.” None acknowledged that the agency updated the biography several times for changes in Obama's career over the 16 years, yet did not revise the “born in Kenya” part -- nor downgrade the job descriptions of his mother and father from “an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister” to a “a mother who grew up in small-town Kansas” and a father “raised in a small village in Kenya” -- until two months after Obama announced his candidacy in 2007.
Probably many people -- in publishing, Chicago politics, and Obama’s college and early career days -- had heard or read about a Kenyan birth somewhere. And no doubt, JournoLists tripped over the story early in the campaign and chose to utilize Alinksy tactics in case the exotic book-marketing, Elizabeth-Warren-like application-enhancing or resume-padding tidbits oozed through any cracks in the narrative.
One JournoList recommended this technique to use against the right: “Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems?” Over time, “birther” and “racist” became interchangeable terms, convenient shorthand to silence any questions, not just about Obama’s citizenship, but his personal and professional history, associations, and beliefs.
Obama’s 2008 campaign site, “Fight the Smears,” suggested by its very name that any such questions were smears. Just before the 2012 elections, all links to that website were redirected to Attackwatch.com, where people could “report an attack” on Obama.
That Democrat-media complex playbook was extremely effective. Even many Republicans usefully played along. The anti-birther group on the right was dubbed “Obama’s Republican Guard” by Jack Cashill; Thomas Lifson noted the troubling “self-censorship;” Roger Kimball, the dangerous, “quiet” kind of censorship that rendered not only opinions but actual questions regarding Obama’s background as verboten.
It seems that again the complex is banking on using the tactic to shut up what it wants to cover up, and this time around its chosen one is not only Kamala Harris, but also “The Squad” of Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashid Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley.
Like Obama, these “people of color in politics” are the perfect poster children for its starring issue: Racism. As we’ve already witnessed, criticism or questions will be silenced with the same shorthand: Racist! Birther! Smears! Whether Republicans will cower, again, especially if Big Tech aids in censoring the conversation, is the crucial question.
At Human Events, Will Chamberlain stepped up and debunked the media’s “racist” claims over Alexander’s comments, writing that “debates about who counts as African-American are not ‘conspiracy theories.’” Chamberlain is right: if Harris truly wants to “have a conversation” on racism and reparations, who counts as “African-American” is an inextricable component, as is the fact that Harris is not considered one by ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery) leaders.
And while the media complex tries to label discussion of the citizenship or criticism of the ideologies of these women “racist,” it uses the same tactic in the context of the hot-button of immigration reform, asserting that talk of essentially any limits on immigration are also racist.
Now, apparently, it’s not just the symptoms of the tactic’s smear being felt across the aisle, but also its contagion. The turmoil over Trump’s tweets sparked an internal debate in the halls of National Review over which should be more grateful to reside here: native born citizens or naturalized citizens. Unsurprisingly, the NeverTrump-ish David French essentially not only charged Trump (and by implication, his supporters) with “racial malice,” but also seemed to side with the left.
It was not long ago that our nation was able to discuss citizenship and the larger topic of immigration reform without the “racist” baggage. NeverTrumpers like George Will and even Democrats like Harry Reid sought to curtail, for example, as a key part of immigration reform, the controversial practice of “birthright citizenship.” Now, previously reliable conservatives, mostly of the NeverTrump persuasion, have changed their views on the issue.
According to Dr. John Eastman, it was not until the 60’s that “popular perception” -- not a constitutional mandate, sweeping court decision, or executive order -- morphed into the “idea that mere birth on American soil alone ensured citizen status.” This birthright citizenship practice, considered a gigantic “magnet” for illegals, grants citizenship to all children born here to non-citizen parents, whether here legally but temporarily, or even illegally.
Citizenship law experts will recall the famous Supreme Court case from 2004, Hamdi v Rumsfeld, contesting whether Hamdi was entitled to habeas corpus because of his US citizenship. In his dissent, Justice Scalia referred to Hamdi’s citizenship as “presumed,” and the amicus briefs submitted by The Claremont Institute, The Center for American Unity and The Eagle Forum argued against the misconception of birthright citizenship that rendered Hamdi a US citizen.
The same legal arguments apply to Harris. Her parents were non-citizen students at Berkley when she was born. Her mother apparently never became a US citizen. Her father naturalized at some point, but it is unclear when. (An AP piece asserts it was after her birth.) If so, Harris is as much a “presumed” citizen as was Hamdi.
So the question should be obvious: if the factors of her citizenship causes it to be considered by many experts as “presumed” -- logically, is Harris really constitutionally eligible as a “natural born” citizen?
I don’t mean to suggest that Harris should be prevented from seeking her party’s nomination. This practice of birthright citizenship has gone on for many decades and millions have obtained their US citizenship in this manner. As Michael Anton wrote for Claremont:
We may grant that our current understanding of birthright citizenship is a mistake and correct that mistake without retroactively stripping anyone of citizenship…Correct the issue going forward. Make clear to the world that the United States will no longer grant birthright citizenship to the children of non-citizen illegal immigrants, birth tourists, or people here on temporary work or student visas. The citizenship of those already born would forever be honored—even enshrined into law if necessary.
But will this important issue ever be seriously addressed? Or have we allowed the charge of “racism” to become such an effective smear that not only “The Squad’s” dangerous rhetoric and ideology, but none of the elements of effective immigration reform can be openly discussed?
Americans need to have a conversation on the issues that the Democrat-media complex, aided by Big Tech, works to drown out with shouts of “racist.” And if we don’t speak up over the din, expect this shorthand smear tactic to grow in size and strength, effectively empowering the complex to silence everything it doesn’t want spoken or heard.