IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hitting rock bottom -- then crawling beneath the rock

A young Barack Obama with his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham
A young Barack Obama with his mother, Stanley Ann DunhamAssociated Press

I have, at times, marveled at some of the more ridiculous efforts to smear President Obama and his family. Dinesh D'Souza, for example, wrote a strange book attacking Obama for trying to carry out an "anti-colonial" agenda he inherited from his Kenyan father. It's a thesis as silly as it is ugly, based on bizarre assertions about the president having the mindset of an African "Luo tribesman."

The Weekly Standardcriticized it for "misstatements of fact, leaps in logic, and pointlessly elaborate argumentation." When D'Souza's thesis first appeared as a piece in Forbes, one of the magazine's own columnists blasted D'Souza's "intellectual goofiness," "factual problems," and "unsubstantiated ideological accusations." The Columbia Journalism Review called D'Souza's piece "a fact-twisting, error-laden piece of paranoia" and a "singularly disgusting work."

By the time the disgusting attack was turned into a movie, it was tempting to think the deranged attitudes of Obama's most over-the-top detractors couldn't get any worse. Michelle Goldberg's latest report proves otherwise -- now they're launching nauseating attacks against the president's mother (thanks to my colleague Vanessa Silverton-Peel for the heads-up).

For a while now, pictures purporting to show Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, modeling in 1950s bondage and fetish porn have been floating around the darker corners of the Internet. Now, though, they’ve made their way into a pseudo-documentary, Joel Gilbert’s Dreams From My Real Father, which is being mailed to voters in swing states, promoted by several Tea Party groups and by at least one high-level Republican. At the same time, Dinesh D’Souza’s latest book, Obama’s America—the first of all his works to hit the top spot on The New York Times bestseller list—has a chapter essentially calling Dunham a fat slut. [...]

What matters here is not that a lone crank made a vulgar conspiracy video, one that outdoes even birther propaganda in its lunacy and bad taste. It’s that the video is finding an audience on the right. Gilbert claims that more than a million copies of Dreams From My Real Father have been mailed to voters in Ohio, as well between 80,000 and 100,000 to voters in Nevada and 100,000 to voters in New Hampshire. “We’re putting plans in place, as of next week, to send out another 2 [million] or 3 million, just state by state,” he told me.

It may seem hard to believe that even the most gullible, wild-eyed fools would find such garbage credible, but there are those on the right who are actually embracing this. Goldberg added, "[T]he fact is, people are reporting receiving the disc in the mail. Tea Party groups and conservative churches are screening it. It was shown at a right-wing film festival in Tampa during the Republican National Convention, and by Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum Council in Missouri. Alabama GOP Chairman Bill Armistead recently recommended it during a speech."

We're well past the point at which these right-wing activists care about basic levels of decency, but if there's any justice, this kind of attack will backfire, and make the purveyors of the garbage look far worse than their intended targets.