In the course of reading the New York Times this week, I came across an awesome story by Jim Rutenberg, about Andy Martin, the guy who is said to have inspired the longstanding "cyberwhisper" campaign against Barack Obama.
Martin is credited with "a history of scintillating if not always factual claims" and with triggering many of the rumors about Obama's faith and childhood with a silly 2004 press release.
The charges are easily disproved. But some people believe what they want to believe, and the search for better ratings is eternal.
Martin, perhaps not surprisingly, starred on Fox News last week, making more unchallenged claims about Obama's background.
And yet Martin, as Rutenberg reveals, is a guy who, in the old days, polite folks would have called a crank.
Martin "has left a trail of animosity—some of it provoked by anti-Jewish comments—among political leaders, lawyers and judges in three states," the Times reports. When preparing to run for Congress in Connecticut, his campaign committee listed as its goal as being "to exterminate Jew power."
His admittance to the Illinois state bar was "blocked in the 1970s after a psychiatric finding of 'moderately severe character defect manifested by well-documented ideation with a paranoid flavor and grandiose character,' " according to the newspaper.
Okay. This is America, land of the free. Everyone is entitled to his or her own conspiracy theory. If we're stupid enough to believe every E-mail or robocall we get, we deserve the dysfunctional government we've got.
Deep in Rutenberg's story, I spotted evidence for that.
It seems that Martin's Obama tales went truly viral in 2006, when a guy named Ted Sampley picked up his notion that Obama is some secret soldier for radical Islam and put it out there on the Net.
Now, I met Sampley many years ago when, as one of the purveyors of the myth of Vietnam POW-MIAs "left behind," he triggered a long-running series of attacks on no other than—John McCain.
McCain, who actually was a POW, thought it rather unseemly for Sampley and his like to exploit the pain and sorrow of the widows and children of dead American servicemen. McCain was a prime mover on a U.S. Senate Select Committee, comprised largely of Vietnam-era veterans from both parties, that put the myth to rest and promoted the cause of reconciliation.
In retaliation, Sampley has pushed the theory that McCain was brainwashed by the Vietnamese and is a "Manchurian candidate" who will lead us all to ruin if he reaches the Oval Office.
And so, in Sampley's special view of the world, both Obama and McCain are the zombie pawns of evil foreigners. The guy who goosed the spread of the scary whispers about Obama is the same guy who's been slandering McCain for years!
And that may be something to think about on Election Day, if you're tempted to vote against either of two fine men, based on what you've learned from a feverish E-mail or a sinister robotic phone call.