Bluestem noted earlier this summer that Congressman Walz rose on the floor of the House of Representatives to praise Spam, that glorious faux manufactured ham food product created and crafted in Southern Minnesota.
Now Greater Minnesota newspapers are spamming the countryside by publishing an astroturf letter-to-the-editor that repeats a doctored Obama quote. There's a lot of that going around on the right these days, along with fuzzy math problems.
Enter James Roehrborn of Alexandria, who has been circulating a letter to editors, who helpfully share the letter with their readers. Today's Fergus Falls Journal is the latest to publish ‘Hope and change’ is really anti-Americanism. It begins:
“Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20). This proverb by wise King Solomon applies to a politician so eager to persuade people that he will use hasty words in making many empty promises to get elected.
President Obama recently state [sic] that “Capitalism does not work nor has it ever worked.” Americans will never believe that. Why didn’t Obama say that before the election? We are finally learning what Obama really believes in his heart and it’s not good news for America.
Free market capitalism and individuality will soon be a thing of the past. His attacks on capitalism and small businesses prove that. Obama’s real “hope and change” has not been exposed for what it really is: anti-Americanism. . . .
Bluestem readers know how we've something of a nose and loathing for bogus quotes and false urban legends, and this alleged quip by the President carried the aroma of 10,000 fake Abraham Lincoln quotations. Perhaps that's a backhanded compliment to President Obama to be edging Honest Abe in conservative truthiness quotation production.
Google "President Obama recently state that “Capitalism does not work nor has it ever worked" and the sentence turns up in letters under various headlines at the Sonoran News (the conservative voice of Arizona), the Marshfield (WI) News Herald and the Alexandria Echo Press. All are letters from Mr. Roehrborn.
With one exception.
Did you know our president said capitalism doesn't work? Or that he took Michelle to several flag-burning ceremonies?
You didn't? Perhaps that's because he did no such things. Those are just two of the scurrilous lies that keep floating around in the Internet sewer. They are like some of the locally written letters we regularly receive at The Pilot - the kind that refer to "Obama" on first reference, as if the writer can't bear to use his proper title and full name. Or worse, "B.O.," or "your president."
Consider two emails that came to me on the same recent day. The first sought to use our columns to "expose" something that Obama supposedly said during the 2008 campaign.
The writer began by quoting this passage from Proverbs: "Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him." Then he proceeded to write: "President Obama recently stated that 'Capitalism does not work nor has it ever worked.'... Obama's real 'hope and change' has now been exposed for what it really is: anti-Americanism."
OK. Now for what the president really said.
A quick perusal of the fact-check websites produced a YouTube video of the presidential speech to which the writer was referring. It was delivered in Kansas. Here is a transcript of the relevant part:
"There is a certain crowd in Washington who for the past few decades have said, let's respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. The market will take care of everything, they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes, especially for the wealthy, our economy will grow strong.
"Now, it's a simple theory, and we have to admit it's one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That's in America's DNA, and it fits well on a bumper sticker. But here's the problem: It doesn't work. It has never worked."
Quite a leap from the truth to the lie, huh? . . .
Change the search to just the bogus quotation itself, and 37 hits show up, mostly repeats of the Minnesota letters. But Mr. Roehrborn did manage to place his creative writing in the Merrillville, Indiana, Post-Tribune yesterday, so he's getting busy with the email.
Roehrborn has suppliesd other remarkable letters to willing editors in the past. Last year, the Coldwater, Michigan, Daily Reporter received an epistle outlining the story of how a Turkish earthquake in 1840 revealed Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat (and it's been spotted from time to time since). And that Darwin recanted the theory of evolution on his deathbed. Nope.
It's endless, from a letter published in Petersburg VA (a Marxist-Socialist Obama is funding the Muslim Brotherhood) to others along the same themes.
These abilities haven't gone unnoticed. Last year, a Bemidji Pioneer reader fired back in Letter slamming socialism was part of mass mailing:
On Tuesday, (April 26) you published a letter signed by a James Roehrborn of Alexandria. It was a hodgepodge of confused fallacies and muddled clichés, but it got me thinking. At first, I thought about how deeply paranoid and devoid of fact it was – it bloviates about “evil Marxist Socialism” but fails to mention a single, specific issue or policy. Mr. Roehrborn claims to know that “Americans realized” a “last best hope” by electing conservatives thereby saving what he paradoxically calls “the future of their children now and for many generations to come.” Clearly Mr. Roehrborn has some strongly felt, political differences with many of his fellow citizens. However, your printing of these vapid ramblings is disturbing but not simply because they are vague and uninformed.
This brings me to the other thing that got me thinking: how many readers does the Pioneer have in Alexandria? I’m guessing very few. Given that nothing in the letter was connected to Bemidji, I began to suspect that it might have been a mass mailing. A quick Google search showed that, sure enough, at least four other newspapers in the country (including Troy, NY) have published letters with precisely the same words. Sorry, Pioneer, you’ve been spammed.
I don’t know what your editorial policies are, but if you’re going to publish a pile of insipid tripe, at least make sure it’s insipid tripe from our own community.
Bluestem thinks that American citizens have every right to be as insipid as we dare. However, it's the job of editors to screen out manufactured quotations and utter tripe. Publishing spammed letters? YMMV, but many papers seek original content.