I wrote a piece over the weekend debunking the hot new Barack Obama TelePrompTer narrative, and sure enough, this attack is gaining legs all over the blogosphere. The heat on this story derives from both The Drudge Report’s linking last week to the recently-launched “Barack Obama’s TelePrompTer’s Blog,” and the President’s subsequent gaffe on The Tonight Show.
Due to the explosive popularity of this rather simple-minded meme, I think a more thorough examination of the fallacies, misconceptions, and outright lies from which it springs is in order.
There’s an unintentionally ironic post up at Redstate now that perfectly sums up my analysis of this attack:
Obama and his teleprompter are big news lately. As Vodka Pundit noted in his weekly summary, the right-o-sphere saw the meteoric rise of a new star, Barack Obama’s Teleprompter’s blog last week. Also last week, an hilarious twitpic by Right Scoop (see photo upper right) made the rounds, even garnering an approving mention by Maja Rushie himself.
I think Maja Rushie is righty pillow-speak for “Rush Limbaugh.” Then, there’s this video:
This all kind of proves my point. They cite a made-up blog, a photo-shopped “humor” picture, and a video made up entirely of made-up photos. This narrative springs from the imaginations of people who see no better way to oppose Barack Obama than to attack his strength.
I’m going to break this down into 3 parts: Lies about the President and the TelePrompTer, unsupported (or barely supported) claims about the President and the TelePrompTer, and fallacies about the President and the TelePrompTer.
Let’s take care of the lies first.
Lies about the President and the TelePrompTer
There are two oft-repeated lies about the President’s use of the TelePrompTer, most notablypublished on the Fox News website, and never corrected.
The first is that, at the President’s first televised news conference, he used the TelePrompTer during the Q&A, not just for his opening remarks. I was there, and anybody who was can tell you that the devices lowered into the floor after his opening remarks.
The second lie is that the White House is planning to install a special video screen in the President’s podium, so he can be coached during press conferences. Although the claim defies reason, I checked with the White House, and the story is completely false.
Unsupported (or barely supported) claims about the President and the TelePrompTer:
Legitimate news organizations like Politico and the New York Times have run stories claiming that President Obama uses the TelePrompTer more than other Presidents did, under a wider set of circumstances.
While I don’t necessarily dispute this, none of these stories provide detail, relying on anecdotal data. Does he use it 2% more, 20% more? Did other Presidents give more, less, or any speeches outside the “normal” use of TelePrompTers this early in their terms?
Additionally, both articles point out that when the President does use the device, it is in situations where others would use it as well, or use notecards. Nobody is claiming that Obama uses a script where others did not. The TelePrompTer is, in essence, a high-tech notecard.
What disturbs me about this is that I think the only reason these stories were even written was so these outlets could show how “balanced” they are. This is how the right continues to drive the news in this country. they accuse the media of a liberal bias, then feed them right-wing garbage like this to prove they’re not biased.
Fallacies about the President and the TelePrompTer:
I alluded to this in the last paragraph, but this entire scheme is meant to give the impression that Barack Obama is a mindless puppet. If that’s true, then every President is a mindless puppet, be it to the TelePrompTer or their prepared remarks. I covered many speeches during the campaign, for example, and followed along with the advance notes put out by the campaigns. None of the candidates diverged from their prepared remarks by more than a few syllables.
The other fallacy, the big one, is that the Special Olympics gaffe, or occasional verbal stumbling at a town hall meeting, are evidence that the President is helpless without the TelePrompTer. The argument is ridiculous on its face, and is only given propulsion by the previous lies I’ve mentioned. Barack Obama spoke extemporaneously at more than 20nationally televised debates, doing well enough to sweep John McCain in the 3 Presidential debates and win a landslide electoral victory.
Also missing from this comparison with other politicians and Presidents is the fact that, no matter what the speech is read from, Barack Obama writes far more of his own speeches than any other. These are his own words, to a much greater degree than those to whom he is compared. If he is a puppet, it is to himself.
Finally, comparing Obama to other Presidents is dishonest. While the technology has existed for about 50 years, it has become much more portable, and much more flexible to interface with, even in the course of the last President’s term in office. Given that fact, it is reasonable to think that other Presidents would have used it more had those benefits been available to them.
The right has 4, maybe even 8, more years to throw things like this against the wall. The media has a duty to make sure that only legitimate things stick.