CON TEXT

Tue, Jul 15, 2008, 01:00

Kevin Courtneysheds some light on the meaning of Baracknaphobia.

You found this on the web, didn't you?

The man who wants to be the first black president of the US may have given America a new hope, but he's also inadvertently given us a few new buzzwords. There's obamania - the near-hysteric pop-star fervour demonstrated by Obama's growing army of supporters. There are also the obamacans - Republicans who, gripped by obamania, have changed allegiance to the Democratic presidential nominee. Now, however, another attitude is raising its ugly head, and threatening to smother the presidential race in a cloud of rumour, conjecture and plain smear. It has already swept through the right-wing media and it has even poisoned the minds of some liberal politicians who really should know better. It is baracknophobia, and it's probably crawling into your e-mail even as we speak.

What are the symptoms?

According to TV satirist Jon Stewart, whose popular cable TV show The Daily Newsran a feature on the phenomenon, baracknophobia is "an irrational fear of hope". Sufferers show an uncharacteristic willingness to believe the most scurrilous rumours about Obama, no matter how patently ridiculous they are.

What kind of stories?

That Obama is secretly a Muslim, for example, and was schooled in radical Islam when he was a boy. That he intends to enslave the entire white population of the US as soon as he gets into the White House.

What! You mean they're not true?

Some Obama-haters, desperate to find something scandalous that might take him down, are eagerly forwarding these slanderous e-mails, conveniently ignoring the possibility that they may have been made up by a survivalist white supremacist and posted on dodgy-blog.com.

They don't call it the web of deceit for nothing, you know. The mainstream media might has jumped on the bandwagon, eagerly repeating the stories and even coming up with a few of their own. Fox News, unsurprisingly, is the worst offender, accusing Obama of some dangerously un-American activities. These include not looking patriotic enough when taking the oath of allegiance. One of the most serious accusations is that Obama is a plagiarist. It was claimed that Obama cribbed a recent speech from one made in the 1980s by Democrat Mario Cuomo. "They're practically verbatim," raved the accuser. Closer inspection of the two speeches revealed that they only had three words in common: "of", "to" and "we".

Baracknophobics have also turned on the candidate's wife, Michelle Obama, accusing her of calling Caucasian people "whitey" and noting that she "looks bitter".

Can't Obama do something about these smears?

His people have set up a website, Fight the Smears, to try and bring a bit of rationality back into the proceedings, but it's a lone voice lost in a cacophony of cant. Adding his voice to the cacophony was civil rights leader Rev Jesse Jackson, who accused Obama of "talking down" to black Americans. While being interviewed on Fox, Jackson, not realising he was still on air, expressed a hitherto hidden interest in the art of castration. Ouch!

Try at work:"This story that Obama is part of an advance invasion force from Alpha Centauri - just confirm that with David Icke and we'll run it front page tomorrow."

Try at home:"Quick, everyone, head for the nuclear bunker - Michelle Obama's wearing red!"