By now, most of us know it was a hoax. Or, at the very least, a poorly-reported story.
As I write this, President Barak Obama is jetting his way across the globe with his wife and daughters to begin a 10-day trip to Asia that starts in India, where it was reported that security costs would run $200 million per day. It was estimated that over 30 warships, 40 planes, several bullet-proof limousines, 3,000 staffmembers, and dozens of hotel rooms would be involved in an excursion to break all previous records for a presidential state visit.
And right-wing elites were hopping mad. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and other conservative pundits pounced on the story as just more proof about how out-of-touch the Obamas really are. First it was Michelle's lavish trip to Spain, which even drew gasps of surprise from the liberal press. There was the family's 27-hour snub of the oil-stricken Gulf Coast in favor of an impromptu weekend in Bar Harbor, Maine, and a longer vacation on Cape Cod, two New England havens of exclusivity.
At least when George Bush took his vacations, he usually went to his personal ranch here in Texas, which even his ardent left-wing detractors struggled to call fancy.
For Obama, the hapless limousine liberal, a $200 million-per-day junket to Asia, at the start of Diwali, no less, just seemed like more of the same wasteful spending from which Republican talking heads make their livings.
Except nobody bothered to run down the story's sources. Nobody checked leads. Nobody tried corroborating the validity of any facts. Nobody ran the security financials. Not even me when I posted a link to the story on my FaceBook page. I found the original story from an Indian news outlet on Google, and assumed media standards in India were at least as strong as ours. In addition, I figured the scathing implications from this story for our Democratic president would be enough to silence the American media, which would explain why nobody else was onto the story. The liberal media elite were still smarting over the results of Tuesday's elections; why would they heap any more bad news on Obama's plate?
But, I should have known better. Not that North America's leading press agencies report the news perfectly all the time, or exist in a vacuum free of bias. But it wasn't until yesterday that conventional media outlets decided the rumors had festered long enough, and spokesmen from both the White House and the Pentagon addressed the phantom scandal as nonsense.
So, to all my FaceBook friends and their friends who responded to my post, I'm truly sorry for being complicit in spreading falsehoods about our president and this Asia trip. Sometimes it may not seem like it, but I strive to make sure the things I tell my friends aren't rumors or gossip. I'll try to be more careful in the future.
Anybody Else? Rush? Glenn? We're Waiting...
There's more to this incident, however. I'm also taking this opportunity to prove why I don't believe Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck deserve much credibility. Not because I was gullible enough to think they might be right. And not even because we were all wrong. But because of what they haven't done.
Although this story has been proven false, neither of these two blowhards have acknowledged that. None have yet made any public retractions, which media personalities with any integrity would have done. They haven't even bothered to apologize for misleading their audience, which proves their sullen disrespect for people who hang onto their every word. And of course, they haven't apologized to the president. Apparently, free speech only goes one-way for these right-wingers.
For the record, Rush appears to have simply dropped the story. Like it never existed. But as of 11:56 am CST today, Beck's website still carried the story, "Financial crisis? What crisis? Obama spending $2 billion to visit Mumbai" on its home page.
This is what Beck says:
"If Mumbai sounds familiar to you it's because less than 2 years ago, radical Islamic terrorists carried out massive attacks that killed 173 people and wounded 308. It's so dangerous there that the President is traveling with 3,000 people, bringing 34 warships, and spending $200 million a day to make the trip. What in the world is so important to take such a risk, and the financial burden in the middle of a crisis? Something isn't right."
It's Not Right of the Right
Well, you are correct, Pontificator Beck. Something isn't right, and it's your own warped desire to make a name for yourself at the expense of somebody many conservatives don't like anyway. Obama's presidency, as ineffective and wasteful as it may be, is expendable in your pursuit of ratings and sensationalism. Granted, you couch your story in the form of a curious question, perhaps thinking that gives you the leeway to backtrack later and say you were just presenting a rumor to your audience without actually endorsing it yourself. But is that a hallmark of a trustworthy person?
What harm does any of this do? What's another negative story about Obama when so many already-angry voters have participated in one of the most anti-incumbent elections in history?
For one thing, it harms the conservative agenda by further obfuscating the relevancy and accuracy of the information they disseminate to their base. You can't say this is the first time Rush, Beck, & Co. have sacrificed integrity for ratings.
Second, it demeans the office of the US presidency, not so much for getting information wrong but failing to own up and apologize. Rush, Beck, & Co. hate it when their mortal enemy, the media, demeans Republican presidents, but apparently Democratic administrations are expendable.
Third, it shows to Third World idiots how easy it is to get Americans all worked up over something that isn't true. As new media takes more and more control of our information flow, propaganda can only become more insidious and more difficult to qualify.
Fourth, it's simply wrong ethically. If you make a mistake, don't we all still need to apologize and take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again? Have maturity, respectability, and integrity simply ceased to be important?
Two months ago, Glenn Beck hosted a rally in Washington DC with the slogan of "restoring honor."
See the discrepancy?