The Effort to “Otherize” Obama

Nicholas Kristof’s Sunday column in the New York Times is about the deplorable effort to “otherize” Obama.   One of the key points that Kristof highlights in the piece is that:

Almost one-third of voters “know” that Barack Obama is a Muslim or believe that he could be.  … A Pew Research Center survey released a few days ago found that only half of Americans correctly know that Mr. Obama is a Christian. Meanwhile, 13 percent of registered voters say that he is a Muslim, compared with 12 percent in June and 10 percent in March.   …In conservative Christian circles and on Christian radio stations, there are even widespread theories that Mr. Obama just may be the Antichrist. Seriously.

It’s shocking and Kristof links to some of these outrageous sites at his blog.   Take a look, too, at the comments on Kristof’s blog.  Several of the people who believe these lies weigh in to reinforce their own delusion.   (And yet, this is not that shocking if you believe this argument, or if you subscribe to the old H.L. Mencken adage.)  To his credit, Kristof nails the analysis with this (and confirms much of what Joe’s been saying here for months):

What is happening, I think, is this: religious prejudice is becoming a proxy for racial prejudice. In public at least, it’s not acceptable to express reservations about a candidate’s skin color, so discomfort about race is sublimated into concerns about whether Mr. Obama is sufficiently Christian. The result is this campaign to “otherize” Mr. Obama. Nobody needs to point out that he is black, but there’s a persistent effort to exaggerate other differences, to de-Americanize him.

Kristof ends his column by calling on fellow journalists to “do more than call the play-by-play,” and do more to expose the egregious “fouls” that magnify the ugliest prejudices.    I’m glad to see Kristof finally acknowledging what we’ve been writing about here for months now.   If ever there were a time when those reporting on this campaign, not to mention the American citizenry, needs to get more sophisticated in its analysis of racism, that time is now.