Newsweek's Alter Blames Fox News, Conservatives for Birtherism, Obama-is-Muslim Sentiment

In an August 28 online column, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter ripped into Fox News and conservative Republican leaders for painting Barack Obama as a closet Muslim and potentially a foreign-born person illegible to hold the office of the presidency.

But while he tarred the Left's usual bogeymen with the specious charges, Alter failed to produce documented evidence of any instance in which any mainstream conservative Republican leader or Fox News talent specifically charged that President Obama is either a Muslim or was not born in the United States.

Instead the Newsweek veteran resorted to an all-too-typical refuge: insisting that conservative opinion leaders speak in some sort of "coded language" which apparently their followers understand instinctively and only enlightened liberals like Alter can see through as a cleverly-deployed Jedi mind trick:

When the racist Gerald L.K. Smith charged in 1937 that FDR was a secret Jew (he later called Dwight Eisenhower a “Swedish Jew”), no one could have imagined that the Senate minority leader would be asked about it, much less tacitly endorse the claim. But there was Mitch McConnell last week saying that “I take the president at his word” when he says he’s not a Muslim.

That’s what’s known in politics as a “dog whistle”—a coded message to followers. Many conservatives don’t accept Obama’s “word” on anything. McConnell was thus giving them permission to consider the president’s faith an open question, even as he said it wasn’t in dispute. Beyond validation by politicians and the right-wing media, the best explanation for why growing numbers of Americans think the president is a Muslim is that more and more voters don’t like him personally, and so are increasingly ready to believe anything critical (and to them, being Muslim is a negative) about someone they are already inclined to resent. Call this associational distortion. It’s a good bet that if the economy improves, so will the percentage of voters who say that Barack Obama is a Christian.

Not only, apparently, is Alter capable of discerning the motives of McConnell's heart, he's somehow able to divine that many voters' misperceptions about Obama's religious faith are tied to their economic anxiety alone.

Who knew Alter was a brilliant psychotherapist and sociologist on top of being a left-wing political journalist?

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