“The Real Obama,” my February 14 column, was hijacked, altered, and circulated on the Internet by e-mail. I hear estimates that perhaps tens of thousands of people have now seen an altered version of my piece. I have had people from Europe and China e-mail me about my column. While I am happy to know that so many people have read my work, the bad news is the last few paragraphs were someone else’s words and work. Equally disturbing were the factual errors in that hijacker’s work.
In that column, I wrote how we were starting to learn about the real Barack Obama. He is a stridently partisan liberal, well outside the American mainstream. While he is well spoken, and to some charismatic, he is not a unifying figure. We have seen more evidence of this over the last 10 days. His claim that gun owners and people of faith cling to religion and Second Amendment freedoms out of bitterness is revealing. His words, and openly expressed views, provide further credibility to the assertions and conclusions I put forth in my column.
Perhaps the objective of the Internet hijacker of my column was to lessen the credibility of the column. Among other things, the hijacker writes that the Book of Revelation in the Bible says the Antichrist will be a man in his forties of Muslim descent. This is wrong — historically and theologically. Revelation was written around 95 A.D., while Islam was founded by Mohammed in 605 A.D., more than five centuries later. And the Bible never references the Antichrist’s age.
Alternatively, perhaps the objective of the person who made these alterations was to further damage Barack Obama. That would be woodenheaded and wrong. Conspiracy thinking based on falsehoods and fabrications does nothing to advance a legitimate, informative debate. That sort of attack is misleading.
Mr. Obama is not the Antichrist. He is a smooth talking, amiable liberal with a radical agenda. That assertion is observable, measurable, and intellectually honest.
No one word better describes America than freedom. We are defined by liberty. But, we must be careful not to abuse it. One of my most cherished rights is free speech. And I do not intend to passively let a pirate of the Internet distort my commentary.
With freedom comes responsibility. When we exercise our right to speak, we should do so honestly, transparently, and prudently. We owe that to our readers and the integrity of the Internet.
It is inevitable that such hijacking, distortions, and abuses will happen on the Internet. It is just part of learning what it means to have this powerful new frontier available to us to speak and advance ideas. And as we do, we all share the duty to use it responsibly.
Even within the context of free speech, there are things you can say, but should not. You can say to another their dress is ugly or their child is stupid. They, in turn, have the right to reject what you say and forever dislike you for saying it. But, you can still say it. You can, but should you? You are free to decide.
Bill Maher can claim Pope Benedict XVI is the leader of a cult, but should he? He and we are free to decide.
But no one has the right to hijack and distort the words of another. Thank goodness, most people do not engage in this sort of deception and abuse of the Internet.
Though the Founders could never have envisioned the Internet, our responsible and honest use of such a powerful forum should make them proud of the nation they created.