Countering the Latest Idiotic Meme about Barack Obama
Are Republicans getting dumber? Or are they just more cynical and willing to make up whatever lie they want to portray US President Barack Obama as a malevolent socialist?
Republicans have long contended (despite plenty of Obama's statements to the contrary) that the President hates business. This meme has gained some momentum thanks to some awfully transparent spinning of what ough to be a common-sense axiom that Obama uttered the other day:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
At the risk of sounding Clintonian, the spin is based on a dishonest interpretation of what "that" means. Let's break this down.
"Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges..."
Clear so far? It's not that difficult. American business giants have succeeded because they were able to take advantage of being in an American civil society where business can thrive. Infrastructure (which business taxes help pay for, naturally) is part of it, but there are many other factors -- you're operating in a free market.
You don't have to pay bribes to get ahead, like in Bulgaria. You don't have to know a member of the royal family, like in Bahrain. The government can't just swoop in at any time for any reason and steal everything you've got, like in, well, Soviet Russia. Bill Gates wouldn't be the Bill Gates we know if he had started MicroSoft in Nigeria. Steve Jobs wouldn't have been Steve Jobs if he'd tried to start Apple up in Syria. Got it?
OK, now we're ready to move on to the humdrum part that has unbelievably got people so stoked up.
"If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that."
If you read that sentence on its own, it obviously makes no sense. "I've got a business. What do you mean, I didn't built that? I poured my blood, sweat and tear into this thing! I employ a whole bunch of Americans! We're pursuing the American dream, you damned... socialist!"
Except that Obama didn't utter that sentence on its own.
There was a context. If you check what he had said seconds before and also what came after that one line, you would understand that what he was saying was not controversial (or socialist) at all. "That" refers to "this unbelievable American system."
Clearly, no businessperson (or politician, civil servant, volunteer, or whatever) built this unbelievable American system on their own. If anyone tried to make that case, they'd be nuts.
At this point, Obama-haters will think the following: "Bah. Taken out of context! The oldest trick in the book! We know what he meant. We know what he said!"
But it's true. Obama's words were taken out of context. It should be obvious if you re-read the lines above. It's a stupid, nonsensical meme. It's a distraction from the real issues in American politics. It's a dumbing down of the debate.
Sadly, it appears to be an intentional strategy on the part of Obama's opponents. With any luck, American voters will be able to see through it.
Jonathon Narvey is the Editor of The Propagandist