By LEONARD PITTS JR.
``Be careful what you do, 'cause the lie becomes the truth.''
-- Michael Jackson
For the record:
Sarah Palin did not call dinosaurs ''lizards of Satan.'' Barack Obama is not a Muslim. That list of books that Palin supposedly wants to ban is a fake. Obama doesn't refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance. The picture of Palin wearing a flag bikini and hefting a gun is a fraud. Obama is, too, a U.S. citizen. Palin doesn't want Alaska to secede.
These and other rumors are, of course, busily bouncing all over the Internet. I dispute them only for the aforementioned record and not from any expectation that doing so will make the slightest bit of difference to the willingness of people to believe whatever they want. I just need to hear truth spoken aloud, need to be able to testify to future generations that it was stated in black and white somewhere in the midst of the maelstrom of mendacity, of lies and damned lies, that now dominates the political debate.
May I share with you the one that sent me over the top? It purports to be a column by Maureen Dowd raising questions about Obama's Internet fundraising. But reading it, I knew immediately it wasn't by Dowd; the leaden, pedestrian prose sounded nothing like The New York Times' breezy doyenne of derision. Two computer searches confirmed my suspicion: The column was a lie with Dowd's name on it.
The brazenness of it struck me. That, and a self-preservationist streak that said, if they can do it to her, they can do it to me.
Maybe you're wondering what's the fuss. Politics and lies, after all, go together like carrion and flies, and this year is no different. Palin's claim that she told Congress ''thanks but no thanks'' on that ''bridge to nowhere?'' Not quite true. Obama's claim that he co-authored a bill to help homeowners threatened by foreclosure? Fudged.
Still, there's something new at work here. After all, this stuff used to be the exclusive province of political operatives; we the people were content to leave lying to the professionals. These days, shadowy groups and shadowier individuals are in the thick of it. The Internet has made it ridiculously easy; you can sabotage a campaign without ever changing out of your PJs. And the swift boat campaign of 2004 showed the potential: John Kerry's bid for the presidency was fatally wounded by unfounded questions regarding his heroism in Vietnam.
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