The Dog Whistle Machine and Barack Obama

The Self-Reinforcing Dog Whistle machine describes a phenomenon where we smear someone's reputation with accusations of dog whistles, but only interpret the person as dog-whistling because their reputation is so smeared.

The classic fuel of the Self-Reinforcing Dog Whistle Machine is racism. Follow someone around for long enough documenting all the ambiguously racist stuff they do, and you can make it seem like a pattern of racism. But some groups load the Dog Whistle Machine with other fuels to destroy people they don't like.

This website loads the Dog Whistle Machine with anti-semitism and uses it on Barack Obama. Here are some quotes:

  • "During an August 2015 speech at American University, Obama again tried to scapegoat the Jews, saying:
    "So this deal is not just the best choice among alternatives, this is the strongest nonproliferation agreement ever negotiated, and because this is such a strong deal, every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support.”
  • "Beginning with his first campaign for president, Obama surrounded himself with anti-Semites like General Merrel McPeak. Perhaps the best example of McPeak’s Antisemitism was when he was asked during an interview why there isn’t peace in the Middle East, and he said, “New York City. Miami. We have a large vote — vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it.” (in other words, those pesky Jews, who control America’s policy on the Middle East)."
  • "Obama’s July 31, 2015 phone call organized by the Anti-Israel group J Street and other progressive Jewish groups could be summed up in one sentence. Please help because those rich people are helping those warmongering Jews to fight this incredible Iran deal because they don’t like me and they want to start a war just like they did in Iraq"
  • "One of his first presidential appointments was the anti-Semitic Chas Freeman who blamed his resignation on the evil Israel lobby (a nicer way of saying Jewish lobby)."
  • "Obama denied Jewish ties to the Land of Israel in his 2009 Cairo speech, saying Israel was created only because people felt guilty about the Holocaust"
  • "Obama’s first Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees was Bishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson. The friendliest thing Bishop Desmond Tutu ever said about Jews was 'People are scared in this country [the US], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful.' He also once said, that 'the Jews thought they had a monopoly on God.'"
  • "During his presidency, Obama has allied himself with Al Sharpton who was a leader of the anti-Semitic pogrom in Crown Heights and incited the anti-Semitic firebombing of Freddy’s Fashion Mart in Harlem."
  • "In 2010 Obama’s National Security Adviser, Gen. Jim Jones gave the keynote speech at a Washington Institute For Near East Policy and started it out with an anti-Semitic “joke,” teaching the crowd that Jews are just greedy merchants in the same vein as Shakespeare’s Shylock."
  • "He sent one of his closest advisers Valarie Jarrett to be the keynote speaker at a conference for the Muslim Brotherhood-associated ISNA, other topics at the meeting included Jews “have control of the world, and the Holocaust as a punishment of Jews for being “serially disobedient to Allah."
  • "For his second Secretary of Defense Obama appointed Chuck Hagel who believed in the nefarious “worldwide Jewish conspiracy.” Hagel was once quoted as saying “The political reality is that…the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.”
We can pair all this evidence from this one site with other facts documenting Barack Obama's "overt" antisemitism:
  • Taking the cue from Obama's many dog whistles, anti-semitic attacks spiked just after he was nominated election.

  • Pictures of Barack Obama and well known antisemite leader Louis Farrakhan were suppressed. Farrakhan gave speeches accusing Jews variously of conspiring to control the government, the media and Hollywood. Farrakhan also expressed support for Obama's election in 2008

You might think you can debunk the Obama as anti-semite theory 1 fact at a time, but the problem is when someone gets into this stuff, all the facts reinforce each other. The burden of proof for each fact is so low because all the other facts have already undermined the person's reputation.

When a normal person says "Israel" we don't typically interpret that as a dog whistle to mean "Jews". But in light of a long list of antisemitic evidence, it becomes much more probable that when Barack Obama says "Israel" he really does mean Jews.

My point is not that you should find any of this stuff convincing, I certainly don't, but I think it's important to understand why someone might find it convincing. It's hard to get someone to buy into the initial premise that Obama is an antisemite, but if you already dislike Barack Obama for other reasons it's much easier. Then, once you're in, the whole scope of evidence self-justify one another; each lowering the burden of proof of all the others until you have a very low burden of proof for the whole bundle of evidence.


This post is about the Self-Reinforcing Dog Whistle Machine, the cyclical phenomenon of using dog-whistles to undermine one's reputation, and using reputation to prove the dog whistles. For more posts like this see:

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