4 Dumbest Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories ... Involving Photoshop
After the White House released a picture of President Obama skeet shooting at Camp David, conservative bloggers were quick to claim that the photo had been altered or created with Adobe Photoshop or a similar graphics editing program. This follows a long, bizarre tradition of conservative media labeling a wide range of pictures and documents related to the president as fraudulent.
In the past few years, conservatives have accused President Obama and his staff of Photoshopping the short and long-form versions of the president's birth certificate, two separate photos of the president with his family, two Situation Room photos from the day of the bin Laden raid, a photo of Obama throwing a football, and now a photo of the president shooting skeet.
During an interview last month with The New Republic, President Obama was asked if he has ever fired a gun. After the president told the magazine that he goes skeet shooting with guests at Camp David, conservatives -- as well as reporters from more mainstream outlets -- sought proof. In order to quiet the skeptics, on Saturday the White House released a photo of the president shooting clay targets at Camp David in 2012:
Linking to the picture on Twitter, White House senior adviser David Plouffe joked, "let the photoshop conspiracies begin!" While Plouffe was mocking the penchant of some conservatives to turn everything related to President Obama into a conspiracy, some conservative outlets quickly proved his point by doing just that (New York Magazine has produced a comprehensive roundup of the skeet shooting conspiracies).
In an article posted Sunday at conservative website American Thinker -- an outlet frequently touted and cited by Rush Limbaugh -- titled "Seven Reasons Why it's a Photoshop," blogger Michael Harlin concluded, "if he's shooting skeet, then I'm Daffy Duck." (While the headline calls it a Photoshop, Harlin seems to waver on whether the picture was manipulated or merely "staged like everything else in President Obama's life.")
To give you some idea of the level of analysis in the piece, among Harlin's evidence that something is off about the Obama picture is his observation that unlike Obama, "most shooters wear baseball style caps" to help "block unwanted sun in your eyes."
Obama is wearing sunglasses (or tinted protective eyewear) in the photo.
It's easy to point and laugh at analyses like these, but conservatives' obsession with these Photoshop conspiracies shows the type of paranoid nonsense that has passed for journalism at many prominent conservative outlets during the Obama era.
In this report we examine right-wing claims that the president's allies have altered:
1. President Obama's Birth Certificate(s)
In June 2008, responding to widespread chain email conspiracies about nefarious secrets -- including that his middle name was "Muhammed" -- supposedly embedded in then-Senator Obama's birth certificate, his campaign posted a copy of the document on their website. Rather than move on to their next fact-free conspiracy, conservative writers set to work attempting to discredit the document.
Among the more popular posts about the birth certificate was an extensive "report" by an anonymous writer named "techdude" that conservative blogger Pamela Geller reprinted at her Atlas Shrugs website in July 2008. The report took "techdude" far enough down the rabbit hole that he focused on things like supposedly suspicious border patterns and a nonsensical "heat map" analysis of the document:
By the time conspiracy theorist and WorldNetDaily columnist Jerome Corsi went on Fox & Friends in August of 2008, he was confident enough to declare that the document posted by the Obama campaign was a "false, fake birth certificate." According to Corsi, there had at that point been "good analysis of it on the Internet, and it's been shown to have watermarks from Photoshop."