Obama Satire Causes Internet Confusion

Websites take fake story as "birther" news

By Michael Gehlken
|  Saturday, May 14, 2011  |  Updated 8:28 AM PDT
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A political satire published Wednesday in a San Diego magazine’s fake news section detailing how a local high school proved Pres. Barack Obama’s birth certificate to be counterfeit was picked up as “birther” news across several Internet sites.

The San Diego Reader ran the story in its “Almost Factual News” section with artificial — and sometimes profane — quotes from made-up High Tech High International students.

High Tech was one of three finalist schools in a nationwide contest vying for Obama to speak at its commencement ceremony. The school learned Tuesday it did not win.

According to the satire, the reason was because the school rescinded its invitation to the President after students found “obvious oddities” in his birth document when trying to “think like the nutjobs.”

Quickly, the story spread online.

On Thursday, The Post & Email, described on its site as a citizen-journalist “electronic newspaper,” reworked The San Diego Reader satire on its site while including the profane quotes.

Atop the story, The Post & Email ran an editor’s note saying the site did not usually print profanity, but “due to the significance of the findings outlined in the report and the ramifications, The Post & Email deemed it acceptable in this case.”

The online newspaper’s story began with the following lede:

The San Diego Reader is reporting that several students attending a school named High Tech High has declared the long-form birth certificate image released by the White House on April 27 “a Photoshop job, and not even a particularly careful one.”

(Of course, The San Diego Reader never reported the story, as it was a satire.)

The Post & Email ran a twice-updated retraction Friday morning after it said it spoke to a San Diego Reader secretary who told them the article was "completely fake."

Dr. Orly Taitz Esquire, a blog that coins itself as the “World’s Leading Obama Eligibility Challenge Web Site,” posted the San Diego Reader story on its site and Facebook account Friday morning.

While some readers were strung along, others commented on the Facebook page that the story was a satire, and within six hours, the story appeared to be removed from the site.

An extract of the San Diego Reader piece was also published early Friday morning on UnlawfulPresident.com beneath the headline: “Obama snubbed by school for fraud birth certificate.”

Point Loma Nazarena University journalism professor Dean Nelson, PhD., laughed and said, "Oh my gosh," when hearing how the Obama satire story spread.

Calling the quick dispersion of falsehoods "nothing new," Nelson said he wasn't surprised and pointed to a Mark Twain quote: "A lie can spread halfway around the world before the truth is still tying its shoes."

"This is just further evidence of it, isn't it?" Nelson said. "With the Internet, it just gets much faster ... When things sound too wacky to be true, we probably ought to pause and think about whether they are true.”

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