On Saturday, September 26, a poll went online on Facebook asking users "Should Obama be killed?" The users were given 4 choices: Yes. Maybe. If he cuts my health care. And no.
The poll was part of an application which allowed an individual Facebook user to create it. Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt quickly pointed out the pole did not originate from Facebook itself. In an email to Computerworld, Schnitt stated the application was immediately suspended and its developer will have to set up better procedures to monitor content generated by it's users.
The poll was taken down Monday morning. A spokesman for the Secret Service, Special Agent Ed Donovan said:
"We worked with Facebook to take it down, and we are currently investigating the matter."
When asked who posted the poll Donovan responded:
"That's what we are investigating."
Threatening the president's life is a crime. While the act of posting the poll is not illegal the Secret Service would like to interview the person who posted it to find out what his or her intent and exactly how malicious that intent is.
Neither Facebook nor the Secret Service will disclose how many voted in this poll or what the results were, but The Political Carnival blog posted a screenshot which shows 387 people voted at some point.
The poll reflects a number of conflicts taking place in the U.S. now. Our new president promised change which was welcomed by some and has obviously threatened others. About 90% of Black voters, 67% of Latinos and 63% of Asians voted for President Obama while only around 47% of Caucasian voters voted for him. This means there are a lot of folk in the white community who did not want this president in office in the first place.
Anyone who runs for president has to be ambitious, but Barack Obama entered office at a time when some changes were necessary. The times were calling for change and our extra ambitious president decided to pursue different courses of action to realize his vision for the U.S., one of which was health care reform.
In the swirling vortex that is the mainstream media thousands of angry Americans voiced their frustrations at townhall meetings and organized rallies with ready made Photoshopped images of the Obama Joker. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and every other right wing organ provided talking points to their base. The word "Socialist" was used as an epithet along side ignorance soaked distortions like "death panels" and "not my kind of America". These persons presented to us in the mainstream media with no real context and too much coverage seem totally unaware that their racism is showing.
It's clear to many all over the world that our president's media coverage reflects the racism, disdain, discomfort and hatred present in this country for Black people. The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez said to a Fox News reporter:
"Your network hides everything and your president, Bush, [you] supported Bush and you're criticizing Obama because he's Black. So, that's why your mind is filled with poison."
The recent outrage over the health care reform bill revealed some of the reasons, fully disclosed and otherwise, why some groups are responding the way they are to President Obama's initiatives. Some of the images of these townhall meetings look like images from lynchings in the early 1900s, or Vietnam War protests. The vitriol maybe more closely reminds me of images of Alabama citizens preventing the Black Little Rock 9 students from entering their formerly segregated high school. If history is any indicator years from now most will probably recognize the treatment of President Obama as blatantly racist and no misinformation campaign or pro spin zone will prevent that.
One of my issues with everything from the Facebook poll to Fox News is that there are plenty of real reasons to disagree with President Obama's actions as president. How about his orders to send drones into Pakistan? Or continuing the 48 year embargo on Cuba?
Not granting Haitians Temporary Protective Status, to remain in the U.S. instead of being deported back to hurricane devastated Haiti? Weak stance on Wall Street? His undemocratic involvement in halting New York's first Black governor, David Paterson, for running for governor? Oh yeah, and what's the deal with the resignation of White House Council on Environmental Quality's Special Advisor for Green Jobs Van Jones? Or maybe President Obama's harsh tone when addressing Black people?
For some race will always be the main factor in determining a person's worth. For the right wing race may or may not be the name of their game, however game changes when death threats are involved.
Secret Service has had President Obama under their protection since 2007 when he was just a presidential candidate Obama. He receives 30 death threats a day and it looks like the stage is being set for his assassination. Attempts have already been made by white supremacists and who knows how many other plots are in the works.
Many Americans used to pride themselves on our brand of democracy, our violence free elections and our freedoms of speech that allow us call the president a liar or a socialist. The tone of this country is headed in a negative direction again. The climate around this president and political debate is far too hot.
Clearly there is a need for change in this country and hopefully that change will provide us with a more egalitarian system with liberty and justice for all as a reality not just rhetoric.
Disagreement and debate with President Obama is not only right and necessary but requested and expected by the president himself. His supporters can challenge him and still support him at the same time. If we don't like the tone of the national debate we should say so and make our voices heard. You can write letters, send emails, join organizations to make your voice heard. And if you see a poll like the one on Facebook, report it.