Saturday, December 12, 2009

Two Disc Jockeys and His Excellency


Obviously, the ambassador thought the first of the two disc jockeys was talking about the birthplace of Barack Obama Senior. At the beginning of the conversation, especially, it did not occur to him that an American was stating in the form of a question that the American-born president-elect was born in Kenya. The Ambassador simply did not process this conversion in the same way as the disc jockeys. And this is clearly true despite the fact that the ambassador states "it's widely known" in the same breath as he states "his paternal grandmother still lives there."

In other words, in the beginning of the exchange, the ambassador is thinking "Obama Senior" because of the way the original, leading question was asked. He attaches the notoriety of the father's birthplace to President-elect Obama in his mind at that point and then goes on to mention the residence of Obama Junior's grandmother. Clearly he wasn't the only one who processed the exchange this way.  Apparently, the woman behind the female voice on the recording heard/interpreted the exchange that way too.

The second of the two disc jockeys asks a follow up question about Barack Obama Senior, the president-elect's father. Obviously, this question is asked to make an emphatic distinction between the two Obama's in light of what the ambassador appears to have said just before it. We understand the significance and the intent behind the disc jockey's question, but the ambassador doesn't.

Is all of this mere conjecture about the mental processes of another against the apparent logic of the exchange? Yes. Is this conjecture reasonable? Of course.

—There are two Barack Obamas, one of whom without a doubt was born in Kenya.

—Before this program aired, the only widely celebrated birthplace in Kenya associated with Obama Junior—as reported in print, on television, on the radio and on the Internet—was exclusively understood to be the birthplace of the presidential candidate's father in the minds of Kenyans.

—It wasn't until after this recording hit the Internet that we started seeing reports with any real frequency that this place of notoriety was supposedly the birthplace of Obama Junior.

—The first question was: "Is President-elect Obama's birthplace over in Kenya . . . going to be a national spot to go visit?"

—The first question was not: "Was President-elect Barack Obama Junior born in Kenya?"

—The Ambassador never stated that Obama Junior was born in Kenya.

—Only the disc jockey stated that Obama Junior was born in Kenya.

—The question of clarification was not: "Did you just say that President-elect Barack Obama Junior was born in Kenya, Mr. Ambassador?"

—One of the disc jockeys is heard to say after the exchange that it would not have been polite to argue with the Ambassador. Hogwash. His Excellency would have hardly been offended by a straightforward question of clarification. Clearly, there was every chance in the world that he had misunderstood them.  He would have welcomed the opportunity to clarify the matter while still on the air.

—Soon after this conversation, an embassy spokesperson explained that the ambassador thought the disc jockeys were asking him about the birthplace of Obama Senior.

—Very few of the Birther sites have reported the spokesperson's inconvenient clarification.

—The sites that have invariably follow their report with the argumentative statement that the ambassador never returned their calls or e-mails. . . .

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