You may have seen the shocking new video of President Obama speaking at Harvard in 1990. But do you know What Really Happened? (More)

A Method to the Madness, Part I: ‘Shocking New’ Obama Video

This week Morning Feature explores the psychology of conspiracy theories and their believers. Today we examine the ‘shocking new’ video of President Obama at Harvard. Tomorrow we’ll consider the bizarre speculation about President Obama’s role in the tragic death of Andrew Breitbart. Saturday we’ll conclude with stunning proof that President Obama refuses to discuss the extraterrestrial plot to colonize earth.

Oh sure, that’s what They say….

Legal scholars who studied critical race theory will recognize the name Derrick Bell. As a professor at Harvard Law School and elsewhere, Bell was among the pioneers of critical race theory and his book Race, Racism, and American Law – originally published in 1973 – remains a standard text in that discipline. In brief, critical race theory proposes that a just legal system cannot ignore systemic inequalities in society at large. For example, Bell criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in Regents of California v. Bakke for “introducing an artificial and inappropriate parity in its reasoning” in overturning racial quotas for college admissions. That is hardly a radical view. Four Supreme Court Justices argued the same issue in concurring opinions that limited Bakke‘s reach.

In 1990, Professor Bell took an unpaid leave of absence at Harvard Law School, saying he would not return until the school hired a woman of color. Barack Obama, then president of the Harvard Law Review, spoke at a student rally in support of Professor Bell. A camera team from Boston’s WGBH Ten O’Clock News recorded the rally, and broadcast their footage that evening. Producers at PBS’ Frontline learned about the Harvard rally video in 2008, and included an excerpt in their 2008 documentary The Choice. The New York Times mentioned President Obama’s speech at the rally in their 2011 obituary of Professor Bell. Last night, PBS posted the complete footage from WGBH’s archive:

But that’s just The Official Story….

“The Truth Is Out There”

From 1993-2002, millions of Americans avidly watched The X-Files, a television series premised on a secret FBI unit investigating extraterrestrials and other paranormal activity, whose work was always thwarted by a shadowy global conspiracy. The series made the phrase “The Truth Is Out There” into a cultural touchstone. Conspiracy theories are a vast trove of bizarre ideas. Indeed University of Kent psychologist Karen Douglas found that believers often accept contradictory theories:

They also asked 102 students about the death of Osama bin Laden last year. The students rated how much they agreed with statements purporting that: bin Laden had died in the American raid; he is still alive; he was already dead when the raid took place; the Obama administration appears to be hiding information about the raid.

Once again, people who believed bin Laden was already dead before the raid were more likely to believe he is still alive. Using statistical analysis, the researchers determined that the link between the two was explained by a belief that the Obama administration was hiding something.

The central idea – that authorities are engaged in massive deceptions intended to further their malevolent goals – supports any individual theory, to the point that theorists can endorse contradictory ones, according to the team.

As the study concluded: “Believing that Osama bin Laden is still alive is apparently no obstacle to believing that he has been dead for years.”

That conclusion may seem completely illogical, but there is a certain logic beneath it. Conspiracy theorists may not be sure what The Truth is, but they are sure of one thing: The Official Story is not The Truth. Thus, any Not The Official Story is likely to be true … including Not The Official Stories that plainly contradict each other, such as “Bin Laden is still alive” and “Bin Laden was already dead when the raid took place” or – from the researchers’ earlier study – “Princess Diana faked her death to escape the public eye” and “Princess Diana was murdered.”

“I hid this during the 2008 campaign”

Fox News‘ Todd Starnes broke this shocking revelation yesterday:

Harvard University Law School professor Charles Ogletree admitted that he hid controversial video footage featuring a college-age President Obama speaking at a campus rally in support of a radical professor.

“I hid this during the 2008 campaign,” Ogletree said in the video. “I don’t care if they find it now.”

Professor Ogletree’s claim seems to confirm the Fox News conspiracy theory of hidden information … except for the inconvenient reality of PBS having broadcast the video in 2008, and the New York Times mentioning it last October in Professor Bell’s obituary. But not to worry, the conspiracy mongering continues:

Earlier today, Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith announced on Twitter that video researcher Andrew Kaczynski had released “the mysterious Harvard/Obama/race video that the Breitbart folks have been talking about.” … However, the video has been selectively edited – either by the Boston television station or by Buzzfeed itself. Over the course of the day, will be releasing additional footage that has been hidden by Obama’s allies in the mainstream media and academia.

And what does the “additional footage that has been hidden by Obama’s allies in the mainstream media and academia” show?

At the end of the speech, Angry Black Lady Chronicles founder Imani Gandy reveals, Barack Obama hugged Professor Bell. I know you just fainted, so I’ll pause until you wake up.

Welcome back.

For the record, even Fox News viewers voted Starnes’ story “Offensive.” But that didn’t stop the network from covering the footage wall-to-wall last night. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s step two of the six-step attack strategy discussed by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt in The Fox Effect. Expect step three today, with Fox News hosts complaining that other news outlets aren’t covering this ‘controversy.’

What’s so controversial? As Starnes writes, “Bell has been described as the Jeremiah Wright of academia.” Okay, by whom? Several right-wing bloggers compare the two. That’s about it. But Professor Bell is part of The Networks, whatever they are. (You can relax. BPI doesn’t appear on a search of The Networks. Yet….) What’s more, Professor Bell was protesting on behalf of Regina Austin, who “appears to now work for the University of Pennsylvania, has donated to Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign, and teaches students to use documentary filmmaking techniques on behalf of ‘social justice’.”

Please stop fainting. We’re almost to The Truth that’s Out There. Ready?

The Official Story is that Professor Bell was a widely-respected legal scholar, albeit disliked by conservatives, and a pioneer of critical race theory. Then-student Barack Obama attended at least one of the rallies supporting Professor Bell’s demand for greater faculty diversity, spoke briefly, hugged Professor Bell, and went back to his studies and his duties as president of the Harvard Law Review. A Boston television news crew recorded and broadcast parts of that rally, PBS included excerpts in a 2008 documentary, and the New York Times mentioned the president’s speech in Professor Bell’s 2011 obituary. That is The Official Story.

And, per The X-Files Principle of Epistemology, The Official Story cannot be The Truth. So any Not The Official Story will do, no matter how inconsistent with the evidence or even another Not The Official Story.

Now you can faint.


Happy Thursday!