When Obama was first elected in 2008, sections of the US right went into overdrive to prove that behind the smooth talking and smile there was something more sinister. Some conservative media outlets believed Obama was secretly a radical socialist – a Marxist, even. Tied to him were said to be various radical left-wing people, groups and ideologies.
His time as a ‘community organiser’ in Chicago was offered as proof of his subversive past. He was said to be a disciple of Saul Alinsky. His ties to Bill Ayers, a former member of Weather Underground, were brought up. He was said to have once been a member of Democratic Socialists of America, a fairly mild social-democratic group. Some less than savoury things that Obama’s pastor once said were also offered up as proof. The pastor, Jeremiah Wright, had said America brought 9/11 upon itself: the kind of thing every edgy teenager was saying in the mid-2000s. Wright’s supposed radicalism must surely have infected Obama’s thinking.
Members of his administration were scrutinised for past political affiliations and views. Van Jones was forced to resign from his post following accusations that he was involved in an obscure Maoist group in the 1990s following the Rodney King riots. One aide was forced to resign due to having once said that Mao Zedong was one of her favourite political philosophers.
Most memorably, Fox News host Glenn Beck would wheel out his chalk boards. Upon them he would place various supposedly subversive figures and groups, all connecting back to Obama, giving the impression of some deep conspiracy of socialists and black radicals, all connected, with Obama as their secret man at the helm, attempting to bring down the republic. To top it off, that the sad rump of the Communist Party of America celebrated Obama’s election was also offered as a piece of the puzzle.
The idea that Obama was a secret Red with an administration filled with Maoist revolutionaries was obviously nonsense. The conspiracy theories were roundly mocked by left-leaning commentators. Glenn Beck, the most prominent booster of these conspiracy theories, was denounced as unhinged and crazy. He soon descended down the rabbit hole of FEMA death camp conspiracy and lost his gig at Fox News. It was all rather silly and quite funny at times.