Do Twitter and Facebook Inflame Obama Hatred?

Steve Chapman wonders if technology intensifies the over-the-top criticism

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Americans have always hated presidents--so why does hatred for Obama seem so much worse? Reason's Steve Chapman argued that anti-Obama sentiment, while intense, merely carries on the American tradition of "weirdly angry and intense denunciations" of whomever occupies the Oval Office as "not just wrong but illegitimate, dangerous, and thoroughly evil." Chapman compiled a lengthy history of such insanity, but noted that the current criticism is much louder than in the past. Is technology to blame?

What Obama may not have recognized before he arrived in the White House is that hating presidents is an irrepressible American tradition. The haters hung George Washington in effigy. They called Abraham Lincoln a dictator. They said Franklin Roosevelt was a Bolshevik.

Dwight Eisenhower's enemies suggested he was a "conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist conspiracy." Shortly before John Kennedy arrived in Dallas in November 1963, where he was assassinated, an ad ran in the local newspaper with his picture over the legend, "Wanted for Treason."

Looking back, all these claims seem bizarre and unwarranted. But that didn't count for much at the time. The furious denunciations against Obama are simply the latest installment in a custom that seems to have gotten more extreme as methods of instant communication have spread.

Beyond the charges of racism on one side and socialism on the other, is our overheated discourse really just a function of the amplifying effects of social media?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.