Normally, we ignore blog posts that spout conspiracy theories and are riddled with ALL CAPS and triple exclamation points, but when we were alerted to an item on Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley’s Facebook profile, we made an exception.
O’Malley shared a much-discredited blog post written by some conspiracy nut who warns that Muslims are overtaking the White House; nuclear carriers were ordered back to Norfolk, Va., in a deliberate attempt to undermine national security; and scads of top-ranking military officials have been forced out by President Barack Obama.
Here’s some sample language: “When I checked out the internet to see how many current Muslims are in the White House it covered 26 pages. Most people ARE COMPLETELY UNAWARE of what is happening to our country!!!”
The blog post goes on to rant about a photograph purportedly depicting five “first line” nuclear carriers docked together in one place.
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“Heads of the Navy were flabbergasted by the directive but had to comply as it was a direct order from their Commander-in-Chief,” says the post. “These carriers were all pulled out from the MIDDLE EAST and the Afghanistan support role leaving our land forces naked and exposed without the air support needed to carry out their missions!”
It closes with a long list of “military elite who have been dismissed or fired under Obama!”
Not true, according to fact-check websites.Snopes.com, for example, says the five ships were not all “first line” carriers, nor were they “pulled out from the Middle East.” They were docked “to facilitate the traditional practice of giving ships’ crews a chance to spend part of the holiday season with their families.”
As for the list of “purged” officers, writer Matthew LoFiego, who posts on the Military Officers Association of America website, had this to say: “There are multiple versions of the ‘military purge list’ that have been going around since mid-2013. With each list, we did evaluations and found them to be disingenuous at best. The majority of the names on the list of ‘purged’ officers in which public information is available regarding their separation point to reasons outside of any political agenda ”
The discredited blog post got several “likes” on O’Malley’s Facebook page, but it also elicited strong criticism.
“It is a disgrace and embarrassment for our community to have a mayor who peddles this kind of scurrilous claptrap,” one Facebook commenter responded.
“Are you serious Tom O’Malley? Anti-Muslim bigotry from our elected mayor?” wrote another.
The mayor told us he posts lots of items on Facebook. Most deal with Atascadero, although he occasionally shares interesting items about the military and about education.
O’Malley said it’s “in keeping with my tradition of offending folks at both ends of the political spectrum. Sometimes folks are offended that I might post something regarding military, as this post was, whether it’s accurate or not ”
He also mentioned that Facebook isn’t a place he goes to for news.
But some people do, and the fact that a public official posted something — even though he didn’t write it — could give it added credibility in the eyes of some readers.
As much as we treasure free speech, we’re dumbfounded that someone elected to a leadership position would post something so inflammatory and so full of falsehoods.
It seems especially out of character for O’Malley, who strikes us as a reasonable man, to dignify such garbage by posting it on his Facebook.
We’d expect as much from a Donald Trump, but we hold local officials to a higher standard — one we urge Mayor O’Malley to strive to meet in the future.