Is Jim Lindgren of the Volokh Conspiracy hysterically overwrought in not comparing an unwanted spam email from Michelle Obama to the trappings of Stalinist dictatorship? You be the judge, all emphasis added by me:
At another level, asking millions of Americans to sign a birthday card for the President suggests a tone-deafness about the cult of personality. If we lived in a dictatorship, getting millions of subjects to celebrate the Dear Leader’s birthday would be routine, but in a free republic this appeal to get millions of citizens to celebrate a current president’s birthday strikes a discordant note to my ear.
No, I am not saying we are in a dictatorship; I am saying that because we are not, we should not be emulating the trappings characteristic of that fundamentally different sort of regime. Nor do I think this is particularly ominous, just a very small step in the wrong direction.
Lindgren, like Jerry Seinfeld, wants us to be charitable. To know that he isn't actually saying … what he just said.
"Now of course we're not livin' in a Stalinist dictatorship, and Barack Obama isn't anything like that Kim Jong-Il, the Dear Leader of North Korea. I'm just sayin', is all."
Except that Lindgren isn't being charitable. I got the same email, directed to Tim Simms, one of my alias email addresses. (I never give a politician my real one, because they could use it to put me in a concentration camp.) Big deal, it was spam. I got it because I'd signed up for a My Barack Obama weblog. I did what I do to all other spam. I deleted it. And I didn't sign the President's birthday card, though I do wish him a happy one. He's my President, and I want him to wake up happy every day, motivated to do what's best for America and me.
But that wasn't enough for Lindgren. He even looked up Michelle Obama's traveling schedule, and determined that she will be out of the country on the Dear Leader's birthday! It's all a lie, I tell you, it's proof of a conspiracy!
Except it isn't. Lindgren of course doesn't think that getting spam from a political campaign, to which he'd given his email address just like I did, is a slippery slope to tyranny at all. Just a small step in the wrong direction to … what?
He's just sayin', is all.