This week's syndicated column:
Wikipedia, the widely read, online, multi-authored encyclopedia, features an entry on the term "memory hole," which originated with the prescient, if not also clairvoyant, George Orwell. The Wikipedia definition begins:
"A memory hole is any mechanism for the alteration or disappearance of inconvenient or embarrassing documents, photographs, transcripts or other records … particularly as part of an attempt to give the impression that something never happened."
Wikipedia itself may have just offered a good example of how the mechanism works when unknown, unknowable site authorities "took down" a new entry on Lt. Col. Terrence "Terry" Lakin's challenge to President Barack Obama's eligibility to hold office almost as soon it went up. I read a screen shot of the entry and it is factual and non-inflammatory. Did Lakin's page go down the memory hole? Wikipedia readers who seek information about Lakin are redirected to a synopsis of his case within a composite entry on the larger Obama citizenship controversy. Not all but much of the same information is available there, only now, instead of appearing under a biographical entry titled "Terrence L. Lakin," it is included within "Barack Obama Citizenship Conspiracy Theories."
I linger over this incident not only because Lakin supporters have dubbed this week Terry Lakin Action Week, urging American citizens to take the occasion to call their congressional representatives about the case, or even because Lakin, a decorated, 18-year Army officer and physician, faces an upcoming court martial at Fort Meade, Md., on Dec. 14, for refusing to follow orders to redeploy to Afghanistan due to his conviction that the president hasn't proven his eligibility to hold office. Those are both timely reasons to think about Terry Lakin. But there is a larger question here that his sensational case should point us to consider.
Essentially, Wikipedia's editing decision reflects one point of view regarding the Obama "natural-born" citizenship matter -- the point of view, as polled by CNN in July, of the 4-in-10 American voters who believe Obama was "definitely born" in the United States. That relatively low percentage of convinced Americans surprised me given the near-100 percent figure that would surely apply to mainstream (read: liberal) and conservative media, with "alternate" exceptions. Rounding out the poll, 29 percent believe the president was "probably born" in the United States; 16 percent think he was "probably born" in another country; 11 percent think he was "definitely born" in another country and only 2 percent had "no opinion." This demonstrates that the topic resonates with practically every American, with a fairly whopping 6-in-10 Americans at least a little uncertain whether Barack Obama was born where he says he was born.
Of course, Obama's failure to release his original 1961 birth certificate (which, contrary to mantra-like misperception, has never been released) is just the beginning. There remains a startling dearth of documentation pertaining to Obama's progress through his 49 years of life that only begins with his birth certificate. A gaping hole -- dare I say "memory hole"? -- seems to have consumed all possible Obama records from his education, health, family records, even his pre-presidential political career. But this subject is never taken seriously by the media or the political establishment, including, most glaringly, erstwhile GOP opponent John McCain, who, on being challenged on the eligibility question himself, should have called on Candidate Obama to join him in releasing their bona fides together.
But even to suggest such a thing is to indulge in "conspiracy theories." Not surprisingly, Wikipedia defines this term for us as well, noting that it's "often used dismissively in an attempt to characterize a belief as outlandishly false and held by a person judged to be a crank or a group confined to the lunatic fringe."
In this definition may lie the key to understanding the singularity of the Lakin case. As a senior military officer with an unblemished career, service in war zones, decorations, Pentagon responsibilities including those of flight surgeon for the crew of the Army Chief of Staff, and recommendation for promotion to full colonel, Lakin is neither a "crank" nor a "lunatic." But he has a simple request for the president that drove him to what amounts to a historic act of civil disobedience for which he may well serve time in prison: Release your original 1961 birth certificate so this poisonous issue no longer divides the American people.