This past Friday, President Barack Obama used his weekly address to blast congressional Republicans for resisting his putative “jobs bill” now drifting around Washington in search of employment.
His address was shot at a GM plant in Detroit – or so it seemed. But any number of video experts thought otherwise. The headline from the U.K. Daily Mail captures their skepticism, “President Obama in ‘video trick’ weekly address.”
Said the Daily Mail, “Watch the video of President Obama’s weekly Internet address that led some observers to suggest that the US leader was in fact sat in front of a ‘green screen’ and not a car production line in Detroit.”
The story originated at BigGovernment.com. As is often the case with participatory journalism, the responses to the article proved as illuminating as the article itself.
“I just spoke to a friend of my (sic) from Skywalker Ranch,” wrote one respondent. “He has been doing Visual X for 20 years. He said ’100 % Green Screen’ and He LOVES Obama. He was also crushed by watching the video.”
“I’m an expert with 20 years of experience in digital visual effects. I’ve been the visual effects supervisor on features and TV shows,” said another. “The shot is obviously a composite and a ‘weatherman quality’ one. In it’s (sic) front of a still photo and President Obama doesn’t blend into the scene at all.”
The PJ Tatler at Pajamas Media weighed in as well: “I’ve been doing green screen video effects for about 15 years, starting at NASA and then for Hot Air. So I’ve done hundreds of productions using green screen technology, in a variety of settings and using a variety of gear. And in my opinion, the president’s video was shot using a green screen.”
BigGovernment contacted the White House and were told that the video was not shot in front of a green screen. The White House explained “that the production line that the president was posed in front of is always shut-down on Fridays, the day President Obama taped his message.”
Even if false, the White House could feel comfortable in its denial because the controversy, other than a quick trip across the pond, had not left the right side of the blogosphere.
The story had not even stirred the progressive powers-that-be to sic their anti-journalist attack dogs on the presumed conspiracy theorists of the right, a restraint that suggests a lack of confidence in the White House cover story.
Still, this is an issue that deserves resolution, and the PJ Tatler explains why: “It only matters because [Obama] claims that he’s on site in Detroit. Since he said that, if he’s not, then the president lies in the opening sentence or two of what should be an apolitical address.”
Although I have shot any number of videos on green screen myself, I am not expert enough to make a judgment. What I understand a little better is the language Obama uses.
He appears to be reading from a single teleprompter set in front of him, and he does so less artfully than we have come to expect. The address begins as follows. Read carefully:
“I’m here in Detroit visiting workers at a GM plant in the heart of a resurgent American auto industry, and I brought a guest with me, President Lee of South Korea.”
The PJ Tatler errs. Obama does not say he is “on site in Detroit.” He says, “I’m here in Detroit,” which is almost assuredly true. This script is carefully written. It might just as easily have read, “I’m here at a GM plant,” but it did not.
Obama also says, “I brought a guest with me, President Lee of South Korea.” There is no guest in the video. Obama is speaking generally about his whereabouts, not specifically. If called on the use of green screen by the major media, he has an explanation to fall back on.
Obama, however, has never had to worry about being called on for what he says or how he says it. Indeed, the media have provided nearly leak-proof prophylactic cover for his ascendancy. I could not find, for instance, a single article from the center or left about the likely green screen.
We are tempted to think the media granted Obama this protection because of his race, but race provides insulation only when coupled with ideological conformity. The non-conforming minority invites scrutiny, if not outright abuse.
Herman Cain knows this all too well. Of late, the media have been crawling though his literary oeuvre as eagerly as they once did Wasila dumpsters. Time magazine capped their research this week with an impressively empty article titled, “In Herman Cain’s Writings, a Startling Lack of Foresight.”
This is the same Time magazine, by the way, that called “Dreams from My Father,” Obama’s heavily ghosted semi-fictional 1995 opus, “the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.”
Off the teleprompter, as he was at a Virginia town hall meeting in 2008, Obama was less crafty in his evasions than he was in Detroit. “I’ve written two books,” Obama told a crowd of teachers. “I actually wrote them myself.”
In this case, Obama was lying. Both of his books – “Dreams” and the 2006 “Audacity of Hope” – were green screen productions. They only gave the impression that Obama was there on site actually writing them.
If the books seemed to have a “weatherman quality” to them, “Dreams” in particular, it was because they kind of did. To confirm, the folks at Time magazine just might want to start crawling through Mr. Ayers’s oeuvre.