It wasn’t supposed to go down like this. When San Diego’s High Tech High International was named as one of six candidates nationwide to receive a commencement address from president Barack Obama this year, it was supposed to be a validation of how far the fledgling school had come in its first decade of existence. Chief administrative officer Ben Daley boasted that the selection proved the value of his school’s emphasis on “producing meaningful work for a real audience — making things that have lasting value and presenting them to professionals in the field.”
Now, he may be wishing that his students had kept their latest class project to themselves. In a good-natured effort to sweeten the pot for the president prior to his final decision, High Tech High seniors Ramesh Bhangoo and Christina Rivera decided to subject Obama’s recently-released “long-form” birth certificate to the sort of typographic scrutiny given to the so-called “Killian documents” that ultimately led to the resignation/retirement of CBS reporter Dan Rather.
“Remember how the right-wing wackos went nuts in 2004 over those documents that showed how Bush was basically AWOL from the Texas National Guard in the ’70s?” asks Bhangoo. “That guy at Little Green Footballs posted that gif file showing how a memo supposedly typed 30 years ago matched up to a Microsoft Word doc with proportionally spaced font. Of course, they didn’t actually prove that the documents were forgeries, but the fallout was enough to take down Rather, and the whole mess probably helped Bush win in ’04.”
“All this ‘birther’ bullshit sounded like more of the same to us,” adds Rivera. “We knew that the people who believed that Obama was born in Kenya — and that his Hawaiian birth certificate was a fake, and that he therefore had no constitutional right to be president — wouldn’t be convinced by this long-form release. When you’re crazy, you’re crazy, and you can always find a way to justify your craziness. But we figured it couldn’t hurt to at least head them off on this whole typography question. Here at High Tech High, we knew we had the equipment, the training, and the critical thinking skills required to do just that.”
“Yeah, we did,” concluded Bhangoo. “Damn it.”
The title of the students’ report on their work says it all: “Say It Ain’t So: An Inquiry into the Validity of ‘President’ Obama’s Long-Form Birth Certificate.” “We tried to think like the nutjobs,” recalls Rivera. “We started by asking why they inserted the green-pattern background underneath the original text. Then we started looking for other obvious oddities. Long story short — yeah, this is kind of a fake.”
“You don’t really have to look further than the child’s name,” says Bhangoo. “The way the ‘r’ in ‘Barack’ differs in all sorts of ways from the rest of the letters, the way the green background fades away around certain parts of ‘Hussein’ and ‘Obama.’ It’s a Photoshop job, and not even a particularly careful one. We did a little followup work and found a death certificate for a Herbert Harrison O’Brien from the same hospital, dated August 5, 1961. The date of birth on that death certificate is given as August 4, same as little Barack Hussein Obama. But the funny thing is, there’s no corresponding birth certificate for baby Herbert. Where did it go? And why doesn’t Obama’s mother sign his birth certificate until August 7, three days after her son is born? By then, we were too depressed to dig any deeper.”
“Our commitment to ethics really sets us apart at High Tech High,” says fellow senior and commencement ceremony chair Rishika Daryanani. “This case is no exception. Thanks to these two jerkfaces, now we have to disinvite America’s first black president and maybe get him kicked out of office, too. Thanks a lot, guys. Maybe we can get Donald Trump to fill in.”