We interrupt the news cycle to bring you the latest lamentable manifestation of what historian Richard Hofstadter famously called "the paranoid style in American politics."

The skeet shooter truthers are probably the mutant spawn of the birthers, and they'll probably morph anew once the current wingnuttiness wanes. But let's check them out anyway, if only to satiate our craving for black comedy.

It all began when President Obama told The New Republic magazine that, "yes," he has indeed fired a gun (like all accredited red-blooded Americans), and that "up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time . . . oftentimes, guests of mine go up there." And alarm bells instantly clanged among the practitioners of the paranoid style - to wit, Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, a founder of skeet trutherism: "If he is a skeet shooter, why have we not heard of this? Why have we not seen photos?"

The Obama team stayed silent for a few days, apparently assuming that the skeet truthers would surgically remove their fingers from their laptops, doff their pajamas, and get a life. Dream on, Obama team. So finally, over the weekend, it decided to release a photo of the president shooting clay pigeons, on his birthday last August. OK, wingnuts? Satisfied now?

Yeah, sure. I joked on Twitter that truthers would simply demand to see the president's long-form Adobe Photoshop receipt. At least I thought it was a joke.

The keyboard sleuths of SkeetGate are, of course, virtually unanimous in their assumption that the photo is fake. But to fully appreciate their powers of reasoning, let's try a little test. See if you can identify which of the following passages are real (the ones I culled from conservative blogs and comment boards), and which are satirical (the ones I culled from my imagination). No fair peeking at the answers!

1. It's fake because he's not wearing a baseball cap. Most shooters wear baseball caps.

2. It's fake because, if you look closely, the shooter in this photo has a little pot belly. Obama doesn't have a pot belly.

3. It's fake because it's attributed to a photographer supposedly named "Peter Souza." They got that name from John Philip Sousa, who wrote The Stars and Stripes Forever.

4. It's fake because look at his wristwatch. Men wear their wristwatches on the right hand, not the left.

5. It's fake because if you were able to enlarge the frame, you'd be able to read his wristwatch and see that the date was not really Aug. 4, 2012, as the White House claims.

6. It's fake because that tree line is way too lush for Camp David. It looks more like Myanmar, which Obama visited in November.

7. It's fake because of the smoke pattern. Smoke going straight out of the barrel is normal, but what's that second smoke-stream shooting vertically from the barrel? Looks like a second shooter they forgot to fully erase when they inserted Obama in.

8. The vertical smoke is fine; there's a hole on top of the barrel that vents gasses. But the photo is fake because look at the upward position of the torso. In the act of shooting, the torso should be leaning slightly forward, like a boxer in the ring.

9. It's fake because when skeet shooters aim at clay pigeons, they tilt their guns up. The gun in the photo is suspiciously parallel to the ground.

10. It's fake because there is no apparent recoil. If it was real, the recoil would have caused camera blur.

11. It's fake because the White House just wanted to insult those of us who are superior to the anti-Constitutional dribble being spouted by Obama and the rest of his Marxist flunkies.

Quite the brain-teaser, yes? Tough to spot the satire entries? Only #3 and #6 are mine. As for the other nine, they reaffirm something that the novelist Philip Roth once said, that our looniest propensities are far stranger than fiction. In his words, American reality often "stupefies, it sickens, it infuriates and finally it is even a kind of embarrassment to one's own meager imagination. The actuality is continually outdoing our talents."

By the way, the skeet truther responsible for #11 - I kid you not, he was writing on a site called The American Thinker - insisted that "this faked pic" was "aimed at discrediting anyone who'd think to question the authenticity of the pic by saying anyone who thinks this is a fake is, themselves, a nut job."

No need to make that one up. The shoe fits already.


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