Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Birthers

I had to get around to it, eventually. I mostly ignored other people's posts relating to it. I regarded it as just one of those quirky things I'd see conspiracy nuts getting repeatedly owned about when I glance up. Then I saw that Orly woman on the Colbert Report, and decided to sample a bit deeper of their trolls when Orac posted some links. Funny.

The funniest thing is that they've inspired a Doggerel entry coming up latter tonight: "Settled, Once and For All": Many trolls claimed the whole thing would die down if Obama gave a special order to have his original released, which is highly abnormal. The office keeps them in one location for a reason. Of course, those trolls saying that and wiggling their eyebrows suspiciously apparently forgot about all the others making preemptive excuses: Changing the definition of "natural born" to require both parents, or making up tales about his mother not being a certain age to "pass on her citizenship." And, of course, if Obama does issue a special executive order, they'll use that as a source of suspicion, "Oh, don't you think it's interesting that he went through the trouble of getting an executive order for a document that's supposed to stay still? He must have thought violating the sanctity of that office to produce that document, where it could conveniently be altered en route would appease us. He must be very desperate to settle this once and for all, so something suspicious must be going on."

It's amusing, and for those who've been roasting those trolls for a while, I can imagine it's equally frustrating to deal with the same old canards again and again. That is the life of a skeptic on the internet, after all.

Of course, I feel obligated to discuss birther motivations. Of course, I imagine I'll get a troll or two who will scream "ad hominem!" inappropriately, but the evidence is already overwhelmingly against them. We might as well spell out some probable motivations for their goal post moving and arbitrarily high standards. Getting that out of the way, rather than naively believing simple evidence will change matters can direct how we handle them. I think presenting evidence is still the first priority, but being able to reasonably call their objectivity into question is also important.

Racism is the first big, obvious one. I didn't see them hassling McCain over similar concerns all that much. Exercising a double standard based on this thing we call "race" is racism. Of course, not all birthers are racist. Some are latching onto the conspiracy crankery for religious reasons: They're doing this because they detect some faint whiff of Islam on him, and they want him out. I wouldn't be surprised if many are knowingly "lying for Jesus." And, of course, there are no doubt some birthers doing it because they just don't agree with Obama's policies. He hasn't been doing all that well to meet my expectations, but I hope to remain objective when I complain.

I doubt the majority are knowingly lying, though: I think they just let their prejudices override their critical thinking, if they have any. In either case, I can't imagine any kind of evidence would change their mind. I will not be surprised if I'm still hearing some peeps from them decades from now, just like we're still hearing from people who think the moon landings were hoaxed, JFK was shot by the Illuminati, and the all-time champion of denialism, Creationism. Crankery isn't stopped by simple evidence.


Dark Jaguar said...

You touched on policies, but I think even more so someone's biases for their own political party can play a huge part. The extreme far-right republicans treat their party essentially like a religion. I've heard people say they'd vote republican even if all manner of republican policies completely changed. It boggles my mind, but that label is apparently more important than what actually gets done. This exists on the democratic side too, but not nearly to the same extent. (Most that WOULD assign themselves permantently as democrat like that tend instead to be die-hard hippies of the irrational sort and tend to be too busy complaining about "chemicals" and vaccines.)

What I'm getting at is simply that seeing a democrat in office is likely a huge motivation for a lot of "birthers" for wanting to find anything at all to invalidate him.

Oh, and this whole "both parents need to be native citizen" thing... Seriously, they can't back that up at all. I really wish Colbert had directly confronted on that, but sadly the role of living parody didn't leave him many openings during that particular interview. She could have been much more finely eviscerated...

Bronze Dog said...

Actually, I thought he had a moment of pwnage about that: Wasn't that what his Chester A. Arthur remark was about?

Dark Jaguar said...

Ah yes! Forgot about that. Unfortunatly it may have the unintended effect that birthers start thinking ol' C. was illegitimate too.

So what gets me is just that not but a few years ago a lot of republicans were actually trying to get legislation passed to remove the "native born" requirement from the consitution with the end aim being, apparently, a possible shot for Arnold "T2" Swartch at the presidency.