Friday, July 31, 2009

The problem

Bill Maher on the Birthers sez:
But we live in America, and in America, if you don't immediately kill arrant nonsense, no matter how ridiculous, it can grow and thrive and eventually take over, like crab grass or reality shows about fat people.
But, before that he sez...
And there's nothing anyone can do to convince these folks. You could hand them, in person, the original birth certificate and have a video of Obama emerging from the womb with Don Ho singing in the background ... and they still wouldn't believe it.
And therein lies the problem. You're never going to convince the Birthers of anything. I suspect what Maher is hoping will happen is that the mass media (news channels, newspapers and websites, etc.) will do their job much better than they have and make it abundantly clear what has already been made clear long before. After all, the rational thing to do once one's pet hypothesis has been thoroughly decimated (see also Factcheck.org) is to abandon the hypothesis. If that is the hope, good luck. What the Birthers will most likely do is claim such contrary evidence presented via mass media is merely more "proof" that there is a "conspiracy" to install a non-citizen as President and that "the media" are in on it.

As for the folks responding "unsure" mentioned in the recent Research 2000 poll, I suspect that many of these fine folks are merely being coy about their actual beliefs - they're probably the ones who would have been found at McCain-Palin rallies last year saying things like, "I don't know who Obama is" or are among the dead-enders who showed up at those legendary "tea parties" earlier this year. Maybe there's some value in reminding the vast majority (i.e., the sentient beings to which Maher refers) that the claims made by the Birthers are not only completely out to lunch, but are being accepted primarily by a rather marginalized demographic in a culturally backward part of the US. As for those who are genuinely vulnerable to the influence of the Birthers, as I've probably said before, there is some value in vigorously countering the Birthers' patently false claims with the facts. In doing so, I would also strongly recommend sites like snopes.com and factcheck.org as useful resources for checking out suspicious claims. As for actually taking the Birthers seriously, I would say "take a hike": their claims are nothing more than a pathetic sideshow.

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