Thursday, April 28, 2011

A few words on birtherism

I've been searching for a few pithy things to say in response to the news that Obama finally dignified a bunch of conspiracy nuts with the release of the coveted "long form" birth certificate. Although one would ordinarily think this would be a non-issue - after all, the birthers' claims had already been thoroughly debunked back in 2008 - the polling data since 2009 clearly tells a different story.

I've occasionally covered the silly claims made by birthers at my own blog since the late spring of 2008. When the mass emails started hitting my inbox, I routinely referred those making "birther" claims to snopes.com and factcheck.org. I did so for a reason. I had no hope of actually persuading the senders of the errors in their judgment, but rather wanted to make sure that those who might be on the fence, as it were, understood that the claims made by birthers were false. If I managed to embarrass the senders in the process, all the better. Needless to say, I got dropped from a lot of mass email lists (to my undying relief).

David Dayen had a few words of his own that I think bear repeating:
And I do think the spectacle of an American President having to debase himself to confront conspiracy theorists registers as a low moment in American politics and a signal of US decline. Not just because of what it says about the media, and the hash they’ve made of the public square over the years. The press is nuts, and they’re not even the press – if by that term you mean the organizations who disseminate important information to ensure a well-informed citizenry. But more important, I think that this marks the end of anyone calling this a post-racial society. Because this entire issue revolves around race, about the alien aspect of a black man in the White House. The comments telling Obama to get off the basketball court is part and parcel of the same thing. Basically, you have a subset of this country who will never see a black man as an American.

[snip]

And furthermore, there was this expectation from everyone involved in this – including the President himself – that the release of the birth certificate will change pretty much no minds. We don’t have a society that values facts anymore, if we ever did. We don’t have any critical thinking beyond the tribal logic that persists. And that matters well beyond this fever swamp issue of a birth certificate. If you can challenge the place of the President’s birth in the face of all the evidence, then you certainly can challenge the evidence that tax cuts don’t pay for themselves, or that austerity creates needless human suffering and doesn’t even cut the budget deficit. Facts have no place in this polarized society. And that has driven American decline over the past several years.
Dayen also embedded a powerful YouTube vid by Baratunde Thurston that deserves to be watched and listened to - CAREFULLY:



Go here for further reading. I have consistently written off the claims made by birthers as little more than tribalism - in this case of a white supremacist flavor. As someone who would fit well within the mainstream of most nations' Social Democratic or Labour parties, I am hardly a fan of (from the rest of the civilized world's standards) a center-right President who belongs to a center-right political party. However, when it comes to seeing the man bearing the brunt of some very ugly racism and xenophobia, I'll defend him to the death - and will do so knowing that the empirical evidence is on my side. Those who continue to spew birther ignorance deserve to be shamed, and if they remain unrepentant, shunned. They do not deserve to be given continued air time on major television shows or column space in major print media outlets. They sure as hell will not be invited to my next cookout.

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