Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Is President Obama's race behind the 'birther' conspiracy movement?

If you don't know what a 'birther' is, you're not alone. 'Birther' is a relatively new term that is used to describe a fringe segment of the population that ostensibly believes there is a vast cover-up by the government, Republicans and Democrats alike, to hide information about President Obama's birth. Birthers say that they believe that President Obama is not eligible to be the president of the United States because he isn't a natural born citizen of the U.S.

The origin of the birther conspiracy appears to have begun during the Obama presidential campaign when Obama campaign workers heard a rumor that then Senator Obama's birth certificate had his name as Barack Mohammed Obama instead of Barack Hussein Obama. The rumor was untrue and to allay any confusion, President Obama decided to post his birth certificate on the internet.

Instead of allaying any rumors regarding his given name, the posting of his birth certificate on the internet only served to amplify rumors among a small group of passionate Obama haters to spread the false information that Obama was not born in the United States at all but was born in Kenya and therefore wasn't eligible to become president.

The birthers, faced with the factual evidence as submitted by the state of Hawaii, witnesses, hospital workers, family and friends and faced with the actual birth certificate itself, still claim to believe that President Obama isn't really a U.S. citizen. Faced with overwhelming evidence that proves that Obama was born in the United States, the birthers still aren't satisfied.

There have always been people unhappy with the outcome of presidential elections. But since the election of the first African American president, President Obama, there has been a small but increasingly vitriolic segment of the population that appears to genuinely feel hatred towards our new president.

Historically, presidents have borne a great deal of criticism by the opposition party and to some degree at least, we expect this sort of thing. But the criticism aimed at President Obama has crossed the line of expected criticism by the opposition and has spawned the birther movement.

In a town meeting in Delaware earlier this summer, Congressman Castle, (R), Delaware, began taking questions from the audience. A woman stood up with a plastic bag and an American flag clutched in her hand and accused Republican Congressman Castle of being part of the conspiracy that is covering up the president's birth status. The woman all but wept with anger. She talked about how her father had fought in WWII to protect our country and ended her emotional speech by shouting that she wanted her country back. Several people in the audience clapped and shouted in support of the woman. When Congressman Castle stated that Obama is a citizen of the United States, he was booed.

You can see the video here.

There is no doubt that the woman was genuinely distressed about the election of President Obama. She held her own birth certificate in her hand. She talked about her father's military service to the country during World War II. She was clearly angry.

The evidence of President Obama's birth in Hawaii is overwhelming and undisputed by all but the small number of persistent people who choose to ignore facts and evidence like the woman in the video you just watched.

When the people known as birthers, people such as the woman in Delaware, refuse to accept factual evidence, and continue to disrupt and provoke the public discourse with accusations that have been soundly debunked, one must then contemplate what it is that birthers are really upset about.

What is so different about President Obama that this difference has generated an entire movement based on a conspiracy that has been debunked numerous times? What is so different about President Obama from previous presidents that makes a woman stand up during a town meeting and accuse the former governor of the state, a Republican congressman, of being part of a massive coverup?

What is so different about President Obama from previous presidents is his ancestry. He is an American citizen but his father is Kenyan, his mother Kansan. President Obama is an African American. It seems abundantly clear that it is President Obama's ancestry that is at the heart of the warrantless birther movement. There is simply no other explanation that makes any sense.

Occam's razor is a principle attributed to a 14th century Franciscan friar that in its simplest form states that "when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better."

Occam's razor is applied to logic in philosophy and science. The simplest explanation for something is almost always the correct explanation.

Conspiracy theories can be exciting and generate passion but they are unrealistic. For a conspiracy to be successful, a large number of people have to agree to withhold information, withhold the truth for an unlimited amount of time, in other words, a lot of people must agree to keep a big secret. For example, there is a small segment of the population who genuinely believe the lunar landing was nothing more than a hoax.

To fake the moon landing in 1969, all of the people who worked at Mission Control in Houston would have had to have agreed to participate in the hoax and never reveal the truth. All of the astronauts and all of their families would have also had to have agreed to go along with the invented story. So the first and most obvious problem with conspiracy 'theories' is that a large number of people would have to be involved in keeping a great big secret.

There are other problems with conspiracy theories. What would be the purpose of thousands of people participating in a massive hoax such as mankind landing on the moon?

The idea that there are hundreds of people, perhaps thousands of people who have agreed to keep the secret that the president of the United States is not really an American citizen, is not merely illogical, it's absurd. And so there must be some other reason for the passionate hatred by people like the woman in Delaware.

If we apply the principle of Occam's razor to the birther movement, the logical conclusion is that President Obama's race is the reason for such passionate hatred. it is the one thing that makes him very different from every other president that has come before him.

A majority of Americans voted for an African American man for president but that doesn't mean that racism no longer exists in the United States.

The issue of race has all but disappeared from the public discourse but racism may be what has spawned the birther movement. The embittered remarks by people like the woman in Delaware conveniently obfuscate what is really bothering the birthers.

it is unfortunate that the mainstream media network CNN has allowed one of its 'anchors' to lend credibility to the racist birthers by perpetuating the myth that the issue of President Obama's proof of birth in Hawaii hasn't been resolved. Lou Dobbs is encouraging the racist birthers to continue the charade that there is some sort of conspiracy regarding President Obama's legitimacy as an American citizen. In fact, he used the provocative term "undocumented" on his radio show to describe the question of President Obama's birth certificate intimating that President Obama is like an illegal alien.

Here is more about Lou Dobbs and the birthers.

It is much easier to say you hate someone because they are not a citizen of the United States than it is to admit that you hate someone because you are a racist. The easily disprovable notion that President Obama isn't really a natural born citizen of the united States is most likely founded in

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