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Birther defects

It is not the purpose of this article to demonize or stereotype those who believe that President Obama is not eligible to be president. If I have learned anything, it is that such people (and I’m going to call them “Birthers” going forward) are very diverse. I know some personally that are well-educated, intelligent and who function rationally and at a high level in their demanding jobs.

There are failure modes hard-wired in the human brain; critical thinking does not come naturally to us. For a discussion of these general characteristics of human error, I recommend this video presentation from Michael Shermer, Executive Director of the Skeptic Society, titled “The pattern behind self deception.” It may be that Birthers have some extra dose of the characteristics that Dr. Shermer talks about.

This article, however, looks at Birtherism with a different hypothesis, what I will call “the Birther blind spot.” There is ample discussion in the literature that shows humans have a “confirmation bias“; they tend to accept evidence that agrees with their beliefs and reject evidence that disagrees. I think that confirmation bias reaches the extreme with Birthers.

If you are familiar with the Harry Potter books, you may remember the Leaky Cauldron tavern. The tavern was in plain sight, but the muggles (non-magical folk) still could not see it. It was not that it was invisible, but that it created such a spell of aversion that ordinary folk just couldn’t look at it or focus on it. The Birther blind spot, I think, works the same way. It is an inability to see caused by a mental block based on aversion.

Let’s look at an example. The following image is clipped from the Certification of Live Birth posted on the Internet by the Obama campaign and several web sites in June of 2008. First we see the “normal” view.

OBAMA COLB Birth Location Detail

When Birthers talk about the COLB, they say that it proves nothing because anyone, no matter where they are born can get a Hawaiian Certification of Live Birth. That is, of course, untrue, but the fact that they say this points out that they can’t see the image above normally. The Birther blind spot makes the COLB look like this:

Birther view of COLB birth location detail

Birther perception of COLB birth location detail

In some cases the aversion forces the eye to look in a different direction, so that the Location of Birth block appears this way:

Birthers may look in the wrong place

What is even scarier, and we’ve seen this in comments right here on this web site, some Birthers actually see the wrong words on the page:

COLB Detail showing Birther comprehension anomaly

While you may find these examples humorous, they are not intended that way. I am dead serious about the perception errors in just about everything connected with Obama conspiracy theories. I think it stems from an unconscious aversion so powerful, that Birthers are simply unable to see certain things and to think certain thoughts.

I fear the condition is incurable although more study is needed to see if certain classes of anti-psychotic drugs might have an effect1. The good news is that Birthers in other aspects of life may still achieve a high functional level.


1 This is not to imply that Birtherism is a psychosis, but a reference to the correlation between dopamine levels (altered by some anti-psychotic medications) and seeing patterns that aren’t there.

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52 Responses to Birther defects

  1. avatar
    SluggoJD July 7, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    Dr. C, you’re too kind.

    Many of them just fib and deceive, like James.

    But this is a good post!

  2. avatar
    hablo July 7, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    Awesome. Well done.

  3. avatar
    FUTTHESHUCKUP July 7, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    Birther psychology. Good article, Doc. Although it makes me see the analysis of the telegram Roger Ramey is holding in his hand in the picture with Jesse Marcel and the weather balloon in a new light. 🙁

  4. avatar
    bob July 7, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    Taitz’s just posted her (craaaazy!) cert. petition for Rhodes:
    xxx-http://www.orlytaitzesq.com/?p=12212

  5. avatar
    Bovril July 7, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    HL Mencken wrote in 1936

    The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true deserts. He ascribes all his failure to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity and damfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street, or some other such den of infamy

    Seems all that is old is new again….8-)

  6. avatar
    Bovril July 7, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    Guess what Orly is demanding in her document..

    Wait for it

    Wait for it

    Wait for it

    You peeked or guessed……..the Precious Discovery against The Usurper…….Face meet Palm….Palm meet Face

  7. avatar
    FUTTHESHUCKUP July 7, 2010 at 10:15 pm #

    I thought Rhodes told Taitz that she didn’t want her speaking for her anymore? Rhodes said she wanted it dropped, and this idiot is still persisting despite that?

  8. avatar
    bob July 7, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    FUTTHESHUCKUP: Rhodes said she wanted it dropped, and this idiot is still persisting despite that?

    Taitz was sanctioned $20k in Rhodes; she doesn’t need Rhodes’ consent to appeal that.

  9. avatar
    aarrgghh July 7, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    SluggoJD: Dr. C, you’re too kind.Many of them just fib and deceive, like James.But this is a good post!

    yes, this article does not address the cynical manipulators, who may or may not themselves believe in birtherism, but have no compunctions against using the pathetic souls who do.

  10. avatar
    FUTTHESHUCKUP July 7, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

    bob:
    Taitz was sanctioned $20k in Rhodes; she doesn’t need Rhodes’ consent to appeal that.

    So this is part of her appeal of the Judge Land sanction? What’s this, her second appeal of that fine? How many does she get before they actually yank her law license?

  11. avatar
    bob July 7, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    FUTTHESHUCKUP: So this is part of her appeal of the Judge Land sanction? What’s this, her second appeal of that fine?

    Judge Land sanctioned her; Taitz appealed; the 11th Circuit affirmed.

    This is Taitz’s motion to SCOTUS to stay the sanctions. (Presumably the actual cert. petition will soon follow.)

  12. avatar
    Dave July 7, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

    I don’t freakin believe it — she brought up the emission hose again! Will she ever again file anything with any court that doesn’t mention her car’s emission hose?

  13. avatar
    Domokun July 8, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    FUTTHESHUCKUP:
    So this is part of her appeal of the Judge Land sanction? What’s this, her second appeal of that fine? How many does she get before they actually yank her law license?

    “NO! No, you must let me fineesh! Are you going to let me fineesh? I write on the internets to fineesh what I say! You must let me say!”

  14. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 8, 2010 at 12:38 am #

    bob: yes, this article does not address the cynical manipulators, who may or may not themselves believe in birtherism, but have no compunctions against using the pathetic souls who do.

    Yes, that’s something else entirely.

    What I wanted to do in this article was to use a picture in place of 1,000 words in hopes of bringing the point home. The article could have been 10 times longer with examples such as the Grandmother Tape and especially what’s been read in to Dr. Fukino’s two brief statements–that deserves its own article (which is in the works).

  15. avatar
    G July 8, 2010 at 1:25 am #

    Great article Dr. C!

  16. avatar
    Saint James July 8, 2010 at 1:50 am #

    Birthers are never pragmatic!!!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatism

    http://www.answers.com/topic/pragmatism

  17. avatar
    Lupin July 8, 2010 at 3:07 am #

    It all boils down to the same thing: blackity blackity black.

    I was reflecting this morning reading the latest Mel Gibson gossip about him hitting his girl friend etc that if he were black, he’d be in jail already.

    And don’t get me started about the attempts to rewrite the Constitution in Arizona.

    Whitey’s striking back.

  18. avatar
    Jules July 8, 2010 at 4:40 am #

    bob: Taitz’s just posted her (craaaazy!) cert. petition for Rhodes:
    xxx-http://www.orlytaitzesq.com/?p=12212

    Orly Taitz demonstrates her incompetence before she finishes the “Questions Posed” section.

    She states that the questions for the court include, “What Constitutes ‘natural born citizen’ according to Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution?” She is asking the court to rule on the merits of the dismissal in Rhodes v. MacDonald when she is no longer instructed by her client and the merits are no longer in dispute. If she were writing the brief competently, then she would present questions related purely to the factors that may be considered in the imposition of sanctions.

    Taitz’s rambling list of questions for the court includes, “Is the whole nation de facto reduced to the level of slaves or serfs, when one without valid vital records, without Social Security number of his own and without a valid long form birth certificate is able to get in the position of the President; and Congress is refusing to hear this issue, claiming that it is for the courts to decide and the courts are refusing to hear this issue, claiming that it is for the Congress to decide?” Most of her other questions for the court are similar. Evidently, Taitz has not bothered to check the rules of the Court and notice the part that says, “The questions should be short and should not be argumentative or repetitive.”

  19. avatar
    AnotherBird July 8, 2010 at 6:08 am #

    Scientific America earlier in this year wrote an article (Birth of a Notion: Implicit Social Cognition and the “Birther” Movement) which discusses the same idea. They just refuse to accept the facts because the truth is hard for them to bear.

  20. avatar
    charo July 8, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    The paypal buttons from the various birther sources are being used to set up a fund to purchase the site of Jonestown as headquarters, which Is now available. In-house counsel: fill in the blank.

  21. avatar
    Majority Will July 8, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    charo: The paypal buttons from the various birther sources are being used to set up a fund to purchase the site of Jonestown as headquarters, which Is now available.In-house counsel: fill in the blank.

    Because the deaths of 918 people were just too funny for you to pass up?

  22. avatar
    HORUS July 8, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    The birthers really do NOT want to know the truth.

  23. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 8, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    Birthers essentially say that they will not be satisfied so long as there are no unanswered questions. Sometimes they look at this sequentially, saying “I just have one question.” But the possibilities for questions is endless and these birthers will never be satisfied.

  24. avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater (Bob Ross) July 8, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: Birthers essentially say that they will not be satisfied so long as there are no unanswered questions. Sometimes they look at this sequentially, saying “I just have one question.” But the possibilities for questions is endless and these birthers will never be satisfied.

    Everytime a question is answered they just make up a new question

  25. avatar
    charo July 8, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    Majority Will:
    Because the deaths of 918 people were just too funny for you to pass up?

    I suppose you missed the list a few threads ago of famous horrible birthers?

  26. avatar
    charo July 8, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: Birthers essentially say that they will not be satisfied so long as there are no unanswered questions. Sometimes they look at this sequentially, saying “I just have one question.” But the possibilities for questions is endless and these birthers will never be satisfied.

    I have consistently raised the issue of the receipt for the COLB.

  27. avatar
    Majority Will July 8, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    charo:
    I suppose you missed the list a few threads ago of famous horrible birthers?

    Relevance?

  28. avatar
    Majority Will July 8, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    charo:
    I have consistently raised the issue of the receipt for the COLB.

    Do you actually think that’s some sort of smoking gun to a vast government conspiracy and cover up? Really?

  29. avatar
    charo July 8, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    Majority Will:
    Do you actually think that’s some sort of smoking gun to a vast government conspiracy and cover up? Really?

    I don’t think I said Obama is ineligible because there is no answer to the question of is there a receipt for the transaction.

  30. avatar
    charo July 8, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    Majority Will:
    Relevance?

    Gallows humor abounds.

  31. avatar
    Majority Will July 8, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    charo:
    Gallows humor abounds.

    Thanks for your justification and clarification.

  32. avatar
    Majority Will July 8, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    charo:
    I don’t think I said Obama is ineligible because there is no answer to the question of is there a receipt for the transaction.

    Then, what’s the point? Is there a point that actually means something?

  33. avatar
    ellid July 8, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    charo: The paypal buttons from the various birther sources are being used to set up a fund to purchase the site of Jonestown as headquarters, which Is now available.In-house counsel: fill in the blank.

    Utterly tasteless. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  34. avatar
    charo July 8, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    Majority Will:
    Then, what’s the point? Is there a point that actually means something?

    You have absolutely no interest in what I think. Just keep on with what you do best here. I was just trying to help you out on the other thread.

  35. avatar
    Sef July 8, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    charo:
    I have consistently raised the issue of the receipt for the COLB.

    And if the receipt were printed on thermochromic paper which has since faded into illegibility, what then?

    Just had a thought. The COLB was probably requested by someone in his campaign. Have you checked the info at FEC to see if someone made a payment to the HI DOH?

  36. avatar
    Majority Will July 8, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    charo:
    You have absolutely no interest in what I think.Just keep on with what you do best here.I was just trying to help you out on the other thread.

    Thanks for dodging the question, your selfless assistance and unwavering encouragement. Just keep asking pointless questions and I’ll provide pointless answers. Fair enough?

  37. avatar
    richCares July 8, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    “. Have you checked the info at FEC to see if someone made a payment to the HI DOH?”
    .
    What, asking a birther to check facts, now that’s funny.(that payment is a public record) If they checked facts they would not be birthers.

  38. avatar
    thisoldhippie July 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

    This is what I have found with just about anyone who is far right, anti Obama – regardless of their being a birther or not. You present them with the facts, written, by a unbiased source – such as the Wall Street Journal’s article on the healthcare bill, and their response is invariably “Well I just don’t believe it.” It’s as if they close their eyes, cover their eyes and repeat “La la la la la” to drown you out. They refuse to hear or see any information that does not support their agenda. It’s scary.

  39. avatar
    sarina July 8, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    A must see video: “What birthers believe”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2u3Ax8UQ9ac

  40. avatar
    Majority Will July 8, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    thisoldhippie: This is what I have found with just about anyone who is far right, anti Obama – regardless of their being a birther or not. You present them with the facts, written, by a unbiased source – such as the Wall Street Journal’s article on the healthcare bill, and their response is invariably “Well I just don’t believe it.” It’s as if they close their eyes, cover their eyes and repeat “La la la la la” to drown you out. They refuse to hear or see any information that does not support their agenda. It’s scary.

    And it’s cognitive dissonance and painful.

  41. avatar
    Bob Weber July 8, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    What’s amusing about the birthers is their ability to hold contradictory notions in their heads at the same time.

    Example: Birthers believe that the Obama COLB is a forgery, but also believe that anyone can get a Hawaii COLB showing birth in Hawaii, regardless of actual place of birth. They even believe that Obama’s sister Maya, born in Indonesia, has one.

    But if anybody can get a HI COLB, why bother to fake one? Birthers can’t do any better than, “Because Obama is stoopid.”

    There are numerous others. It would be a nice exercise to list them all.

  42. avatar
    Rickey July 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    Jules:
    Orly Taitz demonstrates her incompetence before she finishes the “Questions Posed” section.

    I got a good laugh at the end. She makes a point of dating it July 4, and then she misspells “Independence Day.”

  43. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    Sef: Just had a thought. The COLB was probably requested by someone in his campaign. Have you checked the info at FEC to see if someone made a payment to the HI DOH?

    I’m not sure that’s possible. The Hawaii Department of Health doesn’t take checks, so we’d be talking about a money order or a bank check. If I had to guess, I’d say that the campaign attorney ordered it and the cost was under legal fees. What I can say is that there is no expense labeled “Hawaii Department of Health” between 4/1/2007 and 6/30/2007 from the Obama For America campaign committee (not the only committee).

  44. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    charo: I have consistently raised the issue of the receipt for the COLB.

    Is that all that stands between you and a warm fuzzy feeling about Obamas’ eligibility to be president?

  45. avatar
    Sef July 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    I’m not sure that’s possible. The Hawaii Department of Health doesn’t take checks, so we’d be talking about a money order or a bank check. If I had to guess, I’d say that the campaign attorney ordered it and the cost was under legal fees. What I can say is that there is no expense labeled “Hawaii Department of Health” between4/1/2007 and 6/30/2007 from the Obama For America campaign committee (not the only committee).

    Thanks again for your excellent work.

  46. avatar
    Bovril July 9, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    One question would be, is there a monetary amount threshold for reporting? If there is say a $50 lower report level then this would not show up, it’s petty cash level

  47. avatar
    SluggoJD July 9, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    Bovril: One question would be, is there a monetary amount threshold for reporting? If there is say a $50 lower report level then this would not show up, it’s petty cash level

    Or perhaps there is a state law that allows candidates for public office to get a birth cert at no cost?

  48. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 9, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    The FEC Campaign Committee had $5 items on the report (Bank of America bank fee).

  49. avatar
    katahdin July 9, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

    SluggoJD: Or perhaps there is a state law that allows candidates for public office to get a birth cert at no cost?

    Uh, guys, maybe President Obama just ordered it personally and paid for it out of his own pocket. This is a man who insists on paying for meals personally at restaurants.

  50. avatar
    Majority Will July 9, 2010 at 11:20 pm #

    katahdin:
    Uh, guys, maybe President Obama just ordered it personally and paid for it out of his own pocket. This is a man who insists on paying for meals personally at restaurants.

    Good point. Go with Occam’s Razor.

  51. avatar
    Rickey July 11, 2010 at 12:29 am #

    Getting back to birther defects, the transcript of Walter Fitzpatrick’s arraignment is now available for your reading amusement.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/34155401/STATE-of-TENNESSEE-v-WALTER-FRANCIS-FITZPATRICK-III-Arraignment-June-28-2010

  52. avatar
    ellid July 11, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    Rickey: Getting back to birther defects, the transcript of Walter Fitzpatrick’s arraignment is now available for your reading amusement.http://www.scribd.com/doc/34155401/STATE-of-TENNESSEE-v-WALTER-FRANCIS-FITZPATRICK-III-Arraignment-June-28-2010

    Good God. Fitzpatrick is not only crazy, he’s STUPID. You do NOT lip off to a judge like that!