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Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

Dr. Conspiracy

That is the inscription above the entrance to Hell in Dante’s Inferno. It might be an apt subtitle for every birther web site, based on what I read from an expert on conspiracy theories, writing in Salon.com. Jonathan Kay spent two years interviewing 9/11 truthers, but has also studied birthers and other conspiracy theorists. He said something scary in his article on How conspiracy theorists think. When asked “Did you ever have success disabusing anyone of their conspiracy theory?” he replied, “Not once.”

Kay makes some good points about why the number of birthers in polls is inflated and folks who might answer a poll one way but not be committed to the idea. However, for the members of the birther cult:

Once people go down the rabbit hole, it’s very, very difficult to get them back up, and you can’t really do it with facts. They have invested so much psychological energy in this, they can’t just throw up their hands and say, “Oh, I was wrong.”

That’s really sad. I get no joy in laughing at the birthers (well, besides Donald Trump) and there’s no way to help them. The best any of us can do is to immunize folks against the disease. Now that all of this information is all over the media, perhaps that immunization is done. I hope so.

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19 Responses to Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

  1. avatar
    Kstreet607 May 2, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    Wonderful! It makes absolute perfect sense. Birthers down the rabbit hole…indeed.

  2. avatar
    Suranis May 2, 2011 at 2:42 am #

    I have just spent a few says fighting birthers on youtube videos. And I have finally cone to the conclusion that every single one of them is stark raving mad. Even the ones that will want to have a discussion with you and ask questions eventually start becoming abusive and wind up screaming at you. Being able to answer their questions actually infuriates them. Eventually the mask cracks and you are left with a screaming idiot thats yelling made up stuff at you about world war 3 and how the US has been working of a bad law for 150 years.

    For example, one guy even dismissed Wong Kim Ark as it was a high court and didn’t overrule supreme court rulings. And then when pushed on that and Alkeny Vs Daniels, he said “State court rulings are not binding over 1857 supreme court ruling. Wong Kim Ark is irrelevant as it did not rule Natural Born citizen for POTUS.”

    The main supreme court ruling in 1857 was Dred Scott. This guy somehow regarded Dred Scott as the real law.

  3. avatar
    Greg May 2, 2011 at 2:54 am #

    You can’t view engaging with birthers and conspiracists as real debate. The way I rationalize it is that it allows me to engage with material, like the intellectual forces behind the development of American citizenship l aw, in a more comprehensive way than if I was trying to explain the stuff to people who understood it (other lawyers) or would make a bona fide attempt to understand it.

    Engaging with birthers is like playing tennis against a wall. You don’t ever expect to beat the wall, and it may not even be great practice for playing against a human, but the wall is never NOT going to return the ball. A birther will never NOT respond. You can expect a crap response, but you’ll get a response. And, having played against the wall, you aren’t going to be winded when playing a human. And, having argued against birthers, I can be pleasantly surprised at the intelligent and coherent arguments non-birthers are able to muster.

  4. avatar
    Lupin May 2, 2011 at 3:14 am #

    Suranis: This guy somehow regarded Dred Scott as the real law.

    And you’re surprised? :-)

  5. avatar
    Keith May 2, 2011 at 4:43 am #

    A couple of places I could have added this, but I think this entry works.

    How to make your lie go mainstream in 26 easy steps

    Remarkably similar to the universal method for fixing a photocopy machine, actually.

  6. avatar
    misha May 2, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    I wrote this before: a photographer I know, who was once editor-in-chief of a magazine, is convinced 9/11 was an inside job. It was staged to invade Iraq, for the oil.

  7. avatar
    Gregory May 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    misha:
    I wrote this before: a photographer I know, who was once editor-in-chief of a magazine, is convinced 9/11 was an inside job. It was staged to invade Iraq, for the oil.

    If that were the case, then wouldn’t it make more sense to invade Saudi Arabia instead? After all, nearly all of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. And Saudi Arabia has a lot fewer people, and a lot more oil – than Iraq.

  8. avatar
    Wild Bill H May 3, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    No, what’s really sad is the fact that you can’t have an open mind to try and understand their point of view. Do you not think we have the same thoughts about the way you feel on the subject.

    You see the facts differently than I see the facts. I could be wrong, but you know what? You could be wrong too. That’s the whole point of coming at the issue with an open mind.

    You get irritated when you argue your facts, and suddenly come to the conclusion that they are stupid because they see a situation differently than you.

    Try putting the shoe on the other foot and actually look at it from their view point. I have tried to do this as well, and I see where you are coming from. I see where your facts fit nicely into your little round hole and I understand why you feel the way you do about the subject. I have even gone so far as to construct arguments against my point of view. It called – keeping an open mind.

    However, since I see the issue from a different view point, I don’t believe Obama is a NBC and as such I think my facts are just as solid as you think your facts are. The REAL fact of the matter is that there is no conclusive evidence either way. We just don’t know what the true and accurate meaning of NBC is…and SCOTUS isn’t helping either side by dismissing cases on standing rather than on substance.

    I don’t think my view points make me an idiot, just as I don’t think you are an idiot for believing he is a NBC. We disagree – unfortunately about a pretty important subject.

    At this point in the game, I don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference however, because Obama IS POTUS and I don’t see where it is likely that he will be unseated any time soon.

    I think the real tragedy in all this is the divide that it has created in the country. I believe Obama has been the most divisive President in my lifetime. I believe by using the race card to combat the birthers, a great injustice has occurred. The word racism has started to lose its real meaning and like the boy who cried wolf – used improperly will have long-term repercussions.

    I think people will hesitate to vote for a non-Caucasian candidate in the future out of fear that they will never be able to freely oppose his/her political agenda for fear they will be called a racist. I’m not saying that there aren’t some racists within the birther group, but likewise, there are even some racists within the Democrat party! For the most part, birthers don’t oppose Obama because of his skin color, they oppose him due to his political agenda/ideologies.

  9. avatar
    G May 3, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    Wild Bill H: However, since I see the issue from a different view point, I don’t believe Obama is a NBC and as such I think my facts are just as solid as you think your facts are

    What facts?

    You have no facts…just specious speculation – without any credible evidence to back it up either.

    Birtherism is the biggest false equivocation argument since Geocentricism.

  10. avatar
    G May 3, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    Wild Bill H: I think people will hesitate to vote for a non-Caucasian candidate in the future out of fear that they will never be able to freely oppose his/her political agenda for fear they will be called a racist. I’m not saying that there aren’t some racists within the birther group, but likewise, there are even some racists within the Democrat party! For the most part, birthers don’t oppose Obama because of his skin color, they oppose him due to his political agenda/ideologies.

    Part of the opposition is ideological tribalistic bigotry, no doubt.

    Your entire post is mere Concern Trolling and trying to still dodge from relevant issues.

    If you had sincere gripes with a person without being stuck behind whatever “gut-level” bias blinder you use, you would argue matters of policy and not go off on nonsense of attacking his Americaness or his patriotism or needing to portray him as “the other”, just so you can justify for yourself made up reasons to oppose him.

  11. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy May 3, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    Wild Bill H:
    I don’t think my view points make me an idiot, just as I don’t think you are an idiot for believing he is a NBC. We disagree – unfortunately about a pretty important subject.

    If there’s a legitimate debate on this subject, where is it? There was a legitimate debate about McCain’s qualification. It occurred on the web sites of some pretty respected authorities, it appeared in law journals, and it appeared in testimony presented to Congress. Who of any stature in all of the legal community is debating your question? The ONLY answer I’ve ever heard to this question is an excuse: “they’re all afraid of being called racists.” However true that is, it certainly doesn’t apply to the time before Barack Obama ran for President. The older law journal articles that address presidential eligibility talk at length about those born outside the United States and if they mention it at all, they say that those born citizens in the United States are unarguably natural born citizens.

  12. avatar
    Greg May 3, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    Wild Bill H: believe Obama has been the most divisive President in my lifetime.

    You do realize you can actually test these facts, right? You could look at surveys and compare the division in the country against Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, etc.

    Wild Bill H: For the most part, birthers don’t oppose Obama because of his skin color, they oppose him due to his political agenda/ideologies.

    I think this statement is very telling.

    A true birther wouldn’t disagree with him due to his ideology. Someone who came to the issue with a bona fide interest in understanding the issue and coming to a real conclusion would be agnostic about Obama’s ideology. If they opposed him, it would be due to his ineligibility.

    I don’t think you’re an idiot.

    But, I do think you’ve made a decision about Obama and are shaping the facts to fit that decision.

    You don’t like Obama.

    Therefore, he is the most divisive president in your lifetime.

    You could check that fact with numbers, but that’s irrelevant. You dislike Obama, therefore, everyone must dislike him, therefore he must be the most divisive president. (In February, Obama’s “partisan divide” was 68%. Bush had a higher partisan divide in each of his last three years.)

    You don’t like Obama.

    Therefore, he is ineligible.

    You aren’t an idiot, and I don’t think Dr. C was saying that. He was, however, saying you are down the rabbit hole – immune to facts.

    Do you disagree? Is there any fact that could change your mind? Be honest.

  13. avatar
    misha May 4, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    Wild Bill H: birthers don’t oppose Obama because of his skin color, they oppose him due to his political agenda/ideologies.

    Where was this crowd when George Romney ran? Where was the screaming chorus when Barry Goldwater ran? Not one word when Spiro Agnew ran and was elected.

    Candidate (1980) Lowell Weicker (R) was born in Paris, France to US citizens, though his mother was born in India and her father was a British General.

    Candidate (1916) Charles Evan Hughes (R) was born in the United States to an American mother and a father who was a citizen of the UK at the time of Hughes’ birth. Sound familiar?

    Thomas Jefferson was a dual citizen: US and France.

    I vehemently disagree with Obama about Afghanistan, Libya, and that Gitmo is still operating. I actively supported him, and will do so again. A GOP vote is a vote to theocratize the country, and to outlaw reproductive freedom. A GOP vote is a vote hostile to scientific research. I challenge you to name one prominent conservative who believes in evolution.

  14. avatar
    misha May 4, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    misha: I challenge you to name one prominent conservative who believes in evolution.

    William Buckley believed in Armageddon. There may be a difference between Armageddon and Auschwitz, but the distinction escapes me.

  15. avatar
    misha May 4, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Wild Bill H: I believe Obama has been the most divisive President in my lifetime.

    No, that was Nixon.

  16. avatar
    Joey May 4, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    misha: No, that was Nixon.

    You’re assuming that WildBillH is more than 45 years old. I wouldn’t make that assumption. Wild Bill might be a teenager without many presidents in his lifetime.
    For starters, Clinton’s impeachment was a MUCH more divisive issue than anything that has happened in the Obama administration.

  17. avatar
    The Magic M May 4, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    > If there’s a legitimate debate on this subject, where is it? There was a legitimate debate about McCain’s qualification. It occurred on the web sites of some pretty respected authorities, it appeared in law journals, and it appeared in testimony presented to Congress. Who of any stature in all of the legal community is debating your question?

    I have likened birtherism to creationism in that regard before.

    There is *no* truly scientific theory of creationism, yet its supporters want it to be presented as viable “alternative theory”.

    Just the same, the birfers want their crackpot theories that no reknowned expert supports to be treated equally as if it was just as viable a theory as the one established throughout 200+ years of case law.
    And all that based on creatively misreading classic cases. I mean, it’s not like for 200+ years scholars and judges have simply misunderstood Calvin’s Case or suppressed Vattel or missed the clever riddle the Founders hid in the Constitution.

  18. avatar
    sfjeff May 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    For anyone who enjoys debunking him MichaelN is spouting the same nonsense here now:

    http://www.politicalforum.com/other-miscellaneous/167938-won-kim-ark-decision-does-not-make-obama-natural-born-citizen-5.html#post3836414

  19. avatar
    G May 5, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    Well, the events of the past week seem to actually be having an effect on restoring sanity to some portion of the population.

    The gullibility level of those buying into birther BS has already seen a rather significant decrease, per the latest polls:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/behind-the-numbers/post/number-of-birthers-plummets/2011/05/04/AF3GAZxF_blog.html

    The number of Americans saying President Obama was born in another country has been sliced in half, according to a new Washington Post poll.

    In interviews following the public release the president’s “long-form” birth certificate last week, fully 70 percent of Americans say Obama was born in Hawaii, a big bump-up from the 48 percent who said so a year ago. Even more say he was U.S.-born, or call that their best guess, for a total of 86 percent.

    Overall, 10 percent of Americans say Obama was likely born abroad, down from 20 percent in an April 2010 Post-ABC poll. Almost all those who now say Obama was born in a foreign country say that it’s only their “suspicion;” just 1 percent claim “solid evidence” that the president was born elsewhere (9 percent said so last year).

    The drop-off in the mistaken belief that Obama was not-U.S.-born has come most prominently among his sharpest critics. Today, 14 percent of Republicans say Obama was not born in the U.S., down from 31 percent in April of last year. Among the most conservative Republicans, the number of skeptics fell from 35 to 16 percent…