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Obama conspiracies and the grief cycle

The Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as The Five Stages of Grief, was first introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. Since that time the concept has proved useful in modeling human reactions to other catastrophic personal events. The Stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

It may be that those who believed that someone else deserved to be elected President in 2008 (e.g. Hillary Clinton supporters) and those who could not believe that someone of Obama’s racial heritage could  be elected, responded to the catastrophic (to them) event of his election according to the Five Stage of Grief. What we see in the birther movement could be modeled as a remnant of those individuals stuck in stage one (denial) and some in stage two (anger). (Kübler-Ross claimed that not all subjects exhibit all the stages, or that they necessarily appear in the DABDA order and that some exhibit visit each stage multiple times.) Most, I hope, have moved on.

It is no great insight to say that the birthers are angry and in denial. What I offer as insight is rather a look at my own reaction to the catastrophe challenge to rational thought  posed by the birther movement, and how it follows the Cycle.

Denial

I think that in the very early states of confronting Obama conspiracy theories I found it hard to believe that people really thought like that, and I held the belief that the birthers were just being willful – willfully believing what they believed, willfully refusing to look at refuting evidence, willfully refusing to listen to reason.

 

Anger

Believing that Obama denialists were willful led to anger. How could they do this to me? How could they not listen to me, but rather throw irrational nonsense in my face? I engaged in some angry rhetoric, some of which is memorialized on this website.

Bargaining

It may be that my repeated attempts to convince denialists of the errors of their ways through evidence and reason is a kind of bargaining. I have had these little mental fantasies about being to show a denialist the errors in their thinking. It may also be that my attempts to understand conspiracy theorists through academic study is a form of bargaining – a way to make the phenomenon not as bad as it seems.

Depression

It can get you down. The feeling that the world is spiraling down a flush toilet of irrationality is not comforting. I sometimes feel discouraged about the future, and anxious about a possible outcome where the lunatics run the asylum. This was particularly a factor when the birther poll numbers where higher than they are now.

Acceptance

Through my reading program on conspiracy theories, I am coming to view Obama denialists as part of a strain of thought in human culture that goes back thousands of years. Whenever there is catastrophe, disaster, plague and dislocation – things which are hard to explain – people try to find meaning in the pattern of events, whether these patters are represented by the gods demanding appeasement for the ritual sins of the people or their leaders, or whether it is conspiracy theories about an atmospheric research  project in Alaska causing tsunamis in Japan.

Despite the counterintuitive nature of the fact, conspiracy theorists do get along in the world, raise families and avoid institutionalization. I don’t have to fix it and indeed it may not need fixing. The world will continue just fine with its fringe as it always has.

Acceptance helps me put out my little conspiracy theory magazine with less anger and less anxiety. While birthers aren’t “normal” it is normal that there are birthers. It was inevitable.

Or is my claim to have gotten through the Cycle just a form of denial? Enough of this navel gazing; let’s see what Orly is up today.

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15 Responses to Obama conspiracies and the grief cycle

  1. avatar
    G July 11, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Although the paranoid conspiracy mindset has always been around throughout history, that doesn’t mean we should simply shrug it off as just a part of the process. That really depends on the intent and nature of the conspiracy. Some are just completely harmless, such as Richard C. Hoagland and all of his claims about extraterrestrial artifacts on the moon, mars and all his other theories.

    Others are potential dangerous as part of their beliefs desire overthrow of legitmate governments or threaten the well-being of their targeted bogeyman and often anybody who doesn’t see the bogeyman that they see. Now of course, most of these folks are just keyboard commandoes and cowardly braggarts. However, they have the ability to incent lone wolves or infect otherwise sane but unhappy people with their angry mob mentality and spread ignorance.

    I view the Birthers as clearly the latter. Therefore I would never just be casually dismissive of their nonsense and that it needs to be monitored and countered whenever it arises and gets out of control.

  2. avatar
    J.Potter July 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    “… the world is spiraling down a flush toilet of irrationality …”

    Doc, truly you are a brilliant writer. Any publishing deals in the works? 1,001 Nights in Birthistan? A great piece all around, that even a nube like me can already identify with, and find reassurance in. Almost as good as when I felt I had reached the end of their theories, and found them all comfortably wanting.

    Well, the end of their theories for now …

  3. avatar
    Bovril July 11, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    I believe I might have touched on this theme…. 😎

    http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2011/07/is-obama-eligibility-denialism-a-conspiracy-theory/#comment-125171

  4. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 11, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    I stand on the shoulders of giants.

    Bovril: I believe I might have touched on this theme

  5. avatar
    Bovril July 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    We are but minions of Satan and Mordor…..well, that’s what Dr K(H)ate says in her latest screeds.

    I prefer Nephilim myself…. 😎

  6. avatar
    joyeagle July 11, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    Again, perspective from one who was on the “inside.” I have to admit, … although entering into recovery from birtherism last week through the help of this blog, I missed the “blessed assurance” of his “illegitimacy” today when listening to the press conference and hearing him telling us how stupid Americans are … and how professional politician like himself need to be trusted for their superior wisdom. Painfully condescending and wrong. Birtherism would provide comfort in times like that.
    (It was his response to the question from the reporter who asked what he thought about 69% of Americans who say we shouldn’t raise the debt limit)

  7. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 12, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Thanks. I’ll check it out.

    G: “The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths” by Dr. Michael Shermer

  8. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 12, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    In two and a half years, you are the very first person who reports changing their view of Obama eligibility as a result of this blog. Wow, just wow!

    I wonder how you now feel about the sources of information that led you astray before.

    joyeagle: Again, perspective from one who was on the “inside.” I have to admit, … although entering into recovery from birtherism last week through the help of this blog, I missed the “blessed assurance” of his “illegitimacy” today when listening to the press conference and hearing him telling us how stupid Americans are

  9. avatar
    joyeagle July 12, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Well, I don’t trust the “insight” of wnd anymore, for one. Honestly, I would ignore over half of what they put out before … but obviously wanted to believe in the illegitimacy arguments. Thanks for your service here.

    Dr. Conspiracy: In two and a half years, you are the very first person who reports changing their view of Obama eligibility as a result of this blog. Wow, just wow!I wonder how you now feel about the sources of information that led you astray before.

  10. avatar
    joyeagle July 12, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Just to clarify, after re-reading my comment it didn’t come off as sarcastic/humorous as I had intended. Obviously I want our separation of powers to work. cheers

    Scientist: I hope someone will correct me if I am wrong … Budgets should be passed by Congress, signed by the President and all obligations created under that budget need to be met. That is what full faith and credit means.

  11. avatar
    Scientist July 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    joyeagle-OK, I see. you’ve been haviing us on from the first post here…

    I’m slow, I admit, but I do get it eventually.

  12. avatar
    joyeagle July 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    Scientist, what does that mean?

    Scientist: joyeagle-OK, I see. you’ve been haviing us on from the first post here…I’m slow, I admit, but I do get it eventually.

  13. avatar
    Jules July 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    On election night in 2008, I joked to a fellow Democrat that perhaps we should organise grief counselling for Republicans so as to help them through their stages of grief. Though I do not personally know any Republicans who actually went through a denial phase, it seems that the birther element within the Republican Party got rather stuck on that stage and really wanted to pretend that Obama was a usurper rather than elected President.

    Of course, I do know Democrats who argued that George W. Bush was never really elected President in 2000. Though I agree that there was much dodginess in Florida in 2000, there is no question that as the electoral votes were ultimately cast for Bush, he was elected in every constitutional sense. (Additionally, Gore probably benefitted when the media acted inappropriately and projected a Gore victory in the state before polling stations were closed in the Panhandle.)

  14. avatar
    Majority Will July 12, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

    gorefan: As to the moniker, I wouldn’t read to much into it.

    My first thought was that it might be a tribute to George A. Romero.

    Or bullfighting.

  15. avatar
    gorefan July 12, 2011 at 8:46 pm #

    Majority Will: My first thought was that it might be a tribute to George A. Romero.
    Or bullfighting.

    Or, maybe I’m just fond of Cornwall?