A cursory look at the birther movement might lead one to wonder why anyone would want to be a birther. The birthers’ expressed intention of keeping Barack Obama out of the White House, and later removing him and erasing his legacy, are further from realization than ever. They have lost a remarkable sting of lawsuits. They are regularly derided by the media, when they are mentioned at all. Even conservative politicians wish that they would go away.
Since the birther conspiracy theories don’t explain the larger economic forces in the world, they don’t alleviate the anxiety caused by the loss of control over their lives to faceless bureaucracies. So what’s in it for the birthers?
Racism isn’t socially acceptable anymore; the “n” word is totally taboo. Anyone who opposes Obama from a bigoted stance (whether racial, ethnic, or religious1) is able to say the nastiest things and express seething hatred toward Obama under the “usurper” label and thereby avoid the stigma and social ostracism 0f the bigot.
Fame/pride in accomplishment
In a world approaching 7 billion people, distinguishing oneself is no trivial pursuit. One of our birther commenters here said that she had made a YouTube video that will end the Obama presidency. Such an accomplishment would cement a place in history for the one who accomplished it. For some whose grandiose delusions are collective rather than individual, the the sense of hoped for notable accomplishment still beckons.
A sense of place
I have described myself is a profoundly uninteresting person. Being a liberal in the South is a little like the “lonely petunia in an onion patch.” I can understand the desire to fit in and to be accepted. The birther movement is a fraternal organization, like a church or the freemasons, or the Rotary Club. The birther who is otherwise a misfit, finds a community of like-minded people, and an Internet-based circle of friends. They have their own special events and heroes like Terry Lakin and Commander Kerchner. They have their own jargon and shared history.
But most of all, they have a place as part of what they see as an important movement in history.
As they say, “follow the money.” This is impossible to quantify because no birther organization reports their income. Many birther websites feature donation links (in contrast to anti-birther websites which do not accept donations).
Many birthers have a political agenda that the birther movement attempts to push. Conservative, anti-government types clearly benefit from smearing Barack Obama. Anti-immigrant activism also plays a role, since Barack Obama is the ultimate example of an immigrant (non-US-citizen father) who took the job that should have gone to a “real American.”
So these are a few answers to the question of “what’s in it for the birthers?” What else?
1While Barack Obama professes to be a Christian, the conspiracy theorists tried to make him Muslim.