Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows that I reject the proposition that the birther movement is nothing more than a cover for racism. However, Mario Apuzzo wrote, republished at The Free Republic:
Dr. Conspiracy likes to give the appearance of being an unbiased scholar in pursuit of the truth regarding whether putative President Barack Obama is a “natural born Citizen.” He has also created an internet persona of being a champion of civil rights. He has even gone as far as to take the unabashed position that most people who question Obama’s “natural born Citizen” status are racists. To date, he has made no apologies for his outlandish position.
I’m not going to apologize for Mr. Apuzzo’s imagination. He likes to pick a simple idea and use it to define something or someone, ignoring a body of work and the context. (His legal arguments about citizenship work the same way.) Apuzzo aside, I suppose it might be a good time to review what I’ve written about racism and birtherism.
One of the first articles (December, 2008) I wrote here was titled, The Genesis of Obama Conspiracy Theories. In it I said what I have been saying, more or less, for the past three years:
The smears persist thanks to several interest groups including pro-Israel, anti-Muslim, white racist, anti-abortion, PUMA (pro-Hillary), anti-federalism, pro-gun and right-wingers in general. How much cooperation there is; beyond cutting and pasting each others’ material, I don’t know.
I later expanded that list considerably in my article, O-Bots, Nobama, and Truthers.
In the second month of this blogs publication I wrote an article, Yes, Virginia, there are racists against Obama that highlighted a lawsuit brought against Obama, The Church of Jesus Christ/Aryan Nations of Missouri et al v. Obama et al that describes the defendant:
Defendant, u$ Senator Barack Hussein Obama is ’employed’ as a professional politician whom the extremely idiotic whiggers of Illinois selected to be their u$ Senator and who the even more idiotic ZOGland whigger ass-clowns, sundry muds and jew cruds are about to (s)elect as president of the u$/ZOG/Babylon as the Democratic Party nominee, but NOT if Plaintiffs have anything to say about it. This Genesis 1:24-25 and 2:19 Sixth-Day mamzer-Beast of the Field has been tracked to its lair at: 713 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510.
A significant legal underpinning for Apuzzo’s arguments on presidential eligibility come from the US Supreme Court in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford, widely held to be one of the worst decisions in the history of the Court. I was frankly surprised that anyone these days would embrace the blatantly racist Dred Scott decision, but he did. I wrote about this in my article, Racism and Dred Scott:
We have bantered about some on the question of racism and whether it plays a role in Obama denialism and the denialist views on citizenship. Whether that is so or not, Justice Taney’s decision in Dred Scott v Sandford [sic] was a clearly racially motivated decision, because it said that Negroes could not be citizens and white people could. It was as much racist as the laws (such as the Act of 1790) which said that only “free whites” could be naturalized as citizens. Taney tried to justify excluding a class from citizenship using criteria solely aligned with race.
In my February, 2009, article, Natural Law v. Common Law, I introduced a theme that has continued in my thinking and that is the role of anti-immigrant sentiment in the birther movement. I wrote:
When I come across an argument about citizenship that is based on natural law, I expect to find an undercurrent of racism and prejudice. (When I say “racism” I don’t necessarily mean white racism against blacks, but rather any generalized distrust or stereotyping of any group that is racially, ethnically or nationally different.) Whether it was the Irish, the Chinese, the Puerto Ricans, the Mexicans, the Jews or the Africans, Americans have a sorry history when it comes to color-blindness in the community. The Chinese Exclusion Act and slavery are two examples from history, and it wasn’t so long ago that I saw a sign in a local restaurant: “we don’t serve Iranians”.
In June, I highlighted a Terry Gross interview with Chip Berlet on his paper Toxic to Democracy: Conspiracy Theories, Demonization, and Scapegoating, what I consider to be one of the most important papers for understanding the birther movement.
Chip Berlet shows that the development of modern conspiracism is rooted in bigotry and that the conspiracist analytical model itself encourages demonization and scapegoating of blameless persons and groups. In so doing, conspiracism also serves to distract society and its would-be agents of change away from ongoing, structural causes of social and economic injustices.
In my February, 2010, article, Reaping the whirlwind, I said that I felt that racism couldn’t be the key factor in the birther movement, writing:
Now I for one hesitate to isolate racism as the key factor. I personally think racism is on the way out, as soon as the majority of the racists die off. I think the issue is more of “me vs. them.” They want to protect people like them, their jobs, their freedom, their way of life from what they fear is an onslaught of change and dominance by strangers they don’t understand.
In October of 2010, I repeated my view that birtherism is complex, writing:
The “crisis” is an engineered one, started and fanned by right-wing media types and pro-Israel operatives, finding resonance with racists, disaffected Hillary Clinton Supporters, right-wing partisans and folks who generally don’t believe anything the government says. If it weren’t the birth certificate, it would be something else.
In May of 2011, I again addressed the subject in my article Birthers and racism. In that article I criticized Salon.com for saying that racism explains birtherism and rejected simplistic explanations, writing:
As we have seen from the comments of psychologists on conspiracy theories, any kind of bias can lead someone to select one piece of information as reliable and another as unreliable. I think that we should be mindful of the fact that birtherism has from the beginning been a theory in search of evidence. It is the tar baby of ideas, and any story that’s negative about Obama sticks. Whether a person is an arch-supporter of Israel, a white racist or a right winger who hates everything liberal, they all have a disposition to believe anything bad about Obama and once they start believing, they become more and more invested in that belief, accepting more and more implausible stories that snowball even to the point of developing false memories of what they were taught in Civics class.
I guess what I am trying to say is that we cannot look at a particular birther belief and a particular birther and derive that birther’s racism from the belief. The individual birther believes all of it because they have invested great psychological energy building up their views, and have come to the point of shutting out anything that contradicts their construction, even it if seems racist to the outside observer.
If I wanted to push one particular view, I could pile up anecdotal evidence that birthers are racist. Look at the Momma E radio show that welcomed Mario Apuzzo and the National Membership Director of the Ku Klux Klan within 4 days of each other. I could point to white supremacist birther, James W. von Brunn. I could point to the geographic correlation between the birther movement and the states of the Confederacy. Even Apuzzo trying to damn me as a “champion of civil rights” is a transparent play to the racist crowd. Modern racists have learned how to hide their taboo beliefs well and the fact is that I don’t have the data to conclude that birtherism is just a politically correct skin for racism.