I tend to think in abstractions (comes from being a math student and later a software developer). It leads to thinking about how birthers and anti-birthers are alike, and how they are different.
One theme shared by birthers and their opponents is “truth.” (We even had a commenter early on who used the name TRUTH.) I’ve enjoyed reading and using a particular formulation that would fit here:
You use this word “truth,” but I don’t think it means what you think it does.
Birthers and anti-birthers both want the other side, and the undecided, to see the “truth.” They look to the universal reconciliation, but both claim that they hold a majority view (birthers say that most people agree with them but are afraid to admit it). This is not a recipe for reconciliation or consensus. There is a significant asymmetry here: Birthers think their opponents know the truth, their truth, while birther opponents do not think that birthers know the truth. (Actually about 25% of persons polled believe that those responding as birthers in polls so so out of dislike for Obama, and not because they are birthers.) Birthers believe in an ultimate vindication while anti-birthers do not believe in the ultimate denouement of the birthers; conspiracy theories never die.
One image that has always been attractive to me is the scene from the 1989 movie Batman where Jack Nicholson as The Joker says to Batman: “You made me. Remember?” In the story Batman “makes” the Joker by dropping Jack Napier into a vat of chemicals, but the Joker had made Batman as well when he killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. Obviously anti-birthers would not exist but for birthers. Whether birther opponents contribute to birtherism is a question I haven’t answered for myself.
The other DC Comics image that birthers bring to mind is the character of Bizarro from the Superman books. Bizarro is a corrupt version of Superman, somewhat of an anti-Superman. The Bizarro motto is:
Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!
The Cold Case Posse is a Bizarro version of law enforcement, for example, and Orly Taitz is a Bizarro version of an attorney. Birther forensic analysis, citizen grand juries, politicians, journalists, attorneys—all distorted and corrupted imitations of the real things.
When I was a kid, the example of the Communist was used as motivation. Communists were supposedly dedicated, motivated, and hard-working, and so by implication we had to be more so in order to defeat them. Later historical analysis showed that the Communists of the 1950’s were not uniquely dedicated or hard-working.1 I think the dedication of birthers is equally overblown, at least by themselves. They write on the Internet, but when it comes time to show up in person, it’s crickets.
A neat wrap-up would be nice, but I don’t have one. The only significant events of the birther movement were Obama’s election, twice. That’s what actually happened. The rest is noise, sometimes interesting, but as Shakespeare’s Macbeth says:
1A Russian joke from the 1980’s goes:
So long as the bosses pretend to pay us, we will pretend to work.