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Still not my problem

I’ve been over at WorldNetDaily commenting on their article “Media star jumps into Obama Eligibility Debate.” Birther commenters are arrogantly spouting total counterfactual nonsense, and I am shooting them down, at least a few—there are so many (“African,” “40 experts say it’s a fake,” “no one has seen the certified copy” …).

My original “Not my problem” essay was from April of 2013, and in it I give a corollary to my life principle that “Some things are my problem, and some things are not my problem, ” namely, “Your being a birther is not my problem.”

This web site grew out of a desire to put some material up in an accessible form so I wouldn’t have to waste time arguing with innumerable individuals one on one, and I don’t spend a lot of time doing that. The site was not created with the expectation that it was needed to accomplish some grand purpose, or to influence the 2008 election (which had already happened). It was not created to keep the country from tipping into absolute crazy. It’s just here to provide information to those who are interested.

imageFrom time to time, a birther story leads me to read about other conspiracy theories, the most recent a variety of stories that Obama will declare “marshal law” and cancel the 2016 elections. I am reminded that the conspiracist domain is vast, and I must remind myself that it is not my problem.

Something not being my problem seems to me analogous to the legal concept of standing. My harm from conspiracy nuts is not particular and individual. I don’t suffer more from them than the general public. Any attempt to particularize the damage is speculative and hypothetical. Nobody elected me prosecutor or juror on a conspiracy theorist case. Birthers and other conspiracy theorists may be my hobby, but they are not my problem.

32 Responses to Still not my problem

  1. avatar
    Andy October 28, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

    Your link to the article is broken.

    And “media star?” Never heard of him…

  2. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy October 28, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    The link is fixed, and I have never heard of Mark Steyn either.

    Andy: Your link to the article is broken.

    And “media star?” Never heard of him…

  3. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG October 29, 2014 at 12:16 am #

    Every time I see “Martial Law” or in this case “Marshal Law” I’m reminded of that episode of Sealab 2021, where Captain Murphy goes nuts and declares “Martian Law”.

  4. avatar
    alg October 29, 2014 at 12:18 am #

    What do you mean that right wing nut job conspiracies aren’t your problem?!? I blame you for literally every whack job idea ever presented on WhirledNutDilly.com.

    There! I feel good! Absolved! Cleansed! And, no longer responsible. 🙂

    Seriously, Doc. Thank you for doing this blog. In addition to the endless entertainment (I don’t have a life), what you do here is useful, informative and worthwhile. So while birtherism may not be your problem, you are at least offering a solution to a problem not of your own making.

  5. avatar
    Benji Franklin October 29, 2014 at 1:33 am #

    Doc,

    There is a certain irreducible danger that by itself, the ridiculous smear campaign by Birthers will contribute scale-tipping motivation to the self-recruitment of a lone wolf Presidential assassin. The debunking done on this blog, and your modeling of sensible and rational thinking about this topic, surely help minimize that motivation and substantially eliminate the serious consideration of most of the Birther lies, by the brightest who are exposed to them.

    In other words, your blog helps guarantee that any Birther who eventually decides to stalk the President, will be a stupid Birther, as Birthers go!

    Thanks Doc!

  6. avatar
    Lupin October 29, 2014 at 4:35 am #

    Actually, and arguably, they should be your problem, and that of every rational; American citizen.

    If your lunatics were happy to stay within your borders, I’d agree with you. The problem — for the rest of the world — is that they don’t.

    I’m not going to quote a litany of evil crank ideologies “exported” by American lunatics, but let’s just mention as an example (a topic developed by John Oliver in a recent show) that Uganda’s hateful homophobic laws were passed & enforced thanks to the active propaganda by American so-called religious figures.

    We all know that the Norwegian spree killer Breivik was a regular visitor and commenter to the notorious hate-filled right-wing blogger Pam “Atlas” Geller, who fostered his racial delusions.

    Your lunatics help kill people.

    Find any extreme global warming “skeptic”, anti-evolution, or anti-abortion movement in the UK and scratch and you will find American money behind it.

    Just yesterday in France, a vile, antisemitic blogger who thought himself safe by posting his hate screeds on American blogs got caught and fined 5000 euros. Those interested can read the article on Le Figaro paper here (in very basic French):

    http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2014/10/28/97001-20141028FILWWW00218-propos-antisemites-un-blogueur-condamne.php?pagination=2

    Sadly I can’t drag any of the gerbils from Gerbil Report in front of a French judge for their hate-filled posts, but I applaud those (like the good folks here) who do their best to marginalize them.

    My point is that your lunatics objectively HURT your country and, despite Constitutional protections, anything you can do to stamp them out is a good thing.

  7. avatar
    RanTalbott October 29, 2014 at 4:44 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy: and I have never heard of Mark Steyn either.

    In Birtherstan, anyone who’s ever hosted a broadcast on a medium subject to FCC regulation is a “media star”.

    Dr. Conspiracy: My harm from conspiracy nuts is not particular and individual.

    I can link to a few dozen photos on Gerbil Report™ that say otherwise 😉

  8. avatar
    The Magic M October 29, 2014 at 5:51 am #

    the most recent a variety of stories that Obama will declare “marshal law” and cancel the 2016 elections

    Like he did in 2010. And 2012. And 2014. All those cancelled elections, oh my!

    BTW the most lunatic explanation for why those predictions all failed was “Obama has already declared Martial Law, we just weren’t told”.

  9. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy October 29, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    I am not convinced that Barry Soetoro, Esq is actually a birther. From the beginning I have thought that he acted more like an Internet troll than an ideologue.

    RanTalbott: I can link to a few dozen photos on Gerbil Report™ that say otherwise

  10. avatar
    ellen October 29, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    I would join you over at WND, but I’m banned.

  11. avatar
    Bovril October 29, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    I diagree Doc, I believe BS really does believe his conspiracies….EACH….AND….EVERY….ONE

    He (assuming he is really a he) is the male equivalent of BitterDelusional..

    Everything is a conspiracy,
    Everything is a plot by the Ebil Regime,
    Everything that happens in BS’s life is due to the Gubmint

    He’s not an EXCLUSIVE birther, it is merely one of the very very many conspiracies he knows have and are occurring

    To date his record has him believing in the following conspiracies

    Birfing, subsets of BC, Fuddying, Breitbarting, Barry Soetoro, SSN, SSS etc
    Obama as satan/Witch/Salem witch trial/child sacrifice
    Sandy Hook
    Boston Marathon
    9/11
    Illuminati
    Bush family crime syndicate
    Clinto Family Crime Syndicate
    NWO/UN/Black helicopters etc
    Soros…. many and various
    Dash of SovCit, US vs us, fringey flags etc
    NSA/CIA etc are watching and monitoring him
    Ebola is a false flag
    Michael/Michelle Obama
    TARP was a plot by the Banksters and NWO/SOROS

    More variations……

  12. avatar
    Dave B. October 29, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    Superparalegal Leonard Daneman is mad at me over at one of the older WND articles. He does NOT like being referred to as a “frustrated paralegal.”

  13. avatar
    RanTalbott October 29, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    Lupin: My point is that your lunatics objectively HURT your country and, despite Constitutional protections, anything you can do to stamp them out is a good thing.

    Yes. And no. Respectively 😉

    Yes, as you and Benji have pointed out, loons like the birfers can, and (fortunately, rarely) do, provide that last little bit of stimulation that push a marginal nutcase into violence. Sometimes they get nutty enough to do it themselves (And, btw, it’s not just _our_ loons that do it: history offers many tragic examples from many different societies). But that’s not the only harm that they do.

    One that I’ve often referred to, over many years, is “polluting the stream of public discourse”: the yammering of conspiracy nuts is distracting, like the interruptions by bored children of the adults’ attempt at serious discussion. Time wasted dealing with those distractions is taken away from the already-inadequate amount that we Americans (and I doubt we’re anywhere near alone in this) allocate to debating the serious issues that confront us.

    It also debases the quality of debate: when people are allowed to get away with the kind of baseless speculation and mindless regurgitation of rumors that are the essence of the birfoon “argument”, it encourages others to engage in the same sort of sloppiness. Even allegedly “serious” political debates often wind up as opponents just verbally flinging bumper stickers at each other, with no serious attempt to persuade, and no openness to being persuaded.

    But, no, the answer is not to “stamp them out”. And not just out of devotion to some notion of “freedom of speech”: societies need loons. We need groups like the NRA and the ACLU, who hysterically over-react to gun regulations or “national security letters”, to help focus attention on government overreach. We need tree-huggers, to push us to think carefully about resource utilization. Science needs people to postulate wacky ideas like the aether, Lamarckian evolution, the expanding Universe, and string theory, because some of them will turn out to be right, and even disproving the wrong ones will teach us things.

    The answer is not to eliminate them, but to “discipline” them. To require them to prove their assumptions and show the logic behind their conclusions. Some will try to do that, and succeed. Some will fail. And some will refuse. When they try, you acknowledge and respect their effort. When they refuse, you mock and marginalize them.

    It may seem less efficient than simply suppressing them, but any society that does that will, at best, stagnate. And history shows us tragic examples of that, too.

  14. avatar
    Arthur October 29, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    Bovril: I diagree Doc, I believe BS really does believe his conspiracies….EACH….AND….EVERY….ONE

    He (assuming he is really a he) is the male equivalent of BitterDelusional..

    Everything is a conspiracy,
    Everything is a plot by the Ebil Regime,
    Everything that happens in BS’s life is due to the Gubmint

    I agree. While Barry is certainly tollish, he’s also a nannering ideologue. As Bovril observes, his ideology is that everything and everyone he doesn’t like is part of a conspiracy that only he can see and fully comprehend.

  15. avatar
    Jim October 29, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    The Magic M: Like he did in 2010. And 2012. And 2014. All those cancelled elections, oh my!BTW the most lunatic explanation for why those predictions all failed was “Obama has already declared Martial Law, we just weren’t told”.

    Now that’s being VERY sly by the boss. Declare Martial Law, don’t tell anybody, don’t change any laws/rules, and above all don’t send armed troops into the streets. The fiend, he’s taken their freedoms without taking their freedoms…what ever will they do? 😆

  16. avatar
    Lupin October 29, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    RanTalbott: Yes. And no. Respectively

    Yes, as you and Benji have pointed out, loons like the birfers can, and (fortunately, rarely) do, provide that last little bit of stimulation that push a marginal nutcase into violence. Sometimes they get nutty enough to do it themselves (And, btw, it’s not just _our_ loons that do it: history offers many tragic examples from many different societies). But that’s not the only harm that they do.

    One that I’ve often referred to, over many years, is “polluting the stream of public discourse”: the yammering of conspiracy nuts is distracting, like the interruptions by bored children of the adults’ attempt at serious discussion. Time wasted dealing with those distractions is taken away from the already-inadequate amount that we Americans (and I doubt we’re anywhere near alone in this) allocate to debating the serious issues that confront us.

    It also debases the quality of debate: when people are allowed to get away with the kind of baseless speculation and mindless regurgitation of rumors that are the essence of the birfoon “argument”, it encourages others to engage in the same sort of sloppiness. Even allegedly “serious” political debates often wind up as opponents just verbally flinging bumper stickers at each other, with no serious attempt to persuade, and no openness to being persuaded.

    But, no, the answer is not to “stamp them out”. And not just out of devotion to some notion of “freedom of speech”: societies need loons. We need groups like the NRA and the ACLU, who hysterically over-react to gun regulations or “national security letters”, to help focus attention on government overreach. We need tree-huggers, to push us to think carefully about resource utilization. Science needs people to postulate wacky ideas like the aether, Lamarckian evolution, the expanding Universe, and string theory, because some of them will turn out to be right, and even disproving the wrong ones will teach us things.

    The answer is not to eliminate them, but to “discipline” them. To require them to prove their assumptions and show the logic behind their conclusions. Some will try to do that, and succeed. Some will fail. And some will refuse. When they try, you acknowledge and respect their effort. When they refuse, you mock and marginalize them.

    It may seem less efficient than simply suppressing them, but any society that does that will, at best, stagnate. And history shows us tragic examples of that, too.

    Your concern about a hypothetical decline if we stifle dissent or new ideas is well taken, but in the practice, France’s or Germany’s laws against hate speech etc. have not caused any such decline, while the ravings of unimpeded American lunatics in Uganda have been responsible for people’s deaths.

    You may also consider the negative impact on your country’s image abroad when lunatics like Breivik quote American bloggers whose hate speech would be prosecuted here.

    I’m not realistically expecting you to change your system, but I was pointing out to Doc that an argument can be made that it is (a) a problem, and (b) your problem.

  17. avatar
    Bob October 29, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    I love telling Birthers to contact their Congressional representative with their concern about Obama’s birth certificate.

  18. avatar
    RanTalbott October 29, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    Lupin: but in the practice, France’s or Germany’s laws against hate speech etc. have not caused any such decline

    I would argue that it’s too soon to tell, but concede that my concern may prove unwarranted: we know that extremes like burning or stoning “outside-the-box” thinkers as heretics ruins societies. It may turn out that there’s a dramatic bend in the curve, so that lesser measures have less-than-proportional effects. Or that careful limiting of what _kind_ of loon you “stamp out” narrows the impact.

    But it’s a dangerous experiment, and I question the strength of the causal links being posited to justify it: I believe that normal people, in an environment where they’re exposed to a variety of ideas and perspectives, can’t be changed that much by exposure to the loons. Hate speech might _reveal_ their previously-hidden bigotry, but it doesn’t _create_ it.

  19. avatar
    Steve October 29, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    Steyn is on one guy’s list of “living treasures”

    http://johntreed.com/treasures.html

    I like John Gagliardi (winningest college football coach ever), Elton John, Penn and Teller and Bill James as much as anyone, but “character” and “Rush Limbaugh” do not belong in the same sentence.

  20. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy October 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Birthers are my problem collectively, but not my problem individually.

    I would argue, for example, that birthers are CNN’s problem because they are a prominent news organization tasked with investigating and presenting the news. Overall I give CNN high marks for their coverage of the birthers. It was the responsibility of the Columbus Star Ledger to cover Orly Taitz when she filed suit there. Again, they did their job well in my opinion.

    If my representative in Congress were a birther (and Gowdy may well be a closet birther), I would have the responsibility to vote against him, encourage others to vote against him and contribute money to his opponent. I have, by the way, voted against him. It is not my individual responsibility to end birtherism. Each individual is called to act in certain circumstances, but not in all. Otherwise, one would be totally consumed with “worthy causes.”

    Lupin: Actually, and arguably, they should be your problem, and that of every rational; American citizen.

  21. avatar
    Benji Franklin October 29, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    RanTalbott: It also debases the quality of debate: when people are allowed to get away with the kind of baseless speculation and mindless regurgitation of rumors that are the essence of the birfoon “argument”, it encourages others to engage in the same sort of sloppiness.

    Bravo! Given the easily exploited mind-boggling reach of the Internet, there might be no more ominous threat to the best ideals associated with our nation’s attempts to strive for government that guarantees common liberty, than that debasement of the quality of debate. I dare to argue that the Founders would ALL have agreed on that point. The establishment of the USA depended largely upon prior sane and sensible discourse; so now does maintaining and improving our way of life.

    The Birthers cannot argue rationally and win; the facts are against them. If they were patriots instead of bigots they would acknowledge that the bizarre legal cases they have tried to make against the President, are foolishness; they just hate him and/or disagree with his politics. But they are adult crybaby anarchists poisoning the important arena of rational debate with fact-cloaking, baseless accusatory lies and fantasies.

    The Birthers simply make up their own facts, often substituting their own opinions. Founders would not have put up with such foolishness for one minute, EVEN IF THEY AGREED WITH THE SENTIMENTS BEING EXPRESSED!

    Ultimately, the importance of maintaining and honoring the consensus agreement about what language means in BOTH important documents, and in the course of discussing how those documents shall be applied or enacted, transcends the mere existence of those documents because not requiring that consistency allows abuse of the language to become the means by which the documents’ official intent can later be arbitrarily reduced to gibberish.

    I say “official intent”, because our way of government acknowledges the importance of language by designating the judiciary to ultimately decide, elevating the settling of disagreements about what legal language means all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. Instead of honoring “official” judicial determination, if it goes against them, the Birthers typically accuse the courts of being part of a conspiracy of traitors to the Constitution!

    Of course, it is they who are traitors to the Constitution. They don’t believe Obama must be proven guilty of the charges they make; they claim he is guilty because they can’t find the evidence he “must have” hidden!

  22. avatar
    wrecking ball October 29, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    it looks like WND has deleted all of doc’s comments.

  23. avatar
    Jim October 29, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    wrecking ball: it looks like WND has deleted all of doc’s comments.

    Yeah, something about being told the truth just sticks in their craw.

  24. avatar
    JPotter October 29, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    wrecking ball:
    it looks like WND has deleted all of doc’s comments.

    But left all the responses to him, as usual! Must be one of those part-time, work-at-home moderator positions running that show 😛

  25. avatar
    J. Edward Tremlett October 29, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

    “My name is Marshal Law. I hunt heroes. Haven’t found any yet.”

  26. avatar
    dunstvangeet October 30, 2014 at 2:02 am #

    New Quote of the Day…

    “So the decision? Do we listen to the founders or some ignorant man who has no idea what he is speaking about. You decide.”

    http://mobile.wnd.com/2014/10/media-star-jumps-into-obama-eligibility-debate/#comment-1660301505

  27. avatar
    RanTalbott October 30, 2014 at 5:33 am #

    dunstvangeet: New Quote of the Day

    I thought it was pretty hilarious the way he insisted that Vattel was the source of the phrase “natural born citizen”, but failed to notice that, when Marshall quoted Vattel in an 1814 decision, he used the edition that actually was around when the Constitution was written, which said “indigenes”.

    And insisted that we go by “what the founders stated”, then quoted case after case saying “the founders didn’t state what they meant, so we have to figure it out for ourselves”. 😉

  28. avatar
    Lupin October 30, 2014 at 6:27 am #

    RanTalbott: I would argue that it’s too soon to tell, but concede that my concern may prove unwarranted: we know that extremes like burning or stoning “outside-the-box” thinkers as heretics ruins societies. It may turn out that there’s a dramatic bend in the curve, so that lesser measures have less-than-proportional effects. Or that careful limiting of what _kind_ of loon you “stamp out” narrows the impact.

    But it’s a dangerous experiment, and I question the strength of the causal links being posited to justify it: I believe that normal people, in an environment where they’re exposed to a variety of ideas and perspectives, can’t be changed that much by exposure to the loons. Hate speech might _reveal_ their previously-hidden bigotry, but it doesn’t _create_ it.

    Again, I don’t disagree with what you wrote; it is more what you didn’t write where we have a potential disagreement.

    As I said in my earlier post, if your lunatics remained safely within US borders, I would entirely respect your point of view; and while birthers are indeed a 100%-American phenomenon, sadly other facets of American extreme right wing lunacy are not. I mentioned specific examples earlier I won’t requote here.

    It is the toxic influence of these lunatics **abroad** that I resent. To the extent that they seek to hurt us non-Americans, they become your problem.

  29. avatar
    The Magic M October 30, 2014 at 6:40 am #

    RanTalbott: And insisted that we go by “what the founders stated”, then quoted case after case saying “the founders didn’t state what they meant, so we have to figure it out for ourselves”.

    No wonder. Religious zealots have claimed to “know God’s will” for centuries, so obviously political zealots claim to “know the Founders’ will” just the same (in both cases in clear disagreement with unambiguous scripture).

    I can vividly imagine a birther telling a resurrected George Washington “STFU, I know better than you what you meant, you socialist traitor!”. 😉

  30. avatar
    dunstvangeet October 30, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    RanTalbott: I thought it was pretty hilarious the way he insisted that Vattel was the source of the phrase “natural born citizen”, but failed to notice that, when Marshall quoted Vattel in an 1814 decision, he used the edition that actually was around when the Constitution was written, which said “indigenes”.

    And insisted that we go by “what the founders stated”, then quoted case after case saying “the founders didn’t state what they meant, so we have to figure it out for ourselves”.

    I personally loved the argument: This quotation about Natural Born Citizenship means that Justice Gray really believed this. However, the 5 quotations that you provided that said the exact opposite mean absolutely nothing because he didn’t quote Supreme Court Opinion.

  31. avatar
    predicto October 30, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

    Just as a side note, the US may be the source of the internet (for good and ill these days), but to pretend that the US’s lunatics are responsible for the lunacy that happens in other countries seems forced to me.

    After all, Germany (and France) have long histories of antisemitism and every other sort of unfortunate backward thinking and right wing populism and paranoia, the same as America does. Anders Brevik was not created by Pam Gellar’s blog – he was a home grown lunatic who was drawn to Pam Gellar’s blog because it told him what he already wanted to hear. If anything, he posted more on document.no, which is a pure strain Norwegian far right product.

    France can no more absolve itself for its own loonies than America can.

  32. avatar
    Lupin October 31, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    predicto:
    Just as a side note, the US may be the source of the internet (for good and ill these days), but to pretend that the US’s lunatics are responsible for the lunacy that happens in other countries seems forced to me.

    After all, Germany (and France) have long histories of antisemitism and every other sort of unfortunate backward thinking and right wing populism and paranoia, the same as America does.Anders Brevik was not created by Pam Gellar’s blog – he was a home grown lunatic who was drawn to Pam Gellar’s blog because it told him what he already wanted to hear.If anything, he posted more on document.no, which is a pure strain Norwegian far right product.

    France can no more absolve itself for its own loonies than America can.

    I’m afraid I have to disagree.

    1. we do have our share of lunatics, but we also have anti-hate speech laws to keep them in check.

    2. the Geller-Breivik connection is far more incriminating than what you describe, and there is every reason to believe that that she poured gasoline on the fire beforehand and defended his actions afterward. My own opinion is that the massacre may not have happened — emphasis on “may” — had it not been for Geller; and in a case like this, “may” is enough to create concern.

    3. you didn’t address the connection between certain American “religious” leaders and Uganda’s homophobic laws, nor the American financing of local anti-scientific groupuscules in the UK and elsewhere.

    Let me put it this way: if there was an organized effort by some lunatic French entities to finance and stir racial violence in the US, with some success, your Ambassador would be camped on our doorstep asking that we put a stop to it, and rightly so.

    The toxicity of American right-wing ideologies is not as much the issue here as its proselytism abroad.

    Anecdotally, we have had a problem in France with disenfranchised kids recruited on the internet to go and join the jihad in Syria. An article in the local paper showed the psi-op tools used by these muslim extremists to recruit would-be jihadist, and some of it includes quotes from rabid anti-muslim / pro-Christian internet rants from American sources — the sort of stuff one finds on Gerbil Report, but coming from more “respectable” sources, like that US General who once said his God was more powerful than their Satan, or something idiotic like that. They show this tripe to the kids to convince them the Great Satan is on a Holy War against all good Muslims, so they have to join the jihad.

    Pure rubbish, of course, and you might say a drop of water on an already fertile ground. Agreed. But when French extremists do this, they’re often stopped and fined, and they know this, so therefore there’s less rank hatred being spewed on our sites.

    as long-time posters here know, I’ve never been particularly enamored of your First Amendment, but what you do within your borders is after all your business. The problem is that in today’s incredibly porous world, your sewage overflows into other folks’ gardens.

    I realize I’ve gotten way OT here, and I certainly don’t mean to target the good folks here who fight the good fight; but I thought this is an “outsider’s” point of view that you may not get from your usual media, and worth considering, if only because — right or wrong — it is truly felt by people abroad.