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Occam’s birther

I suppose the most straightforward explanation of what birthers do is that they do it because they are birthers, rather than for some other more complicated reason.

So does Mike Zullo really believe his own evidence? The most straightforward answer is yes, and that his continued delays reflect a belief that eventually his investigation will come together and that he will someday get somewhere. Saying that Zullo believes his own theories does not make Zullo a good and virtuous person, it doesn’t mean that he responsibly uses the money the Cold Case Posse receives and it doesn’t mean that he is always truthful.

By the same token, the most straightforward view of Douglas Vogt’s appeal to the US Supreme Court is that he believes that the law requires a judge to give him access to a grand jury and that his forensic foray is sound research. He may hope to benefit from the publicity in book sales, but that’s not the primary motivation.

And finally the most straightforward view of Birther Report’s recent fundraising effort for a new server is really based on a real belief that they could be shut down at the whim of the Obama Administration and that owning their own server prevents that. The delay in implementing the new server comes from the difficulty in getting someone to configure it, or that they haven’t come up with enough money to pay for the services—and not because the whole thing was a scam.

Of course, the most straightforward explanation is not always right.


If you’re not familiar with COINTELPRO, a program of the Federal Government back in the 1960’s, it might be well worth your time to read up on it. The Wikipedia says:

COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram) was a series of covert, and at times illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.

Remarkably, the program begun in 1956 remained secret until 1971 when a group calling itself  The Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI burgled an FBI office and got evidence of the program that it leaked to the Press. CONINTELPRO, among other things,  planted covert agents in targeted organizations to mislead them to do things that would discredit the organization, and the planted ideas of distrust between organizations. The four main tactics of COINTELPRO were:

  1. Infiltration
  2. Psychological warfare
  3. Legal harassment
  4. Illegal force

Putting hard facts aside, and folding up Occam’s Razor, let’s see if we can use this tale to understand the birther movement.

Certainly one of the things that has drawn me to study the birther movement is my desire to make sense of the world around me. Birthers fall under the extreme fringe of behavior I don’t understand. One way to make sense of bizarre behavior is to consider it an act, a false display, and there are several reasons a person might do that, to defraud others, for performance art, or for the purposes of discrediting a movement.

Could it be that those birthers who make up the most bizarre alternate histories for the President, are agent provocateurs set in the birther movement to make the “true believers” look even more crazy? Could many of the nuisance lawsuits, those dismissed before the ink dried, have been filed just to run up the numbers of failed litigation? One of the tools of the historical COINTELPRO was to seed distrust among the leadership or organizations. How many birther “cat fights” have we seen? Was Orly Taitz seduced to make her less popular with the religious right, a significant faction in birtherism, or is that story a clever lie? Is the homoerotic1 and excretory fetish commentary on birther web sites really a ploy to keep decent people away? Are the incompetent law enforcement activities of the Cold Case Posse intentionally designed to keep legitimate law enforcement at a distance? Have the total crank birther image analysts put themselves forward so as to immunize the public against any report by a real expert, or to so befoul the subject that no legitimate expert will enter the discussion—which indeed seems to be the case?

Is writing, designed to increase the level of paranoia about the government infiltration of the birther movement, also part of a government COINTELPRO operation?

1This is not to say that homoerotic commentary is any more or less appropriate than heteroerotic commentary—just that the former is what I find on birther web sites.