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A birther questions his assumptions

With the notable exception of Michael Shrimpton who has not really been a mainstay of the birther movement, birthers have been remarkably consistent in their agreement on President Obama’s day of birth, August 4, 1961. No matter where in the world they think the President was born, that date has always been the date, even though it causes problems for their alternate histories. Even the Lucas Smith fake Kenyan birth certificate has that date.

Now, however, Jack Cashill raises the issue and suggests that Obama could younger by 5 years! The article, “Obama Turned 53—Or Did He?” at WorldNetDaily and his own web site, Cashill.com, is the usual collection of petty smears and catty insults. Here’s an example:

If there ever were a romance between Dunham and Barack Senior, it likely started at closing time and ended when Senior sobered up.

In reality Cashill is not really suggesting Obama is impossibly younger than it says on his birth certificate, but actually criticizing a remark Obama made in a speech in Selma in 2007 where he talks about events in Selma making his own birth possible. The discussion of the date of birth, coincident with Obama’s birth day, is nothing more than a way to make a largely-discredited smear topical again. The alleged anachronism was analyzed at Snopes.com 6 years ago, and interested readers can follow the link and evaluate their argument.

Googling Obama’s birth certificate

imageI wanted to get a sense of what the Internet was saying about Obama’s birth certificate–what does someone coming fresh to the issue get from the most popular Internet search engine1? To find out, I sent a naive query2 to Google: obama birth certificate. The top 10 results with some commentary and conclusions follow:

1-2

The first article that comes up is the White House web page announcing the release of Obama’s long form birth certificate, and the second is the Wikipedia article on “Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories.”

3

Someone who skips the official announcement and thinks the Wikipedia is unreliable (and many do) might go to the third result and get an article at what appears to be a conventional news site, the World Tribune, and find an article titled “Forensic findings on Obama’s birth certificate: ‘A 100 percent forgery, no doubt about it’” by Grace Vuoto that opens:

There is a problem with President Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate: It’s a forgery, say multiple forensic experts who have examined it. A report detailing the evidence will soon be presented to Congress.

The article goes on to state as fact many discredited claims of Mike Zullo and the Cold Case Posse, and to pretend that there is no “other side” in the controversy. The naive reader might well be fooled into thinking that this is a mainstream publication with the integrity and fact checking that comes with that. An interesting article about the World Tribune, by Ben McGrath in The New Yorker, says otherwise:

In fact, the World Tribune is not published in the United Kingdom, nor is it, to be precise, a newspaper. It is a Web site produced, more or less as a hobby, in Falls Church, Virginia, and is dedicated to the notion, as its mission statement explains, that “there is a market for news of the world and not just news of the weird.”

…Although [editor and publisher of the World Times Robert] Morton said, “We emphasize newspaper standards to counter the half-baked, unfiltered content on some online sites,” World Tribune.com more fairly qualifies as something between a newspaper and a rumor-mongering blog. Call it “blews.”

McGrath goes on to document some “faux news” stories published at the World Tribune including the discovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

4

At the number 4 slot, we’re in pretty deep trouble with an article from the epicenter of birth certificate doubt mongering, WorldNetDaily with the unattributed article, “Obama birth-certificate doubts head to Capitol.” I has quotes from Zullo, video clips from Carl Gallups and a side order of the McInnish v. Chapman case before the Alabama Supreme Court. In typical WND fashion, much “old news” is tacked onto the article to make it longer.

5

Finally, in 5th place, we arrive at a respected news source, that specializes in investigating claims by others, and has some real journalistic standards–PolitiFact. Their article is a compendium of things said about the birth certificate, rating them from “True” (“a federal judge sanctions Tennessee ‘birther’ lawyer …  for bringing a frivolous lawsuit.”) to “False” (“President Obama has spent over $2 million in legal fees defending lawsuits about his birth certificate”) to “Pants on fire” (“Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie made a late-night visit to Kinko’s to forge President Barack Obama’s birth certificate two days before Obama unveiled it to the media.”)

6

Returning to the WorldNetDaily lineage (WND publisher Joseph Farah founded it), we have an article at the Center for Western Journalism, a wrapper for a video interview with Mike Zullo, “Under the Microscope: The Obama Birth Certificate.”

7

At lucky number 7, we find the popular debunking site Snopes.com and their article “Barack Obama Birth Certificate.”

8-10

Rounding out the top 10, we have:

Renew America: Obama’s reckoning to come November 19 by birther attorney Larry Klayman. “Klayman calls for the masses to force resignation of convicted President.” (Klayman had held a mock trial in Florida.)

Politico.com: “Trump spars with ABC reporter over Obama’s birth certificate

The Inquisitr: “Birthers: Obama has until Nov. 19 to show his birth certificate or else…

Summing up

At least according to the search engines, Mike Zullo and the Cold Case Posse is the main story on the Internet about Obama’s birth certificate. That’s what’s news, and a number of older articles carry some background and debunking of the issue in general (but most are pre-Zullo).

Here’s my opinion about the web sites returned by Google in two categories:

Reliability

  • Reliable: 5 (1, 2, 5, 7, 9)
  • Unreliable: 5 (3, 4, 6, 8, 10)

Bias

  • Pro Obama: 2 (1, 10)
  • Anti Obama: 4 (3, 4, 6, 8)
  • Neutral: 4 (2, 5, 7, 9)

The naive searcher faces an uphill battle using search engine results to evaluate claims that there is something awry with Barack Obamas’ birth certificate. They have to wade through a great deal of misinformation and bias (50% of the articles on Google’s first results page) in order to get to the facts. While claims by Mike Zullo are front and center, debunking of the Cold Case Posse is on the back pages.

I suppose it’s an unrealistic expectation to get truth from a search engine. Nevertheless, it’s how many get their facts. I’m concerned about the spread of the birtherism disease, and will continue to think about how to help make things better.


1Would another search engine would give better results. I gave Bing a try.

  1. WorldNetDaily: “Obama birth-certificate doubts head to Capitol” (Zullo story)
  2. ABC News: “Obama’s Birth Certificate Could Be a Forgery” (Zullo story)
  3. Snopes: “Barack Obama Birth Certificate
  4. White House: “President Obama’s Long Form Birth Certificate
  5. Was Obama Born in Kenya?  “Barack Obama’s Birth Certificate” (Lucas Smith)
  6. Wikipedia: “Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories
  7. BarackObama.com: “Fight the smears: The Truth about Barack’s birth certificate.”
  8. Huffington Post: “Obama Birth Certificate
  9. YouTube: “PROOF!!! Obama Birth Certificate Fraud” (this Alex Jones 2011 video has almost 1 million views)
  10. Factcheck.org: Born in the U. S. A.

2Google has an option to get results tailored for the user, or world-wide results; I picked the latter.

The bunk stops here

In addition to my blogging here I have a real life, and in real life of late I’ve been getting some chain emails (“urgent forward this to all your friends”) that are filled with false information, and interestingly enough it is all of a conservative bias, even though I don’t usually gravitate towards that group. People who send me chain emails quickly learn that I “REPLY ALL” with some pretty strong debunking. Usually they stop sending them.

Since Barack Obama usually gets blamed for everything, I find a little justification for making this article, which is a list of some of the bunk floating around. Commenters will no doubt know of lots more, and I anticipate adding to the article over the next few days.

  • Obama told veterans stop whining about having to pay for their own health care. Never happened. Debunked at PolitiFact.com.
  • ObamaCare includes a 3.8% sales tax when you sell your home. It’s a gains tax that will apply only a few very wealthy homeowners. Debunked at FactCheck.org.
  • ObamaCare is the largest tax increase in history. Only if you ignore inflation and population growth. Discussed at FactCheck.org. Rated “pants on fire” at Politifact.com.
  • Obama is going to ban all guns in the US through a UN Treaty. Not true. Debunked at FactCheck.org.
  • President Obama has doubled the size of government since he took office. Not true. Debunked at Politifact.com.
  • Obama signed “in secret” a law restricting free speech. If it was a secret, how do they know he signed it? Debunked at Politifact.com and also at FactCheck.org.
  • Obama canceled the National Day of Prayer. Nope. Debunked everywhere including Snopes.com.
  • Obama will cancel the 2012 election. Debunking of this will be available on November 7, 2012.

The items listed above are just a few of the many that I found are out there once I started looking. The links below have many more.

Readers may note the conspicuous absence of Snopes.com from my article until this most recent update. That’s mainly because the professional journalistic sites I mentioned I consider more authoritative, although Snopes certainly does good work too. One of the rejoinders I get when doing my “REPLY ALL” debunking using any of these sources, is that they themselves are biased or part of the disinformation conspiracy. Attacking Snopes is almost a reflex for some people, and attacking FactCheck is common for Obama denialists who have their  own conspiracy theories about connections between Obama, Bill Ayers and FactCheck – all nonsense, but we’re talking about birthers here.

Related links:

Polarik punks White House?

Dr. Ronald Polland (AKA Ron Polarik – pictured right) has been promoting a claim recently. He says that the White House has been distributing copies of a fake Obama 2007 Certification of Live Birth (COLB) that he made. WorldNetDaily, the all birther all the time outlet for crank claims about Obama birth certificates, obliged with a new article by WND Birther in Chief Jerome Corsi, “I created Obama’s certification of birth”.

Is it true and if so, what does it mean?

Polland starts with a true statement. The White House did publish a black and white copy [link to image on White House web site] of the COLB that it got from Snopes.com [link to Snopes article showing COLB image]. You can see that the White House image is a “screen print” of a Snopes image because the Snopes file name is shown in the page footer. That means that rather than contacting the Obama Campaign, getting the Certification (which at last report was in Chicago) and scanning it, the White House staffer in charge of putting together the press kit snapped up a copy from a trusted source, Snopes.com, and used that. So as far as the White House: end of story. There’s nothing to see here; move along. There’s certainly no proof that an original COLB doesn’t exist.

Continue Reading →

Government will move to dismiss Kerchner case

Hollister v. Soetoro

Kerchner v Obama

“judges and adverse parties need not try to fish a gold coin from a bucket of mud”

In documents filed today the US Government notified the US District Court of New Jersey that it intended to move to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Mario Apuzzo on behalf of Charles Kerchner.

Obama Conspiracy Theories has been following this lawsuit closely, publishing 2 feature articles:

The round of delays is now over and the government has responded with notice of a forthcoming  motion for dismissal.

Read what the government has to say.

I want to add a personal note here. When I went through Kercher’s 2nd Amended Complaint, replying point by point to the substantive claims it made, I wrote, “There are over 300 of these freaking points!” expressing the royal pain it was to schlog through the misinformation and twisted rhetoric. Imagine my delight to learn that there are federal rules against such things. Continue Reading →

The story behind the fake military oath

April Fools Day is an appropriate time to tell the story behind the satirical report that sent the anti-Obama crowd into a frenzy. I wrote about it briefly in my article Military Oath Change Farce Fools Orly. The Jumping In Pools blog, where this originated, is lot of fun to read. I’m pleased to present the story behind the farce heard ’round the world.

I’m a history student right now, and politics really interest me. I have no love lost for the current President, but I’m not one to believe the crazy thoughts being thrown around the web. However, knowing a little about history and the feelings that some on the right wing of the Republican and Libertarian parties, it behooved me to jump in the fray.

So I started to write work that was tailored to my audience. Being a Republican, my work wasn’t going to break out with the left-wing crowd. I’d written satire before, but nothing that really hit it big. I had written about how MIT declared Obama to be genetically superior to the average man, but nothing really exploded.

oathSo I remembered my history of the Third Reich and the fact that Hitler had the troops swear allegiance directly to him, and not the Weimar Constitution. So I threw some official names on it, gave some juicy details, and tagged it ‘satire.’ But I didn’t spread it. I went to bed that night, and noticed by 2:30 the next afternoon, my site had had over 1,000 views, which was a nice accomplishment. By the end of the day, lots of blogs and forums had spread it (not to mention email) and it had ballooned into over 17,000 hits. By today, that article must have gotten a lot of attention. Continue Reading →