That answer could be the end of the article. Conspiracy theorists have long thought that the powerful conspirators can not only be blamed for whatever catastrophe has happened, a financial crisis, natural disaster, or Barack Obama becoming president, but also for preventing the conspiracy theorists from convincing the rest of the world of their version of the truth. I see this often as I comment at Birther Report, being asked how much I’m paid to betray my country. (I personally think that battling birthers is patriotic.) Here’s a more or less random example reply to me last year:
We know Soetoro’s birth certificate and Selective Service are forged, paid OBOT shill.
You are a VILE toad…
That latter conspirator role has become an increasing theme in comments and tweets from certain fringe sources. Commenter “helen” linked to one of them, an article titled: “The Conspiracy Theory Is True: Agents Infiltrate Websites Intending To “Manipulate, Deceive, And Destroy Reputations” by Tyler Durden (a pseudonym) who puts it succinctly:
In the annals of internet conspiracy theories, none is more pervasive than the one speculating paid government plants infiltrate websites, social network sites, and comment sections with an intent to sow discord, troll, and generally manipulate, deceive and destroy reputations. Guess what: it was all true.
The particular perpetrator of Internet manipulation in the Durden story is GCHQ, the British analog to the American NSA. The article is long, and I didn’t read it completely, nor delve into the fine print of the lines and arrows, but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t identify domestic conspiracy theorists as the targets, nor do any of the documents “leaked” suggest that the intent is to target cranks.
The great crime in all of this, so says the article, is that it threatens the “integrity of the Internet.” Intelligence services trying to plant disinformation have been around for probably thousands of years. Corporations, governments, and political parties are not stupid; they know the value of public opinion. There have been other disclosures of corporations using fake accounts on social media to do damage control or promote a product. Richard Nixon’s re-election committee practiced dirty tricks long before there was an Internet. To my mind, the great error in judgment made by Mr. Durden is his implicit belief that the Internet has integrity in the first place, at least any more integrity than any other aspect of life.
The leap conspiracy theorists make is to turn the capability of someone to sow disinformation among them or about them into the reality of it happening. Such capability is nothing new: I wrote about it three years ago in my article, “Engineered crisis.” It would be a mistake for anyone who values public opinion not to try to shape it through the Web and social media, and it would be a mistake to take anything one sees on the Internet at face value. I think the wise approach is expressed by the Russian proverb, Доверяй, но проверяй, “trust, but verify.” I do not expect anyone to believe me who does not know me, and this is why I take extra pains to provide sources for the information I present. This important distinction is usually lost on birthers (obvious in a current thread at Birther Report).
To the original question, I would answer more fully that I know personally several of the main anti-birthers, and none of them are paid to blog or comment about birthers. It come naturally out of a desire to correct misinformation and to appeal to our better natures. If the birthers had anything like real proof, they would have no problem getting a hearing, but they don’t and they won’t.