Is Obama Citizenship Denial a delusion?
The DSM defines a delusion as:
A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everybody else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture.
Canadian journalist Robert Sibley has said that conspiracy theory is “a nihilistic vortex of delusion and superstition that negates reality itself.”
I invested some time the last couple of nights over at Politico.com hacking and slashing the onslaught of birthers (an investment that was about as profitable as the shares of Charter Communications I bought). There was this one person, that was really odd. I would post a citation with the words “natural born citizen” in it and he would reply that what I said had nothing to do with “natural born citizen”. We went back and forth on this several times. He just couldn’t see the words. This is an example of a belief “firmly sustained despite…incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary.” Was the guy delusional?
Those of us who study birthers and other citizenship deniers know that some of the arguments against Obama’s eligibility to be president sound plausible on the surface. “Obama’s COLB is a forgery because two digital document experts have sworn under oath that it is.” One has to dig a little to know that neither has even given a real name, much less sworn anything. Nevertheless, when web sites like this provide “obvious proof or evidence to the contrary,” we don’t convert anyone (that I know of).
So are the birthers delusional? Perhaps some are, but not in general. The reason is that there is a birther subculture that they live in, consisting of web sites that provide alternative views of reality, that supply skilled propaganda, that tie OCD to patriotism, that create a sense of urgency, and most important provide a sense of community.
Belief that the earth is only 6,000 years old or that Houdini will speak from the dead or that Barack Obama was born in Kenya are not delusions. They are just wrong.
[I am not a medical doctor or a psychiatrist. My doctorate in conspiracy theories is self conferred.]