Historian Richard Hofstadter used the phrase “paranoid style” to describe conspiracy theory thinking that was like paranoia, but not clinically diagnosed as such.
My mother suffered from dementia in the last year of her life. She believed that my father and close members of her family had spirited her away from her home and that she was currently living under the bed in a hotel in a nearby city. I know from personal inspection that this was not true. She was still at home, not in a hotel and not under the bed. Nevertheless, nothing I, nor anyone else could say changed her mind.
On one visit I would show her a piece of furniture she had had for 50 years and say, “isn’t that yours?” She would reply, “it looks like mine,” but a string of such confrontations made no difference. I tried reasoning; she said, “you would have made a good lawyer” and in the end she said “are you part of this?” By that, she meant to ask if I was part of the conspiracy. It was a sad experience, particularly in the breakdown of the relationship between my mother and father, since she became afraid of him, as the alleged leader of the conspiracy that was keeping her in the hotel.
From this experience, I’ve learned the power of delusion and it is perhaps the reason that I find it easier to sympathize and to forgive the birthers.
> From this experience, I’ve learned the power of delusion and it is perhaps the reason that I find it easier to sympathize and to forgive the birthers.
I think there’s a world of difference between delusion caused by dementia and delusion caused by hatred, prejudice and hubris.
Of course you cannot fault an elderly person for delusions caused by age-related diseases or conditions, but I don’t think the average birther qualifies as mentally ill. It’s a self-chosen alienation, IMO.
I tend to refer to it as “willfully deluded”. That’s the term I used for those who have the information and the capacity to choose reality, but rather choose to pursue the delusion.
Dr. C: From this experience, I’ve learned the power of delusion and it is perhaps the reason that I find it easier to sympathize and to forgive the birthers.
You are a wise man.
My take on this is some what different. There are those who feed the conspiracy theory, and those who honestly believe in the conspiracy theory. The latter unlike those suffer from dementia want to believe some is wrong. They aren’t being malicious or mean. If things were different they wouldn’t even think twice about the issue. That is if Obama wasn’t president they wouldn’t care about whether or not the president was a natural born citizen. I don’t know what but people sometimes just loss their rational thinking about certain issues, or find themselves concerned about an issue that they normally won’t care about.
There are many intelligent people who have fallen for conspiracy theories. Either because they are ill-informed or have been lied to. I have seen people dismiss what they believe to be true or a value they have. The difference between the birthers and the truthers is the issue that they are concerned about.
There are people who would reject a conspiracy theory as stupid, but embrace another.
I am for one really glad that the birther issue got so much prominence. In my opinion it is the best conspiracy theories, as an educational tool. More for the depth of issues that are covered by it.
Sorry Doc, but I must respectfully disagree. I see no reason to sympathize with them. I just finished Voodoo Histories, and Aaronovitch (sp?) Made the point that beloveds in conspiracy theories are often those looking to explain why their side didn’t get their way. Your mother, when presented with facts, lacked the capacity to understand and accept them. Birthers choose to reject facts, because they conflict with what they wish reality was. Big difference.
Yeah… I gotta come down on the “no sympathy” side here. These people are willfully self-deluded. And whatever prejudice or hatred is in their minds that opened them up to such delusion does not deserve respect.
I feel it is important to differentiate between those with organic damage and those who are wilful/hateful.
With the first there is an actual external (internally located) driver over which the individual has no actual control. These people deserve the best support we can practically give to assist them in their (usually) shortened life.
With the second there is a need/want/desire/lust to believe something/anything that validates a PERSONALLY held view or meme.
It is eminently possible that some, many or most of the hard core Birthers have actual organic damage and as such deserve sympathy. In reality the vast majority are simply hate filled, spiteful and vindictive LSOS (KBOA, MichaelN, “I Lucas”, RacerJim, Mad Ole Orly etc come immediately to mind).
As such the only emotions and actions they should inspire are the same as with any other infective, dangerous and parasitical vermin.
I think a lot of the birthers ARE sick. Take Orly (please!) for example. She seems to go through manic stages, and after this last loss in NH she seems to be heading off the deep end into clinical depression. I wouldn’t be surprised if she IS ill.
I agree completely.
And some birthers are obviously opportunistic con artists. Pandering to bigotry and fear can be profitable unless you’re an incompetent grifter.
Some of the comments I’ve read, especially over at free republic, indicate that there’s a whole lot of wishing that Obama was not foreign/black and in the White House.
I do see some delusion and seeming mental illness, such as in diogeneselamp, who says that he no longer cares what reality is, he’s not going to accept anything but the TRUTH and no matter what anyone including the US Supreme Court says, NBC means two parents born here and that’s final!!!!!!! I paraphrased, but what he actually said was pretty close to that. This is a mentally unbalanced, angry person.
Rationality would force you to say, “damn, my guy lost and I’m mad as hell, but such is life.” Not some of these birthers.
I would have some sympathy if I thought some of them were clinical, but I see 98.5% bigotry and just life as they know it is out of whack what with that black man and woman in THEIR White House.
bushpilot1 even said that the founding fathers only said white Europeans can be president and got very little push back. In fact, only one person on the thread called him on it and he hasn’t said it since, but it was clear that this was not something that would be a bummer to the others if it were true – they probably think it would very nice if it were true, but don’t want to say it out loud cause they are not crazy and know how it would sound.
And yes, bushpilot1 actually said only white European people are supposed to be president of the United States……..he didn’t “suggest” it, he said that’s the way the founding fathers intended it to be……something about kind. Now I do think he’s crazy and his bigotry has overtaken him, but still…….
“Kind” is the nonsense pushed by e.vattle. They may be the same person. Awhile ago e.vattle showed up at NBC’s site asking if anyone knew what people meant when they said the king is kind. And he showed up recently here quoting a line from Shakespeare that had the word “kind” in it. Somehow if you know what “kind” means you know what the Founders meant by “natural born’. It’s another dopey birther theory.
I did an entire Internet Article based on what the idiot said about Shakespeare. IMO (which means In My Opinion) it is a sign that he is coming completely mentally un-raveled. Plus, he keeps saying I am from here. Which I am not.
I am not surprised about Diogenes Lump either. He likes to act like he is on a quest for truth or something but he is just on a quest for self-affirmation.
The Head Researcher
1. crazy ones (racists, conspiracists, just plain crazies) like Sharon Rondeau and Lamecherry
2. there are grifters like Farah
3. the crazy and grifter overlap like Taitz and (failed grifter) Dean Haskins.
4. a continual flow of new Birthers most of whom get their questions answered and then they move on.
5. I believe the great majority of Birthers are people who know better and just keep repeating the lies and stupid questions for no other reason than they think it helps Republicans. They pretend to be stupid and/or crazy. Their political weapon is pretending to be stupid. Although, in the end, there’s no difference between pretending to be stupid and being stupid.
It’s very possible that the founders only imagined white Europeans as President. One could go further and say they only imagined white Northwestern European males (which is what they all were), since there were very few, if any, Southern or Eastern Europeans in the US at the time and women were not considered capable of holding office. They probably would also have said mainline Protestant and possibly Catholic (to appease the Maryland delegation). They might well also have said you had to wear breeches and know how to ride a horse to be President,
Ultimately, this is the rat hole one goes down with fetishization of the founding fathers and their supposed original intent. To a large extent, that is the root of the problem. That is why I try not to argue at all about what words meant in 1788, but rather what they mean in the context of our society as it exists today. Arguing as though this is 1788 plays ball in the birthers, Tea Partiers and assorted cranks’ court in my opinion.
The Founders were of one mind on only one issue that I know of, separating themselves from Great Britain. Other than that, there were divergent opinions on practically everything else.
Since John Jay and Alexander Hamilton were co-founders of the African Free School in New York City, a project of the New York Manumission Society, I think that its entirely possible that some of the abolitionist Founders could have envisioned a Barack Obama some day in the distant future.
To some extent I agree. I was listening to a program yesterday (NPR’s Talk of the nation) where a psychologist made a distinction between child abusers who do so because of a treatable psychosis and others who do it because they like to hurt and humiliate others (whom the psychologist called “mean.”) In the same way there are probably mean birthers.
That said, I would not simply brush off all birthers as being mean, nor would I underestimate the effort to rise from a delusion by ones own bootstraps so to speak even when there is no clinical condition preventing it.
I read things such as comments made by birthers over at WorldNetDaily that I find ignorant and offensive. They get my goat but then I think: “it really sucks to be you.”
What up though paranoid people!
My advice to Dr Conspiracy and his cronies, and the impartial, is to start thinking positive and stop thinking about all of this paranoid business.
If you smart, i.e., your not a yami (have a yam for a brain), you’ll stop using terminologies such as ‘birther debunker’. That’s not a positive terminology. That’s about as positive as ‘anti-war’. Stick with Obot.
Two, might want to open your minds with a little critical thinking and analytical thinking.
Three, check out my my two most recently published WOBIK blog reports!
For what its worth. 06.26.2000 – Attorney Barack Obama’s (as an attorney) final case in federal court.
Harvard Law Review editor Barack Obama and his 1991 ad for TBS’ “Black History Minute”.
Thanks for stopping by and please remember to share your thoughts, ideas, critique, corrections and recommendations in the comments section below. Posting a comment is much like casting vote, so please participate!
Lucas D. Smith
PS- I don’t solicit financial donations such as website TheFogBow does with their shinny paypal donation link.
While your mother was, of course, blameless as a victim of disease, if there had been someone around who fed her delusions and tried to convince her the delusions were real and you were lying to her, this person would have earned your contempt.
The birther “leaders” are similar to this example. They do deserve more contempt than the people they fool.
I agree… the people manufacturing and maintaining the conspiracy theory for personal gain or to cynically manipulate political opinion deserve nothing but contempt… unfortunately, you can only guess at who isn’t a real believer. Even Corsi, despite his serial conspiracy theorism, seems like he could actually believe it.
But I can have sympathy for birthers in general knowing we all have our ideologies that make some things easier for us to believe and harder for others to believe, and vice versa… and we’re all guilty of not verifying every little bit of info we get in our lives. The ones who spew the vilest venom, and the ones who can’t accept contradicting evidence, do make it hard to feel sympathetic though.
I agree with this. There are all kinds of folks who are into this particular conspiracy. Some really don’t know or understand any better, and deserve sympathy. Some others may not. It takes some discernment — sometimes quite a bit of discernment, as far as I can tell — to know the difference.
Dear Dr. Conspiracy,
Am I no longer allowed to post comments here?
The cognitive decompensation explanation for this pathway to psychosis we see happening is spot on!!!
This is definitely what is happening and it shows how a pattern of adhering to a fear/hate emotional based “belief” system over actual reality and facts on the ground can lead to a dangerous downward spiral ending in an actual mental break from reality.
Truly, once sane people can “break” themselves in this manner and go from merely being emotionally irrational and/or ideological to snapping and descending into actual madness…
I definitely think that is what we’ve been seeing happening here and even in broader society in general. I also think to some extent, this pattern can be “contagious” via self-brainwashing by walling themselves off to only uncritically listening to voices within their own little worldview bubble.
A very important observation. I agree completely!
Excellent post, joyeagle! Well said & I agree!
Good points. Well said. The con artists, political manipulators, grifters and propagandists definitely deserve more contempt and ALSO more blame. They are after all the ones feeding the fires of this and both knowingly and intentionally pushing the buttons of what they cynically know is an easily manipulated and suscebtible audience.
Sadly, their marks are only too happy to have these folks spin them on fantasies they want to believe in. If they had any self-respect, these marks should instead be angry that the people they “trust” or “look up to” are doing nothing but intentionally misleading them, using them and conning them out of their money.
I just don’t understand why, when confronted with the evidence that they are being used and lied to, that they double down and entrench themselves into loyal support and continue to be tools and fools, instead of turn their anger onto those that are truly preying and leeching off of them.
At some point, I quickly lose sympathy for a victim that chooses to be just that and willfully allows themselves to be cynically manipulated.
Especially when these loyalist marks usually do everything they can to repeat and spread these lies themselves. As soon as they do that, they bear almost as much culpability as the originators and therefore, deserve a share of the ire and derision.
There’s definitely some leaders out there. Mostly lawyers.
If not for just a handful of mostly lawyers we wouldn’t have had any of this citizen’s grand jury stuff, the belief Obama has 100+ aliases, the Connecticut SS#, the overused “misprision of felony” chant or probably even Lakin’s tour of non-duty.
Berg, Taitz, Donofrio (sp?), Haskins and other lawyers seem to be the originators of most of the theories that remain, simply because I think people are more apt to believe a lawyer.
Berg’s two citizen parent theory may not solely been his own doing, but is more popular than the Kenyan BC ever was.
Previous Polarik BC analysis has also been all but forgotten over the recent “layers” theories for the longform.
Seems if a lawyer says something, birthers are more apt to believe it.
I also don’t feel any sympathy for the birthers.
It is true that some birthers may share clinical symptoms with your mother. My own mother suffers from Alzheimer, and while her own delusions are not as nearly extravagant as your mother, I know exactly what you mean.
However, neither your mother or mine are dangerous — except perhaps to themselves. Birthers, on the other hand, ARE dangerous. History is full of lunatics who have assassinated or otherwise committed heinous crimes moved by similar delusions.
Finally, there are birthers who are not clinically sick — they are merely ordinary racists, xenophobes and bigots — or grifters like Mario who see a way to profit from the situation. One can only feel contempt towards those.
Judging from my experience with cranks, I’m pretty sure they would’ve come up with most of it on their own.
At least some cranks are always “hobby lawyers” and have enough crazy creativity to come up with this and similar stuff (e.g. I don’t think the “gold-fringed flag/maritime law” or “only gold coins are legal tender” crap was invented by a lawyer).
In fact, the German cranks who claim the Reich still exists as its own legal entity are all non-lawyers, yet have delved deep into Constitutional law, martial law and other legal fields you’d think no layman would ever wander into.
I agree with what you’ve said here. I would add propaganda artists, such as WND as just as important, if not more so to the picture than these actual hack lawyers and grifters themselves.
Without outlets such as WND and these hack pseudo-lawyer propagandists, the Birthers and their internet havens would be as visible as the kooks that talk about Lizard People and the Flat Earth Society.
Magic M – I hold to what I just said in reply to US Citizen above, so that clarifies how I see that media propaganda outlets, such as WND, as well as these pseudo-lawyers give “voice” and an undeserved layer of “pseduo-legitmacy” that fuels these cranks.
Without that, I believe their ability to infect or annoy others would be significant factors smaller than they even are at this stage. Without those cynical manipulators driving this schtick, these urban legends would never have broken past the confines of only the lamest back alley chain emails and amateur blogs.
In response to another point you brought up, I would argue that NONE of the lawyers involved with Birtherism are lawyers of any heft or serious reputation – particularly NOT in the applicable field of Constitutional law.
Therefore, by that critera, they could ALL be considered “hobby lawyers”. Leo and Orly are definitely only “hobby lawyers”. Berg and Martin are disreputable cranks. Mario is nothing but a bottom feeding DUI attorney way out of his depth or areas of expertise.
Then there was the “dogbite” attorney hack (can’t even recall his name at the moment) that has a history of being attached to WND-type propaganda crap cases …and even Kreep pretty much falls in that same kook-case laywer category.
The closest they have to anything resembling actual laywers are the Kerchners…and when you look closer, you are left with nothing but an extremely old and potentially senile bigot way past his prime and the bigotry-driven members of his family.
In summary, when you look at their whole “legal” field, it is so utterly weak and disreputable that it would rate at the low-end of quality of even many of those crank anti-tax protester lawyers out there.
So yeah, I view them all as mere “hobby lawyers” and really just another class of con artist grifters, propaganda smear merchants and self-aggradizing bottom-feeding fame whores looking to feed their fragile egos and pad their wallets with their pathetic little cult followings.
Well said. I agree completey.
I wish Dr. C had a like button cause I like all of this……Farah comes to mind here, and frankly, Corsi, too, I think. Even though he’s clearly kooky, I think that he goes home and counts his birther money and says, “well, I don’t know what’s true or not and I don’t care……let me get back to counting my money.”
I agree with that. I would even go so far as to say that they probably assumed that the president would be a white male cause that’s what they were and that’s who made these decisions.
e.valtle and bushpilot1 are one and the same, and he desparately wants the founding fathers to have made that constitutional, which is what he wants us to believe. I frankly think he’s no more than a KKK member who believes in inate white supremancy cause someone told him to go back to stormfront like they knew that’s where he came from.
My mother was dangerous in her senile dementia. It made her no less deserving of compassion.
And while history may be full of lunatics who committed heinous crimes, that doesn’t describe most birthers. It might describe a few, but it doesn’t describe most.
Since you were once a vehement birther who came to his senses, I’m curious to know what sources convinced you that birtherism was legitimate and what motivated you to find them sincere and what convinced you it was not.
Was she really only dangerous to herself and those who had to live with her…or likely to go out on a shooting rampage and harm unrelated innocents?
I think you are missing the clear distinction between what we are also compassionate towards and what we are concerned about.
Speaking of paranoid….
Orly is now asking her flying monkeys to help her because “NetSol and Alexa” are manipulating her stats, presumably under orders from the usurper in chief.
“I am seeing manipulations of stats of popularity of my blog. The stats, shown on NetSol and Alexa are completely off in relations to the actual number of visits. I need help in that matter”
(malware warning) http://www.orlytaitzesq.com/?p=28215&cpage=1#comment-108068
My comment to her, which will never see the light of day, obviously, …
“Orly, dear deluded Orly;
You’re not important enough for any professional reporting agency to care about, never mind try to fudge.
The idea that NetSol and Alexa are somehow “in on it” is deluded, ridiculous, and paranoid in the extreme. Pretty much you in a nutshell,”
I remain in the school of thought that she *IS* totally insane & mentally ill under any clinical and scientific definition of the term.
There remain folks out there who naively think she is *just* a cynical manipulator and not ACTUAL batsh*t crazy. Wake up folks, she’s as certifiably nuts as they come!
Happy Dodo Day! to the Vattel Birthers. Happy Turkey Day! to Rational People.
The Head Researcher
today’s daily dose of paranoia via the ever-vigilant utter-nutter butterdezillion:
Before I was banned at FreeRepublic, I told Buttedezillion to take all her evidence against Obama to her local Nebraska District Attorney. Convince that person to launch a Grand Jury investigation, and voila, she can help to bring down the usurper. Did she listent to my sage advice? No!
I remember reading you telling all of them to get themselves to a grand jury, but didn’t they give the ever handy birther excuse: “they’re in on it,” or “somebody bought them off,” or myall time favorite, “they’ve been told that they will lose their jobs.” Birfers are crazy and butterdezillion is the queen of crazy over at free republic.
She was a danger to herself.
She was a danger to me — I lived in fear for my life for months while she went on daily rants that often involved talk of killing me (she confused me with my long-dead Dad whom she had loved dearly but had a falling out with some 15 years previously).
And, there were moments when she was a danger to others. I came home one day from a quick trip probably to the grocery store to find that she had extinguished one of the pilot lights on her stove and turned the gas all the way up to high. When I got back the whole building was probably about ready to go up.
Even when I was a kid, she was a danger to everyone in Jackson County the moment she got into her well-dented Oldsmobile. Fortunately she never killed anybody with that vehicle, but she certainly could have. Come to think of it, she came pretty darn close one time to killing me by pulling out onto the main highway while a tractor-trailer was going down it.
If she had been a second earlier, the truck would’ve plowed into the passenger side of the car, right where I was sitting. As it was, the truck had mostly passed, and she rammed the front of her car into the rear corner of the passing truck. What could’ve been a fatality became only minor (albeit visually very prominent) damage to her vehicle.
It was a famous incident which she ever after described as “that time the truck hit me.”
My heartfelt condolences and sympathies to you and your family on the stressful, painful and emotional burden you all had to bear.
The sympathy and condolences are appreciated. It’s not a fresh issue, though, as it’s now been a long time ago. More than 20 years.
I was a young man in my 20s at the time, and the entire burden fell upon me, as she had no other close relatives. If I had had more mature judgment I probably would’ve made the inevitable call that it was time for the nursing home a bit earlier than I did. Still, one does the best that one can under the circumstances, and I’m glad she was able to maintain a bit of independence for as long as possible.
The estimates from such services are extremely rough for low-volume web sites like Orly’s. Plus news feeds and aggregators don’t count. It’s no surprise the numbers are off.
It is possible to add a script to a site that notifies Alexa for every access and in that case the numbers should be accurate. I wouldn’t do that because site ranking isn’t of value for this site. I do have Google Analytics scripting so I can privately track numbers that way.
Wow. John, that is definitely a lot to deal with at such a young age! Thank you for valuing us enough to share such a deeply personal experience. I will definitely reflect upon that throughout the day as I get this holiday chance of good fortune to spend quality time around the dinner table with both of my families.
Such reflection definitely hits home that I have much to be thankful for, in my loved ones that are still with me and in my life. There are currently some serious issues, strifes and other hardships going on in those family situations, which have had quite a few folks, including myself, feeling a bit down as of late. However, just the opportunity to still be together is precious and now I think I can face that with a lighter heart and appreciation just for the mere blessing of being able to gather together with them, period.
Many blessings to you and your family as well this Thanksgiving and of course, to everyone else here on this blog and their families as well.
Of course BD’s idea is total nonsense again. She writes:
“Somebody needs to get Sal Mohamad to sue NH for failure to provide equal protection under the law. If Mohamad paid $1,000 and filed a declaration of candidacy, then he should have been put on the ballot just like Obama”
Well, first, the best thing that could happen in that case is that he gets his $1,000 back with a declaration he should’ve been put on the ballot. Another epic fail for birthers in that case as it gets them nothing.
Second, my understanding of the Sal Mohamad (sp?) case was that he was notified he wouldn’t be eligible so he withdrew (because he didn’t know that).
Third, all this wouldn’t apply to Obama anyway since he was born in Hawaii and not in Egypt (or anywhere else outside the US).
If birthers wanted to be successful, they’d have to find one candidate, anywhere in the US, who was not allowed on the ballot because he didn’t have two citizen parents. Just one. But they know very well they can’t.
Thanks, G! I hope you’re able to get things worked out in your own family. Maybe the holidays can somehow be an opportunity for folks to appreciate that they do have each other.
One thing I try to do whenever I bemoan the negatives in my life is think about other people, even some of the other folks I know who don’t have those particular negatives in their lives.
An awful lot of the time, when I really think about their life and mine, and ask myself whether I would really want to trade places, the answer is no. 🙂
WIse words. Thanks! 🙂
SOME birthers believe the fantasy. Others have deliberately created the fantasy even though they are highly likely to know that it is all based on lies.
It is important to make the distinction. The first group are poor deluded people. The second group are deliberate liars with evil motives.
Point well taken. I completely agree.