Shouting Into Darkness

The Birther Phenomenon

Posted in Kooky Observations, Political by Chris W. on April 29, 2011

I try not to get too political on people these days, because I’m of the mindset that my opinions on politics, religion and other lofty topics are interesting only to me. Doesn’t help that I also clash with the usual “left vs. right” dichotomy, but really, I think that people who come here want to be entertained. I do that to the best of my abilities, but every now and then, I have a few thoughts on a subject beyond video games and defunct comic books that I think needs to be recorded. This is one of those times.

A few days ago, President Barack Obama released a PDF file of his birth certificate to the media, along with a much-needed plea that the nation simply drop the subject and get on with more important matters. This was in response to a nagging question that never went answered (primarily because most of the world thought it was a dumb question to begin with) regarding the President’s status as a US citizen. Believe it or not, there is a segment of the American population that thinks the entire country has been bamboozled, that the current president was ineligible to be a candidate due to the fact that he was not born in the US. I know a lot of wacked-out conspiracy nutjobs in my personal life, and even they thought that these people needed to get in touch with reality.

The “Birther” movement, as it became known as, reached critical mass when real-estate mogul and reality show personality Donald Trump publicly stated his distrust of the President’s citizenship. You’d never think Donald Trump to be the one to lend credibility to an argument, but there it was. If one of the richest and well-known men in America joins your movement, you’ve just gotten called up to the Major Leagues.

So, the President – begrudgingly, might I add – showed his birth certificate and tried to put the matter to bed. Trump suffered a backlash of mocking in the media and online. (Honestly, if I have to see one more person post “Trump demands to know what country Latifah is the Queen of” and slap their knee, I may have to quit the Internet.) But of course, it still festers on. Some people still aren’t buying Obama’s birth certificate, and it just makes your head hurt. Why, after all this time, is this still a fucking issue?

To most people, it’s not, and that’s the good news. The majority of the country considers Obama just like they would any other president: a man with policies you either agree or disagree with. Even Obama’s staunchest political rivals have to distance themselves from the “Birthers”. Hey, maybe we’ve finally found some common ground to work from! Perhaps the healing can begin…

But to the people who still buy into this conspiracy theory, there are several explanations why. Most of the people I follow on Twitter (read: entertainers and other creative people) try to tie the Birther movement to deep-seated ignorance, gullibility, or even racism. I’m sure there are some who’s distrust in this President’s eligibility is based around one or more of those three things, but for the rest of the Birther movement, I think it goes beyond simple, quantifiable motives.

To me, the Birther movement is no different from the “NASA Faked the Moon Landing” or the “9/11 Truther” conspiracies. They are all conspiracy theories, born out of paranoia and reinforced by how “juicy” the story is. Think of the Obama story as it is now: Man born in Hawaii to poor parents rises up through the ranks of politics, gaining the trust of his fellow man before being bestowed the office of President. Not a bad story, but it’s even better if re-written to read: Man backed by either personal motivation or possibly foreign political influence infiltrates the office of President to pull a giant hoax on the Nation and the World. One of those stories is a feel-good; the other is a summer blockbuster.

I also place some of the blame for this whole Birther phenomenon at the feet of the Watergate scandal. I wasn’t around during Watergate, but I recently got through reading “All the President’s Men,” which is a fascinating account of how the President of the United States could be aware of wrongdoing in his name and try to use campaign funds to cover it all up. Prior to Watergate, it would be inconceivable that someone who possessed the moral core to become President would also be capable of something so underhanded. After Watergate, all bets were off. It was shown that the President could not only be a crook, but he could lie to the entire nation about it and stand a very good chance of getting away with it just because “He’s the President.” The Clinton scandal reinforced this for my generation. The President of the United States could – and did – screw around on his wife while in office and commit perjury to try and cover it up.

If you follow that line of thinking, it’s easy to see how someone with ambitions of being President could be not always forthcoming with the truth.

But what the Watergate and Lewinsky scandals had that the Birther movement doesn’t have is solid evidence to back up the claim. If the Nixon tapes never came to light, Watergate may have ended with H.R. Haldemann and never touched Nixon himself. Without Clinton’s DNA that he lovingly deposited all over the place, his extramarital affair would’ve been a private matter between him and his wife. The Birther Movement have their birth certificate. Unless there’s real evidence to discredit this document, the case is closed in the minds of the greater public. But, as with any conspiracy, you can bet that there will be a steady supply of people ready to buy into it.

So why, in light of near damning evidence to the contrary, do people still believe this hokum? Because they’re delusional, that’s why. The textbook definition of a “delusion” is a belief held in the absence of or in spite of evidence to the contrary. To the delusional person, and this fits for almost all conspiracy theorists, the pre-conceived idea is more important than the truth. Perhaps a big chunk of the individual’s identity rides upon that notion (as is the case with the ultra-religious), perhaps the individual wants to feel a part of the collective, or perhaps he or she just wants to think “alternatively.” There is no penalty for thinking outside the box in this world, but there is a penalty for thinking outside the plane of reality the box exists on.

In conclusion, the Birthers that stick with it after being shown Obama’s birth certificate will probably never let up until Obama is no longer in office and the point becomes moot. But if there are some out there that still are interested in the truth and evidence, the smoking gun (to pull another term from Watergate) is the President’s birth certificate, and you now have it. If you have any better information, we’d all like to hear it, but if not, let’s please drop this silly conspiracy and get down to the real issues at hand. And just so this doesn’t sound like a left-wing attack of the right-wing, I will point out that I’m not a Democrat by any stretch of the imagination, but I won’t do my credibility any good by joining up with the lunatic fringe. There is enough to criticize the President about other than the circumstances of his birth.

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What’s the Deal with Imus?

Posted in Ranting and Raving by Chris W. on April 10, 2007

Well, since the whole friggin’ country is talking about this, so why not jump onto the bandwagon? So, everyone say it with me in your best Jerry Seinfeld impression… What’s the Deal with Don Imus?

You know what the situation surrounding this whole brouhaha is, so I’m not going to repeat it. Seems like everyone is clamoring to have Don Imus removed from the airwaves. But I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate here and ask one question that many people are answering, but I’m not sure if they’re thinking about it: What’s the big fucking deal?

I understand that he used racial epithets against a group of black WNBA players, whom he called “nappy-headed hos”. I’ve listened to the clip in the context of the show, and I’m still perplexed as to why people have an axe to grind against this old fart. Sure, I can see that the phrase can be offensive to some people, and it’s certainly racially and even sexually motivated. But if you listen to the clip in the context of the show, he says it with no malice whatsoever. The phrase originated when Imus compared the two teams, calling one group the dreaded phrase, and the other girls “cute.” He’s making an attempt at a joke. Granted, the joke failed on every count, but honestly, just because he says something that is racially motivated doesn’t mean he’s a Klansman! What he said was, by all accounts, mild. And people with an agenda are trying to use this for their own benefit.

I’ve heard a lot of people try to compare this to what Mel Gibson did a while ago, but they are worlds apart, I believe. What Mel did was to the face of an officer that was arresting him; what Imus did was in the context of a 4 hour entertainment show. I’m sure that none of us have done a 4-hour talk radio show, where you have to turn on the mic and speak off the top of your head and be entertaining all at the same time 5 days out of the week. Does that excuse what Imus did? No. He goofed up, he apologized for it, and that’s all he can do. It’s inevitable in a situation like this that someone’s going to want blood; we just have to chalk that up to human nature. When we’re offended, we want to attack the person who attacked us. However, I fail to see why this is deserving of the nationwide coverage it’s getting. Why are people treating a senile disk jockey who was long past irrelevance saying something racially motivated during the course of his show as the worst thing to happen in broadcasting since Oswald was shot on live TV? I’m going to throw this one out to the jury. Please try and educate me as to why this is such a big deal. I promise to read every single comment made and try to understand the argument, and deal with it in a respectful manner if I don’t happen to agree with it, but I can’t think my way through this one anymore.

One final thought before the games begin: I was listening to the Radio Chick today and their funnyman Chuck Nice made a brilliant point that I want to reiterate here. It’s the perfect litmus test for a racist, especially in the broadcasting field. If, for example, you are talking about rap music or young men involved in crime, and you wind up mentioning black people during the course of your discussion, you are not necessarily a racist because the race is germane to the subject matter! However, if you’re like Mel Gibson and you are talking to an officer of the law, and mention how the Jews are ruining the world right out of the clear blue sky, then it is much harder to defend yourself because the racial material you are bringing to the table is not relevant to the subject, and thus much more hurtful. Based on that idea, what Don Imus did was sexually and racially motivated. He was talking about female basketball players, and the fact that they may or may not be “nappy headed hos” has little to do with them being female basketball players, yet in the context of comparing the two teams, some of the sting comes out.  So he was racist, and he was offensive, and he does deserve some sort of retribution, but is it really worth going after a fly with a SCUD missile?

Addendum: Well, this is all a moot point, isn’t it? While I was trying to get my act together and put this blog post up, CBS and MSNBC canned Imus’ wrinkly old ass. While I’m glad that the bigwigs had the guts to make a decision and not leave him twisting in the wind, I’ve got the feeling that this was a very “cut-and-run” decision. Imus became a distraction so they decided to just drop him and get away from this negative spotlight as soon as possible. If you’re one of the people who wanted Imus’ head on a platter, congratulations, that’s what you got. I don’t have a dog in this fight, so I don’t care. But I will ask this: do you think there will be any progress now that the scapegoat has been terminated? Sure, the world can now move on, but what about the next time? All this little incident has done is stirred up the country and scared the living hell out of the broadcasting community to the point where anyone mentioning race for the next month will be suspended or fired. But there is no real progress, no lesson learned, no feelings understood. And a few years from now, it’ll happen again. Mark my words…

P.S. The real hero in this whole ordeal is a small town DJ (I forget from where) that thought that it’d be a funny idea to make “nappy headed ho” the Phrase That Pays for that day, fully aware of the hubbub it caused Imus. He was immediately fired. I think I can speak for everyone when i say “Bravo, dude. Bra-vo.”

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