Friday, February 10, 2012

Birthers Won't Go Away

One of the reasons I avoid political discussions entirely and I prefer these one way posts where I'm essentially shouting into the wind, is because I'm familiar with much of the political psychology research on the brain's processing of new information as it interacts with ideology. Long story short, ideologues are guilty of internalizing information that coincides with their world view and rejecting all information that is inconsistent with that world view. Conservatives, unsurprisingly, are more guilty of this bias than liberals are, but that shouldn't shock anyone reading my blog. This is why conservatives en masse reject information that contradicts their ideological agenda - tax cuts do not increase government revenues, evolution and global warming is scientifically valid, George W. Bush actually increased the deficit and expanded government spending substantially more than Obama, torture is not an effective means to obtain information from suspected terrorists, etc. Instead, they discount these truths and facts as propaganda tools of the liberal media. Of course, in a world of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and conglomerate ownership of all major media outlets, the existence of a liberal media cabal is pretty laughable. But conservatives cannot, and will not, entertain these alternate truths. Of course, the most vapid example of conservative dissonance is the idea that Barack Obama is not an American citizen. Of course, of the hundreds of thousands of Republicans who think Obama is some kind of Kenyan Muslim plant, none has put forward a compelling origin story that explains this vast conspiracy. Did a mixed-race couple during the very height of the civil rights movement really conceive a child while stationed somewhere abroad in 1961, yet had the foresight at that very moment in political history to plant a story in the both the Honolulu Advertiser and The Star Bulletin announcing the birth? That's pretty prescient. They also had the know-how and political connections, while abroad mind you, to be sure to forge Hawaiian birth certificates just in case their child decided to become America's first black president in 2008. That seems an unreasonably complicated method to go about the process since clearly a couple that was so convinced that their son was going to become President would have found a way for the American-born mother to conceive the child on American soil. It's not like they didn't know when pregnancies came to term in 1961. So why are conservatives so convinced Obama is a foreign national? Race tells part of the story, but not all of it. I mean, hated as they were by conservatives, I've never really seen it suggested that former Democratic presidential candidates Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton were not American citizens. They may not be considered "real Americans," but that is because that distinction is reserved for uneducated white people.
No, the additional factor that convinced conservatives that Barack Obama is not an American citizen, in addition to his race, is clearly his name. I know - pretty stupid right? But his blackness, in concert with his unique name, is enough to convince conservatives of his "otherness". They really don't need anything more than that. I don't think we would be having this discussion all the time if Barack Obama was named Michael Washington. And no amount of evidence will convince conservatives that Obama was born in the U.S. Liberals and rational sane independents may have believed the question of Obama's nationality was to put to rest when he finally released his "long-form birth certificate" - you know, whatever the fuck that is. Well, to some extant, this effort was successful. Before the release of the certificate, only 55% country believed that Obama was born in the United States. That's a pretty pathetic accounting of political knowledge in this country, but at least the number jumped to 67% after he released the document. "Yay for new information! Maybe voters can internalize this stuff!" Of course, that number is already down to 59%, meaning 41% of this country once again isn't sure if Obama was born in the U.S. Sigh. But here's the really crazy fucking number.  According to the same study conducted by Adam Berinsky, the number of Republicans who believe that Barack Obama was born in the U.S. is actually lower now than it was before the release of the birth certificate. 73% of Republicans are either unsure of or actively believe that Barack Obama was born outside of the United States where it was 70% previously. That's an absurd level of craziness, even for the hive-like mind that we call conservative thinking. I want to be clear that I am not being hyperbolic when I say that a democracy cannot function effectively in conditions such as these. People get all upset when 13-year-olds can't tell you who the country's Vice President is but this level of political ignorance is much more dangerous. When such a vast proportion of the American populace (and its elected officials) thinks the commander-in-chief is an illegitimate usurper, those individuals will do anything in their power to grind government to a halt and overthrow the "usurper". This an unsustainable climate for a functional democracy. Unfortunately, I have no idea how it is to be overcome.


  1. Anytime the percentage of people believing something crazy exceeds 27%, I get worried.

  2. In case people don't know what Bondo is talking about, he is referring to the "crazification factor" which you can see here or or

  3. can you put some space in your writing for us readers please?

    bust it up a bit.

    1. You are the second consecutive commenter to mention my lack of paragraphs in my posts. Consider me chastened.

  4. Explain this then Mr. Know-It-All:

    And if I said that verbally you would have realized the tone in my voice was one of sarcasm