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article imageOp-Ed: The Obama 'birther' nonsense explained

By Alexander Baron     May 25, 2012 in Politics
Recently there has been another outburst of silliness from the 'birther' crowd, some of whom suspect, others of whom insist, that Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii and is not eligible to be President of the United States. What is behind this?
Some say racism, but there are of course some people - by no means all of them black - who find racism everywhere and in everything. There is a simple word to explain what is behind it - gullibility. As might be suspected, the explanation for this gullibility is far from simple, but here is an attempt to explain it.
If anyone still has any doubts about Obama's birth certificate, the $64 million question is why has Mitt Romney not attempted to make any capital out of this issue? The answer is obvious: whether or not Romney would be fit to govern America, he is no fool, and obviously realises the whole thing is stuff and nonsense, but don't think for one moment his campaign won't have checked it out very carefully anyway.
It was Mark Twain who made the observation that a lie can travel half way round the world while the truth is still lacing up its boots, or words to that effect. He died in 1910, but although the first trans-Atlantic telephone call would not be made for another 16 years, cable services had long been established, and even relatively unimportant news would be reported from the other side of the world in a day or two. Nowadays of course, billions of people can transmit news in the blink of an eye, literally.
This means that even with the best will in the world - which is not always present - errors both trivial and great will be transmitted across the world, and once the genie is out of the bottle there is often no containing it. The truth about Obama's birth certificate has long been established, including the plausible but incorrect stories about the White House putting a fake on the web. You can read the truth about this here. As stated, the main reason people continue to believe this birther nonsense is gullibility, and the sad thing is that most of these people think they are so smart.
It is true that reports from apparently reliable sources have claimed Obama was born in Kenya, but the important word here is apparently. Although Obama has never lied about his place of birth, others have.
Singer-songwriter Ian Dury claimed to have been an Essex lad. He was actually born in Harrow, a town which has a far from working class image. Phil Lynott lied about his place of birth, his age, and his father. In spite of his thick Irish brogue he was actually born in England. Early on in his career, Chuck Berry lied about both his age and his place of birth. In 1955, the year he broke through with Maybellene, he was a married man with a young daughter and nearly 30 years old. Like the other founder of rock 'n' roll, Bill Haley, he was anything but a teen idol.
It is certainly possible that sloppy journalism and poor research could have led innocently to people believing that Obama was born in Kenya. How about this for Chinese whispers?
Barack, that's not an American name.
No, my Dad is from Kenya.
I spoke to that new guy Obama yesterday. His father is from Kenya, though he has an American accent.
Oh yes, Obama, his father has an American accent but is actually from Kenya.
Obama, yeah I haven't met him but he's not Irish, he was actually born in Kenya.
And so on.
Although a British citizen, the impeccably English Richard Dawkins was born in Kenya; Irish singer-songwriter Chris de Burgh was born in Argentina - his mother was Irish and his father a British diplomat. It doesn't take much imagination to realise that even in the age of the Internet, someone writing an article about any of the above may simply assume he was born in England in the case of Dawkins, Ireland in the case of de Burgh, or that the Welsh speaking Prime Minister of England David Lloyd George was actually born somewhere in Wales rather than Manchester.
So what should we rely on when it comes to births? A birth certificate is a legal document, and unless there is a very good reason, it trumps all others. For example, the serial killer John Reginald Halliday Christie was born April 8, 1899. That is the date on his birth certificate, which as Jonathan Oates will tell you, is held by the British national archive, the Public Record Office, at Kew. On the other hand, Christie's criminal record gives his year of birth as 1898. Obviously the birth certificate is correct; it is quite likely Christie lied about his age because he was slightly younger than his wife Ethel, and was embarrassed by or even ashamed of this for reasons best known to himself. Though he had no qualms about murdering her and five other women.
Regardless of how many thoughtless people, cranks, journalists, mystics, or Obama's political enemies write, say or otherwise claim he was not born in Hawaii, his birth certificate trumps the lot. To take a slightly off-beat comparison, no matter how many dupes, anti-death penalty supporters or accomplished women Clive Stafford Smith and his gang recruit to proclaim the innocence of Linda Carty, the jury verdict and the findings of fact of the American appellate courts trump the lot. Recruiting a mob or collecting a million signatures through an on-line petition that proclaims Obama was born in Kenya or that Rome is the capital of Portugal does not make it so.
All politicians - certainly those who reach Obama's heights - are the targets of scurrilous rumours and at times nonsense. Although they often have to grin and bear it, there are limits, and no responsible mainstream media outlet would make serious allegations against a politician, certainly concerning his personal life, without hard evidence. When people like David Icke hear these rumours and see the mainstream media avoiding them like the plague, they believe they have found a conspiracy. Having more courage than common sense, they will at times embark on some sort of crusade without properly investigating the prosaic facts, and they end up looking stupid, although in their own eyes they are anything but. This is the case with the vast majority of 9/11 Truthers. A consequence of this tunnel vision, intransigence and at times sheer stupidity is a total refusal to examine the facts, while anyone who opposes them becomes in their eyes a disinformation shill, paid or otherwise, of this non-existent conspiracy.
Obama is a much bigger target than any former president because he is all things to all men. To the Nazis and fellow travellers he is a puppet of the Jews, as were all presidents before him. To the Christian Zionists he is a closet Moslem who is selling out their beloved Israel; to Al-Qaeda he is an apostate with a price on his head. To the Libertarians he is the man who wants to socialise medicine; to Alex Jones he is a front for the banksters; to others he is a fascist who has destroyed the Constitution; while to black radicals, he is an Uncle Tom who has sold out to the white establishment. Whatever he does, the poor bloke can't win.
These then are the reasons - some of them! - the birther lunacy will continue, and no amount of evidence will convince the faithful otherwise.
Finally, it is not only births that can be shrouded in mystery - genuine or contrived. Linda Eastman was the first wife of the multi-talented Paul McCartney. In 1995, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and as with Steve Jobs, neither her great wealth nor her vegetarianism could stave off her premature death, at the age of 56.
According to the Daily Mail of April 24, 1998, she died at the family ranch in Arizona, but McCartney's publicist Geoff Baker said they had put out a story that she died at Santa Barbara to prevent “a media stampede”.
There have also been many false reports of people's deaths, though generally only those who have achieved either some sort of fame or notoriety make the headlines. Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and the somewhat older Alice Cooper have all been reported dead at one time, and at the time of writing, all are still with us. Having said that, there will always be someone somewhere who will come up with some outlandish theory that say the real Alice Cooper really is dead, and that he has been substituted by a clone for some sinister reason, perhaps to further the designs of the Grand Conspiracy, to corrupt the morals of the young, even though nowadays he spends more time playing golf than brainwashing the young with subliminal messages in his stage performances.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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