Friday, December 04, 2009

The Born Insanity


As much as it shouldn't -- as much as I should just chalk it up to a brand of delusion that I'll never be able to successfully confront and vanquish -- for some reason the Sarah Palin Birther thing has been bugging the hell out of me.

I get that Palin is doing little more than playing to her audience; she has, after all, become admirably virtuoso at knowing exactly what to say to her core constituency of resentful, white middle-American doofuses to make them shower her with money and hold her up as some sort of messiah. In that respect, she really does deserve a certain amount of deference from the cynical among the population who purport to know better; she's a bit of hucksterist performance art that even Andy Kaufman wouldn't have been able to pull off. But the thought of Palin -- who opportunist or not has never been the highest-caliber rifle on the rack -- really giving credence to and therefore perpetuating the utterly debunked myth that Barack Obama may not be a U.S. citizen somehow seems, even after all we've seen and heard from her, oddly unfathomable.

I shouldn't be shocked by it -- and yet I am.

But I'm not sure whether it boggles my mind that Palin in particular is ramping up the baseless, paranoid hysteria about the national origins of a sitting President of the United States, or simply the fact that these accusations are still being hurled -- the accusers still indignantly demanding satisfaction -- almost a full year into that president's tenure. For the record, the supposed question of the legitimacy of Barack Obama's birth certificate was settled, for anyone paying attention, in August of last year. That's when staffers from the Annenberg Political Fact Check, a strictly non-partisan organization, set out to either prove or debunk the rumor that Obama wasn't born in the United States and reported that they had "seen, touched, examined and photographed" his original birth certificate, complete with raised seal and a stamp from the Hawaii state registrar.

Obviously, this fact -- and that's what it is, for those who still recognize such notions, a fact -- has never been enough to deter the rabid True Believers in the illegitimacy of Barack Obama. Equally obviously, this is because they want more than anything for their delusion to be true; they know that Obama's a foreign socialist, Marxist interloper who's come to indoctrinate and enslave America's children and kill all our grandmas, even if they can't prove it -- and what that does is create a cognitive dissonance so great, even among people who don't have a whole lot going on cognitively, that to reconcile it they have to create a bulletproof rationale that will buttress their paranoia. No one -- not even one of those people waiting in line to see Sarah Palin who couldn't name any specific policy she espoused -- wants to admit that he or she is a blithering idiot. Ask any Birther one-on-one about the supposed Obama nationality "controversy" and he or she will often launch into a calm and very serious-sounding speech casting half-truths, wild speculation, conspiracy theory and plain old wishful thinking as fact; it'll sound completely reasonable except for being thoroughly devoid of reason.

I once mentioned a quote by Christopher Hitchens that I love; it was in reference to religion and faith but, not coincidentally, can easily be applied to any argument based on something other than solid fact: "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." In other words, from a logical standpoint anyway, it's easy to refute the ramblings of the implacably faithful -- whether their cause is God or the intransigent belief that the President of the United States isn't a U.S. citizen -- because you don't really have to. You have no responsibility to say anything more than, "Your point doesn't deserve consideration because you haven't proven it and likely never will."

But these people -- the Birthers -- aren't dealing in logic. That means any attempt to argue with them is an utterly futile gesture. And that means these ridiculous claims will never stop because all they need to flourish is a group of people dumb enough to believe them against all contrary evidence.

And someone like Sarah Palin to tell those people that they're not crazy.

11 comments:

Kara said...

Well, when you already believe the earth is a few thousand years old - why start with logic and fact now?

idahovic said...

Your post is an accurate assessment of the current situation. I would note, however, that shotguns don’t have calibers. They have gauges.

david said...

I couldn't resist...

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/42384

Chez said...

Absolutely right, Idahovic. My brain fart. Thanks -- I'll correct.

Anonymous said...

This is probably a good thing actually. I know it makes you want to smack your head against your desk for the swan song of rational thought it denotes but she's only further marginalizing her standing with the country as a whole. Granted it seems hard to ignore since they're a rather vocal minority but a minority all the same. If the GOP really is planning on having her run against Obama in 2012 they're basically handing him another victory.

In fact its pretty unlikely she's going to go away on her own and will try to run regardless of whether or not she wins the republican primary. She's a "rogue" remember? Arguably that would be even better since it'd only split the party between a more rational (read: less stupid and crazy), traditional candidate and the hardcore bible-thumping mouth breathers. Depending on your perspective McCain plucking her ass out of obscurity to help him lose the election might be the best/worst thing that has happened to the Republican party in decades.

Tim said...

It may just because this is the first election cycle I've really ever paid attention to, but has american politics always been this based on messianic figures? It seems to me that the Democrats won in large part because they offered their savior the presidency, whereas the republicans made theirs play second fiddle.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 7:24pm: Basically, Palin is Marcia Gay Harden in The Mist. Don't count her out just because she's completely full of shit. Presidents have been elected and re-elected on bigger, more widely-believed, more damaging lies than "the President was born in Kenya."

If she runs, she's going to run on the platform of (assuming Obama's presidency keeps going at its current rate) "I'll do what you want me to do!" And since her fanbase (because that's what they are) all want the same thing, she'll be able to do it.

My guess is, she's not going to get the Republican nod and run as an independent. Which makes me start to believe the Mayans.

Matt Osborne said...

Like I keep saying, Chez: DO NOT ENGAGE THE CRAZY.

Anon said...

To quote Simon and Garfunkel;

"Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest"
-The Boxer

The birther movement strikes me as all of the hidden racism towards Obama being gathered into a movement, under the guise of another issue. The birthers in truth can't stand the fact that a black man is now in the highest office, but rather than say what they're really thinking and bear public scorn, they latch on to the next least scornable thing.

Anonymous said...

While we're working on corrections...

"therefore perpetuating the utterly debunked myth that Barack Obama may not be a U.S. citizen "

"Birthers" don't argue that he's not citizen, just not a "natural born citizen" of the United States, as defined by the Constitution.

Chez said...

Way to split hairs there, Anon.