Some Conspiracy Theories More Equal Than Others

AlterNet‘s Liliana Segura has traced (7/28/09) the “nasty little rumor” that “Barack Hussein Obama is not a legitimate president because he is not really an American citizen” from “the early days of the presidential race” to its current status as “a full-blown conspiracy theory” that does “nonetheless enjoy increasingly high-profile political support, and media coverage ‘9/11 truthers’ could only dream of”:

Last week the “birthers” became big news again, after a video emerged showing Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., confronted at a town hall meeting by a woman who angrily accused him of being complicit in the coverup of Obama’s true origins. Castle, who is commonly labeled a “moderate Republican”… seemed genuinely perplexed.

“Well, I don’t know what comment that invites,” he said, to a chorus of boos. “If you’re referring to the president, then he is a citizen of the United States.”

The video of Castle’s unfortunate run-in with the birthers hit YouTube and went viral. MSNBC put the clip on heavy rotation; Hardball host Chris Matthews devoted multiple segments to the topic; on CNN and on his radio show, sneering nativist Lou Dobbs fanned the flames with such remarks as, “What is the deal here? I’m starting to think we have â┚¬Ã‚¦ a document issue,” and on Larry King, Dick Cheney’s increasingly vocal daughter, Liz, shared her highly unempirical view that “one of the reasons you see people so concerned about this” is that “people are uncomfortable with having for the first time ever â┚¬Ã‚¦ a president who seems so reluctant to defend the nation overseas.”

Note how all the airtime given to these crackpots comes despite the fact that, in Segura words, the “conspiracy theory–which holds that Obama was born in Kenya, despite all evidence to the contrary–has long been debunked. The Obama camp released a copy of his birth certificate as early as June 2008, although that only seemed to fan the flames.”