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"The modern Republican Party is proving to be quite fertile ground for the birther conspiracists." --Rachel Maddow

"Birthers" is a term used mainly in a derogatory way to describe people who claim that Barack Obama, elected president of the United States in 2008, was not born in the United States and hence was ineligible (by Article Two of the US Constitution) to become president of the United States. Furthermore, Obama knows he is not a U.S. citizen and is part of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the American people that he was elected in violation of the Constitution. (A similar term is "troofer," used as a term of derision to describe those who call themselves 9/11 Truthers and claim that 9/11 was a conspiracy of the Bush administration.) Some birthers, like Orly Taitz, go even further and claim that Obama wouldn't be eligible for the presidency even if he were born in the U.S. because one of his parents wasn't born in the U.S. So what, you might say. But you probably don't know that Swiss philosopher Emerich de Vatte defined a "natural born citizen" in The Law of Nations (1758) as someone whose parents were both born in the country or both citizens of the country or some such important thing. Yes, this is the same Orly Taitz who produced a forged birth certificate that said Obama was born in Kenya. She is the one who calls herself the queen of the birthers.

Two of the earliest fallacies of the birthers, recently reiterated by a professional baseball player to wide media attention, are the argument from ignorance and begging the question: Obama hasn't proved he was born in the United States. Therefore, he wasn't born in the United States. Furthermore, no evidence he or anyone else brings forth can prove he was born in the United States. (The latter claim might also be branded the appeal to the impossible demand. The argument both demands proof and announces that nothing will count as proof.)

scanned copy of Barack Hussein Obama's birth certificate

Click here to see a larger copy of the above scanned copy of Barack Obama's birth certificate. (Click here to see a copy of the long form birth certificate released by the White House on 27 April 2011.) Despite the fact that Obama's birth certificate has been thoroughly investigated and evaluated by the independent Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and deemed authentic, birthers maintain that this certificate is a forgery or not the "real birth certificate." The "real birth certificate" would name the hospital, birth weight of the baby, and the attending physician, we're told. The hospital keeps these "real birth certificates," also called "long forms." Of course, had any long form been produced, it would have been immediately challenged as inauthentic or questions would have been raised about why it took so long to respond. And then the birthers would either have asked once again for "real proof" that Obama was born in the U.S. A. or they would have demanded that he prove something else. Actually, they've already demanded that he prove by his college and university records that he was neither enrolled as nor received financial aid as a "foreign-born student." Of course, if he did, they'd be challenged as forgeries.

Also a forgery and not a "real announcement," they say, is the birth announcement published in the Honolulu Advertiser on Sunday, announcing the birth of Barack Obama13 August 1961. Somebody trying to dig up dirt on Obama found this little clip in the paper. If this isn't a forgery, then it was an announcement placed by his grandparents and the address is an old one the Obamas used to have.

Any reader who is the slightest bit acquainted with the methods of paranoid conspiracy theorists (PCTs) knows that a birther will not accept any document, no matter how thoroughly vetted or how long the form, as an authentic birth certificate of Barack Obama, unless it indicates that he was born in some country other than the United States. One of the more curious behavioral traits of PCTs is that they always follow the same procedure and it always runs in an infinite loop: they demand proof of X and when proof of X is provided, they reject it and reiterate the demand for proof of X or they will now demand proof of Y and repeat the cycle ad nauseam. Furthermore, if proof of X is not delivered immediately, the "delay" is seen as proof of a conspiracy to hide the truth and justification for doubting the authenticity of any evidence eventually presented.

Reasonable people soon recognize that the PCT doesn't really want proof; for, nothing counts as proof in his eyes. What he really wants to do is keep the conspiracy theory alive. This is evident from the fact that the PCT never provides proof himself, but rather offers speculations (he was born in Kenya or while in Indonesia he gave up his U.S. citizenship) based on whatever his imagination can conjure up and continues to machine gun questions about anything that seems odd or strange to him. The absurdity or lack of proof for the speculations will be irrelevant to those already predisposed to dislike, distrust, or hate Obama. "In October of 2008, Rush Limbaugh suggested that Obama's trip to Hawaii to see his dying grandmother might really have been made in order to do some quick forgery. Limbaugh's fellow talk radio host Michael Savage jumped on that bandwagon, too."*

Providing contrary evidence to the speculations only encourages the PCT to dig in deeper and accuse the one bringing in the evidence of being a dupe or part of the conspiracy himself. Anything negative about Obama is accepted uncritically by the faithful who resent the fact that he is their president.

The birthers have been joined by those who "accuse" Obama of being a Muslim. His Christianity was challenged by some birthers and others mainly, it seems, because Obama's father was a Muslim and in the Muslim religion any child born to a Muslim father is automatically a Muslim, or because his stepfather was a Muslim and Obama went to a Muslim school in Indonesia when he was six years old. (He also went to a Catholic school for a couple of years, was a member of a Christian church in Chicago, was married in a Christian ceremony, and raises his children as Christians.) Proving he's a Christian is proving just as difficult as proving he's a citizen. About one-third of conservative Republicans say they think Obama is a Muslim.

Despite the claims of the birthers, their motivation is not to preserve the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution. Their goal is to destroy Barack Obama.

The race of Obama's father is listed on the birth certificate. The fact that Obama has an African father and a white mother (part Irish, I have read) probably explains much of the animosity toward him that is expressed in the phony charge that he isn't a natural born American citizen. One reason many conservatives and Republicans haven't brushed off the birthers is that, despite the fact that they know the birthers' charge is absurd, it provides a constant negative babbling that may harm his presidency. Conservatives have not been secretive about wanting to destroy Obama and block every move he makes as president. Denouncing the birthers is not advantageous to conservatives. A CNN poll conducted in August 2010 found that 41% of Republicans are birthers. (See the Wikipedia article on "Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories" for more details on Republicans and conservatives who have taken advantage of the birthers' claim in an attempt to bring down Obama in press conferences, legal proceedings, and media campaigns. The Wikipedia article provides a thorough history of the birther movement, which will not be repeated here.)

Of course, it is possible that in 1961, Obama's parents went to Kenya or somewhere else not in the United States for their son's birth, but arranged for a fake birth certificate to be filed with the state of Hawaii where they were living at the time. They or somebody equally clever also put an announcement in the Honolulu newspaper about the fake birth. The parents may have had great foresight in seeing that unless they did so, their son could not become president of the United States one glorious day in the distant future when a black man in America would be judged by his character and not by the color of his skin. It's too bad the parents didn't have the foresight to give their son a more Biblical name or to see what kind of people would be active conservatives and Republicans in the early years of the 21st century. They might have saved their son much grief. On the bright side, however, think of all the joy they've brought to complainers, whiners, racists, and political losers whose main goal in life seems to be to complain about "liberals," "foreigners," and "socialists," get rich, start wars, and pay no taxes, all while wrapping themselves in the Constitution or the American flag and singing "God Bless America." At least that's what some people are saying. I don't believe it for a minute, but to be fair and balanced I had to mention it.

The birthers are true patriots who love their country more than they love themselves. I heard that from Glenn Beck, and if you can't trust Glenn Beck or his hero W. Cleon Skousen, both of whom believe that our Constitution was divinely inspired and is in danger of being overthrown by those in power, then who can you trust?

See also 2012 doomsday theories, 9/11 conspiracies, Apollo Moon hoax hoax, belief armor, climate change deniers, HIV/AIDS denial, Holocaust denial, Illuminati, Leonard Horowitz, manufactroversy, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and vaccine conspiracy.

further reading

books and articles

Abanes, Richard. End-Time Visions: The Road to Armageddon (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1998).

Avlon, John. 2010. Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America. Beast Books.

Camp, Gregory S. Selling Fear: Conspiracy Theories and End-Times Paranoia (Baker Book House, 1997).

Coughlin, Paul T. Secrets, Plots & Hidden Agendas: What You Don't Know About Conspiracy Theories (Intervarsity Press, 1999).

Goldwag, Arthur. 2009. Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, The Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Black Helicopters, The New World Order, and many, many more. Vintage.

Hoofnagle, Chris Jay. (2007). The Denialists' Deck of Cards: An Illustrated Taxonomy of Rhetoric Used to Frustrate Consumer Protection Efforts. SSRN.

Hofstadter, Richard. 1964. The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Harper’s Magazine, November. Some things never change. Forty-five years ago, the paranoid right planted the seeds that continue to produce a parade of parrots.

McConnachie, James and Robin Tudge (2008). The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories 2  Rough Guides.

Michaels, David. 2008. Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health. Oxford University Press.

Oreskes, Naomi and Erik M. Conway. 2010. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. Bloomesbury Press.

Pipes, Daniel. Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From (The Free Press, 1997).

Ronson, Jon. 2002. Them: Adventures with Extremists. Simon & Schuster.

Shermer, Michael. 2009. Why People Believe in Conspiracies: A skeptic's take on the public's fascination with disinformation. Scientific American.

Vankin, Jonathan and John Whalen. The Seventy Greatest Conspiracies of All Time: History's Biggest Mysteries, Coverups, and Cabals (Citadel, 1998).


Citizen Obama and Birthers Continue Their Conspiracy Mongering of Obama’s Citizenship from The Skeptical Teacher

Anderson Cooper Shellacks Texas Birther With Torrent Of Facts

'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, July 27, 2009

Salon's handy-dandy guide to refuting the Birthers: Now you, too, can silence the annoying Birther in your life -- and in just eight easy steps!

What is denialism?

McCain's citizenship called into question


'Birther' Polls: Independents Unaffected, Republicans Remain Divided The most recent public polling on the issue shows that, overall, doubts about Obama's birth had been growing glacially at best, and not at all among independents. While the vast majority of Obama supporters and swing voters give the "birther" theories little credence, the controversy sharply divides Republicans.

CNN Proves Birther Conspiracy Is Pure BS

Obama’s ‘Long-Form’ Birth Certificate Released (27 April 2011) Anyone who thinks this is the end of it, isn't thinking. (On May 2nd "birthers" claimed in federal court that the full birth certificate President Obama released last week had been doctored.*) This will just release a tsunami of speculation and invective from the "birthers." To see a copy of the copy, click here.

The White House issued the following statement:

In 2008, in response to media inquiries, the President’s campaign requested his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. The state sent the campaign the President’s birth certificate, the same legal documentation provided to all Hawaiians as proof of birth in state, and the campaign immediately posted it on the internet. That birth certificate can be seen here (PDF).

When any citizen born in Hawaii requests their birth certificate, they receive exactly what the President received. In fact, the document posted on the campaign website is what Hawaiians use to get a driver’s license from the state and the document recognized by the Federal Government and the courts for all legal purposes. That’s because it is the birth certificate. This is not and should not be an open question.

The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country. Therefore, the President directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long form certificate and to request on that basis that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate. They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting. President Barack Obama's long form birth certificate can be seen here (PDF).

Correspondence with the Hawaii State Department of Health can be seen here (PDF).

At a time of great consequence for this country – when we should be debating how we win the future, reduce our deficit, deal with high gas prices, and bring stability to the Middle East, Washington, DC, was once again distracted by a fake issue. The President’s hope is that with this step, we can move on to debating the bigger issues that matter to the American people and the future of the country.

-end of White House statement-

Some see the release of the long form at this point in time as brilliant. "What better way to show how out-of-touch and irrational Republicans are, than to rub this in their face."

Trump To Obama: Now Release Your College Records "I'd like to know how does he get into Harvard, how does he get into Columbia if he isn't a very good student," Donald Trump told the press this morning [27 Apr 2011] in New Hampshire.

Trump had made the birth certificate issue his main media point in his campaign to decide whether to run for president in 2012. It didn't take Trump long to move from Republican class hero to class clown.

Analysis: Obama had no choice in 'birther' fight "A huge segment of the Republican Party, whether or not they concede it or even know it, looks foolish and conspiratorial," said Jim Jordan, a longtime Democratic operative and veteran of numerous political campaigns.

"But also it's likely that this was becoming a genuine distraction, that the question itself was seeping beyond the right fringe of the Republican Party and it was just time to demystify the whole thing."

'Birther' Faces 18 Months in Prison for Refusing Deployment to Afghanistan An Army doctor [Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin] who refused deployment to Afghanistan because he questioned whether President Obama was born in the United States pleaded guilty today for failing to obey orders....Obama was born in Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961....In September, a military judge ruled the president's birth certificate is irrelevant to Lakin's case. As Maureen Dowd put it: "in the end, the court-martial offers one big truth: President Obama doesn’t have to show Terry Lakin anything. The colonel should have followed orders."

Last updated 13-Mar-2015

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