Saturday, September 12, 2009

Trutherism vs Birtherism

'...which one is more believable? For the record, I don’t believe either. But it seems to me the “birther” hypothesis is vastly more plausible than the “truther” hypothesis. Politicians lie to advance their careers. You can look it up. Whole governments rarely orchestrate incredibly complex acts of physics, logistics, and mass murder all the while pinning guilt on others (who boast that they acted alone).'

To enlarge on this point in a way that Jonah doesn't: what is the ultimate importance of the two theories?

Trutherism would have us believe that George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Carl Rove and thousands under them thought invading Afghanistan was so important to them that they risked treason and murder trials. It would have us believe that many thousands of people risked execution to murder fellow citizens en mass to accomplish a zany political goal of some Republican politicians; a goal which nobody could reasonably elucidate. A war for oil? There isn't any in Afghanistan. Strategic interests? To drive a wedge between... Pakistan and Russia? Iran and China? Would people murder (potentially) tens of thousands of Americans on behalf of a plot with such a ludicrous goal? And then keep quiet about it for eight years? To believe all that is to believe your countrymen are obscenely callous, murderous and stupid; That they don't value human life in any way at all; and that they would go along with a scheme which even if successful would bring the country nothing but cost and pain and war. The full import of what trutherism would have you believe about Republican politicians and thousands of federal government employees is staggering.

Birtherism, on the other hand, has miniscule import. Even if ALL the allegations of birtherism are true, virtually nothing would change. Would Obama be forced to resign if it was revealed he was born in Kenya? No. Would most Americans care if it was revealed he wasn't born in Hawaii? No. The worst thing about such a revelation would be the cover-up, but even that would almost certainly not be enough to cause Obama's impeachment. Apart from a few foaming-at-the-mouth blowhards, most people view birtherism as a curious artifact of recent American politics, and nothing more. Is birtherism inherently implausible? No. There is just enough evidence to make it tantalising. But a reasonable person would say that the heavy weight of probability is that Obama was born exactly where he and the government of Hawaii say he was born. Full import of believing in birtherism? Virtually none. Politicians lie all the time, often about trivial things like where they were born. Many people believe politicians are lying whenever they open their mouths. Is Obama like other politicians? Of course. So believing birtherism is both trivial and a commonplace of public discourse in the sense that I've just pointed out.

That is all I'm ever going to say about these issues because I believe firmly that talking about stupid conspiracy theories simply feeds into the extension of their shelf-life.

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