Birthers Go Bonzo – Is It Bedtime?

Last week was the 40th. anniversary of the first moon landing. So, on CNN, Jim Clancy had the MythBusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman as guests to talk about their episode in which they debunk the "Moonlanders" claims that the landings were nothing more than a hoax, perpetrated by the U.S. government for propaganda. During the interview, Clancy showed a clip from the 2004 film Astronauts Gone Wild by independent film maker, Fox News guest, and famous Moonlander conspiracy theorist Bert Silbrel.

In the film clip, Silbrel confronts astronaut Buzz Aldrin at a hotel in Beverly Hills, calling him a "coward, liar and a thief…" At which point Aldrin famously clocks the man. Punching Silbrel squarely in the side of the jaw. Silbrel later sued Aldrin. A judge threw the claim out stating Silbrel had it coming. 
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2009/07/20/bs.mythbusters.apollo.cnn?iref=videosearch

Nonetheless, like the 9/11 conspiracy theorists that claim the U.S. attacked the World Trade Towers, the Moonlanders will never be convinced that on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

Now we have a new group of conspiracy theorist known as the "Birthers." These are the folks that believe president Obama was actually born in Kenya, not Hawaii. They have built their whole argument around the belief that Obama has not provided legal proof of his birth certificate.

Over the last year, I have had an ongoing conversation with one such rightwing writer. In one article, he pretty much laid out much of the Birthers claims,

"… Obama has not however, ever produced a legal birth certificate. The only document ever produced is called a "Certificate of Live Birth" which is not a legal and binding document because it does not: 1) identify the exact location of the birth such as a hospital or clinic and 2) contain the signature of the doctor present at delivery. Any document labeled as a "Certificate of Live Birth" is not considered valid because they are not accepted when applying for a U. S. Passport or other government issued identification. Argue semantics all you want, but try to get a driver’s license with a "Certificate of Live Birth" and see how far you get. Finally, if the document that has been floated around the Internet is a true and exact copy of Obama’s Birth Certificate, then why is the document number redacted? It certainly does leave a cloud of suspicion and has served only to fan the flames of conspiracy theorists around the country – especially those who do not like Obama. Why not just produce the actual Birth Certificate and call it a day? What’s so hard about that? Unless Obama is trying to hide something else that could be embarrassing to him…" 

Yet the two most reputable nonpartisan online political fact checking organizations, FactCheck.org and Politifact.com have both extensively looked into the issue:

"The document is a "certification of birth," also known as a short-form birth certificate. The long form is drawn up by the hospital and includes additional information such as birth weight and parents’ hometowns. The short form is printed by the state and draws from a database with fewer details. The Hawaii Department of Health’s birth record request form does not give the option to request a photocopy of your long-form birth certificate, but their short form has enough information to be acceptable to the State Department. We tried to ask the Hawaii DOH why they only offer the short form, among other questions, but they have not given a response." 
http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/born_in_the_usa.html

Both the Governor and the Secretary of the State of Hawaii agree the short-form document is the legal document provided to the U.S. State Department for the purpose of obtaining a valid U.S. passport, drivers license, whatever. And yet, when presented with the facts, my rightwing writer pushed on with this response,

"I also did some checking (including your same sources), and the fact remains that the document presented is *NOT* official for obtaining such items as a passport or other government-issued identification. Sorry, but when asked the State Department actually replied that the official Birth Certificate containing the official state seal is the only accepted document and the one that the Obama campaign presented is not acceptable because it does not have the seal. I know this because I applied for a passport and was told that the document has to be an actual birth certificate with the state seal (meaning I have to go back to the state where I was born — which thankfully isn’t California — and get a real birth certificate). And since Obama’s doesn’t have a raised seal it is not official."

However, I pointed out, that the FactCheck.com research did in fact show photos of the raised seal, the redacted number, the back side of the document with the city of Honolulu and the official doctors signature. Regardless, none of these things seem to change the mind of my rightwing friend.

It is interesting to look at how this whole Birther movement came about. Politifact.org states that the birth issue first picked up steam last year during the run up to the election, when e-mail chain letters began to suggest Obama was a secret Muslim. Many of these letters reflected racist, xenophobic and bigoted comments.

In response to all the wild claims circulating around the blogosphere, the Obama campaign released a copy of the "Certificate of Live Birth" provided to him by the state of Hawaii and which he used to obtain his passport. The rightwing conspiracy theorists immediately sprung into action. Here is how Politifact.com explains the spread of the Birthers,

"It started as a whisper, a trickle of nagging doubt.

"As a concerned citizen, I’m wondering if there isn’t something fishy going on with the Obama certificate."

"I have serious doubts about the purported ‘birth certificate’ you were sent."

"Something doesn’t smell right."

Soon, e-mails and blog posts were flying. As the pace quickened, the tone sharpened.

"You should be apologizing … for your misinformation regarding BO bogus birth certificate, that you claimed was genuine!"

At full throttle, the accusations are explosive and unrelenting, the writers emboldened by the anonymity and reach of the Internet.

And you can’t help but ask: How do you prove something to people who come to the facts believing, out of fear or hatred or maybe just partisanship, that they’re being tricked?" http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2008/jun/27/obamas-birth-certificate-part-ii/

And there you have it, many of the Birthers are coming from a place of "fear or hatred or maybe just partisanship," according to Politifact.com. Looking back at the writings of my rightwing friend, I recall a time last year when Obama was about to win the Democrat Party nomination and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg wrote an op-ed piece endorsing Obama. I think my rightwing friend’s (time relevant) published opinion article reflected much of what Politifact.com was talking about. Here is a small excerpt of a letter he published in response to Ms. Schlossberg’s endorsement,

"… Alas, Sweet Caroline, you know not your father. For if you did, you would have not only turned away from Obama, you would have begged all of America to follow. Your voice had the power to spare America the beast that is Obama."

But you have not deceived me. For I know the beast that is Barack Obama. He has vanquished all truth from the American media. He has managed in every way to convince the American media that he is the rightful heir to the Oval Office…"

What is scary is that his kind of rhetoric resonates with enough people that it has expanded beyond folks like my writer friend, G. Gordon Liddy, and Lou Dobbs, but into the bloodstream of Republican Party legislators and supporters. Many are now questioning whether Obama was actually born in Hawaii. In fact, nine Republican congressman are now supporting the so called Birther bill, proposed by freshman Florida congressman Bill Posey. Here is a summary of the bill,

"H.R. 1503. A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the principal campaign committee of a candidate for election to the office of President to include with the committee’s statement of organization a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate, together with such other documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications for eligibility to the Office of President under the Constitution; to the Committee on House Administration." http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0309/Birther_bill_hits_Congress.html

Additionally, a member of the U.S. military has now used the Birther conspiracy theory to justify not serving. In a lawsuit, Major Stefan F. Cook’s claims,

"…enjoin Defendants Robert M. Gates, as well as Colonels Louis B. Wingate, Wanda L. Good and Thomas D. MacDonald from issuing any order to Plaintiff or any other officers persons similarly situated to Afghanistan or anywhere on active duty until such time as the constitutional qualifications and eligibility of Barack Hussein Obama to serve as President and Commander and Chief [sic] have been established by clear and convincing evidence…From Plaintiff Major Cook’s standpoint, if the history of World War II and the Nuremberg Trials teaches us anything, it is that no military officer should ever rely on "apparent" authority or "facial" legitimacy of orders." http://media.tbo.com/pdf/072109cookvsimtech.pdf

Like my rightwing writer friend calling Obama a "beast," Major Cook likens his decision not to serve to a German soldier during World War II refusing to serve in Hitler’s army. 

Remember, Politifact.org says that the Birther movement comes out of , "fear or hatred or maybe just partisanship." Well, sometimes I find the best way to counter fear, hatred, and partisanship is a little comedy. So, I will leave you with a video clip of Ali G. interviewing American astronaut Buzz Aldrin,

A.G.: We know you must of been asked this a zillion times, with people coming up to you, so it must get up in your tits, but let’s just sorts this out, what do you say to all those conspiracy theorist that come up to you and say, does the moon really exist?

B.A: I don’t think there are very many people that question whether the moon really exists. It exists.

A.G.: Alright you’s heard it here. It does exist. So all those people out there saying it don’t exist is wrong.

B.A.: That’s right. The moon does exist and we went there.

A.G.: Yo, Listen Up! But how do we know what exist and what is the conspiracy things because I know I have seen a picture of J. Lo, apparently it weren’t true?

B.A.: Ah, I haven’t seen that picture.

A.G.: Well you should check it out. It’s amazing. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTKedyQQkZQ&NR=1

Dean Walker