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Birthers and sceptics

August 1st, 2009

The Internets are buzzing with the latest survey showing, among other things, Republicans are split on the Birther issue with only 47 per cent accepting the claim that Obama was born in the US. That’s almost exactly equal to the 48 per cent who agree that global warming exists – it’s evident from the public debate that the overlap between Birthers and opponents of AGW is very high ).

But I wouldn’t want to give the impression that over 50 per cent of Republicans are conspiracy theorists who believe in a secret plot to impose a Kenyan-socialist dictatorship as part of the UN/IPCC system of world government. On the contrary, the proportion is only about 25 per cent (more in the South). As on the global warming issue, the balance of opinion within the Republican Party holds to the sensible “sceptical” position: the science isn’t settled, the birth records are unclear, sightings of black helicopters need further investigation and so on. That’s good to know.

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  1. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    August 1st, 2009 at 11:59 | #1

    Apparently George Bush II organised those airplanes that collided with with the World Trade Centre.

  2. jquiggin
    August 1st, 2009 at 12:12 | #2

    Terje, I believe you can find people (PrisonPlanet for example) who back the trifecta.

    BTW, let me announce now that any comments advocating Birtherism, Trutherism or AGW delusionism will be deleted.

    If anyone wants to defend the “sceptical” position as a reasonable response to uncertainty, or to suggest that there is some fundamental difference between the different conspiracy-theoretic claims discussed above, they are welcome to do so, even though this position is arguably more delusional than outright delusionism.

  3. Joseph Clark
    August 1st, 2009 at 12:39 | #3

    Still more Republicans believe the requirement for being a natural born citizen should be removed to allow people like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Daniel Hannan in. Those crazy Republicans!

  4. Ken Miles
    August 1st, 2009 at 12:48 | #4

    There is a repulsive anti Semetic Kiwi mag called Uncensored that is big on 911 theories and AGW scepticism (David Evens has an article in there). I’m not sure about their position on the birth cert but it sounds like something that they would love.

  5. jquiggin
    August 1st, 2009 at 12:58 | #5

    Joseph, you can fool most of the Republicans all of the time, and all of the Republicans most of the time, but, as your example indicates …

  6. Fran Barlow
    August 1st, 2009 at 14:37 | #6

    It is very sad. The antics of the ‘birthers’ reflect very poorly on Americans as a whole. It very much reinforces perrceptions of Americans as being variously unhinged, bigoted, paranoid and obsessed with nonsense. When Obama was elected, America’s standing in the rest of the world went up enormously. His election suggested that the country had taken a bold step forward. They had just elected a man of intelligence and humanity, notwithstanding that he was of African descent.

    There are some people (unfortunately quite a few) for whom the idea of having a President who is both liberal and black is anathema and who’d prefer the rest of the world to see them as a bunch of moronic rednecks. It’s hard to fathom.

    I read that 73% of Republicans, 61% of Independents and even 58% of Democrats believed the biblical creation story was literally true.

    and 81% overall (and even 68% of postgrads) believe that the bible is literally true or ‘inspired by god’

    It’s hardly surprising that in a setting such as this, whacky conspiracy theories and bigotry are rife and that it’s going to take a very long time before the more unreconstructed sections of the populace are dragged kicking and screaming to modernity.

    Fran

  7. jquiggin
    August 1st, 2009 at 14:43 | #7

    Fran, those figures on creationism are for regular churchgoers only. The figures for the general population are 57-41-44, alarming but not quite as bad. And it’s not as though the rest of the world is free of silly beliefs. Take out the Republican base and the South (overlapping groups) and Americans look much like the rest of the world.

  8. ken
    August 1st, 2009 at 14:49 | #8

    I’m sceptical about that research (though not about AGW or Obama’s birthplace). That more than 50% of Republicans believe he was not US born or did not know, just does no smell right. It is always reassuring when your opponents say something stupid but that’s the very situation to which you should apply your sense of doubt. The Daily Kos, which commissioned the work is an organ always glad to find evidence that Republicans have an IQ less than their body temperature. Research 2000 is an organisation specialising in advocacy research for groups and companies. I’d like to see the work done again by another research house before I believed it.

  9. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 16:07 | #9

    Ken, are you saying Republicans believe Obama was born in the Kingdom of Hawaii?

  10. ken
    August 1st, 2009 at 16:25 | #10

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    I believe that the great majority of Republicans accept he was born where his birth certificate says.
    Some believe otherwise, no doubt.
    Some Democrats, though not a majority, believe Bush was a thorough-going tool of the religious right.
    The great majority of Americans (and Australians and British and even Italians) are rational and sensible. Even when they disagree with me ie when they are wrong.
    Funny old world innit? But, reassuring in a way.

  11. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 16:37 | #11

    Ken, I’m a bit slow these days but explain to me why 47% of Republicans cannot get it wright as to where Obama was not born.

  12. August 1st, 2009 at 16:38 | #12

    @Joseph Clark

    “Still more Republicans believe the requirement for being a natural born citizen [to be eligible as US President] should be removed to allow people like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Daniel Hannan in”.

    Look again; that’s not the requirement. The requirement is being a natural born citizen or a citizen at the time of the adoption of the US Constitution. So all they have to do is re-adopt it, or claim that Schwarzenegger was actually that old but that records had been lost. Or I suppose they could claim that as at the date of Schwarzenegger’s birth, Austria was sufficiently a US possession by virtue of the post-war joint occupation – even though his birthplace was in the British zone (the same get out that allowed John McCain to qualify despite being born in the US-occupied part of Panama).

    If all else failed, there’s the old dodge of passing a constitution interpretation act, with e.g. “…for the purposes of interpreting this clause of the constitution all US citizens who are not otherwise ineligible shall be deemed to have been US citizens at all dates prior to their birth and and to be such at all dates subsequent to their death…”.

  13. ken
    August 1st, 2009 at 16:49 | #13

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    Michael, I won’t try to explain because I don’t believe it is true. Opinion polling is not a very exact science. This one is (at least to a person with reasonably independent political views) unbelievable and therefore probably wrong. Most people who use opinion or buying or voter intention polling will when faced with a report that seems wrong (or too good to be true) repeat it. The exceptions are those who are not going to act on the research but use it for advocacy or to get a good story.

  14. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 17:14 | #14

    No Ken, the poll does not explain why 47% of Republicans believe Obama was not born in the USA. Tell me as to why so many Republicans have got it wrong for I’m really really interested in knowing the truth.

  15. ken
    August 1st, 2009 at 17:22 | #15

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    1. The poll figures for Republicans was 42% believed Obama was born in the US, 28% believed he was not and 30% said they did not know.
    2. I do not believe these figures accurately represent the beliefs of Republicans, for the reasons I gave in my last comment.

    Beyond that, I can’t help you in your search for the truth.

  16. El Mono
    August 1st, 2009 at 17:39 | #16

    Fran There is a huge difference between believing the bible is literally true and that it is inspired by God. Belief that that the Bible is somewhat inspired by God would be a pre requisite for being chrisitian and not all christians take the bible literally.

  17. John Quiggin
    August 1st, 2009 at 17:41 | #17

    @ken
    “I believe that the great majority of Republicans accept he was born where his birth certificate says.”

    “Some Democrats, though not a majority, believe Bush was a thorough-going tool of the religious right.”

    Apples and exploding clockwork oranges here, Ken. The first issue is one of fact, both as to Obama’s birth and as to your doubt in the accuracy of the polling data. Anyone who holds doubts on the birthplace fact is clearly allowing political animus to lead them into delusion. Since the majority of Republicans hold delusional beliefs on a range of issues (AGW is noted in the post), I don’t have any particular reason to doubt the poll results, but we can wait for more data.

    The second is a political judgement. If you took Bush at his word, you would conclude that he was indeed a tool of the religious right. If you assumed that he was a typical Republican politician, you would conclude that he was hypocritically posing as a religious rightist in order to pursue the interests of the wealthy. I agree with you and with most Democrats, that the latter view is more plausible, but it’s a matter of judgement.

  18. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 17:45 | #18

    Ken, I’m a bit thick these days but I would really like to know the reason as to why only 28% of Republican respondents know where their President was born.

  19. ken
    August 1st, 2009 at 17:52 | #19

    “Since the majority of Republicans hold delusional beliefs on a range of issues (AGW is noted in the post), I don’t have any particular reason to doubt the poll results.”

    Oh, wow, JQ you would fail your students if they made such a leaping inference .

    And Michael I realize you are pretending to be obtuse. I am sure you are not.

  20. Fran Barlow
    August 1st, 2009 at 18:06 | #20

    @El Mono

    It’s a nuance — both assume the existence of god manifest in human conduct. Given the question of agency, the inspired by god formulation is simply cover for the literal view.

  21. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 18:09 | #21

    Ken, I’m flabbergast to know that the majority of Republicans don’t know where their President was born for if you ask any Labor supporter the same question about where John Howard was born they would say he was a cockroach.

  22. Fran Barlow
    August 1st, 2009 at 19:05 | #22

    JQ

    Republicans, Dems & Indies on creation

    Only 17% of democrats and 19% of Indies say god had no part … hmmm

  23. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 19:17 | #23

    Ken, I’ve given you the opportunity to correct me but if 58% of Republican respondents have no idea where Obama was born (even with plus/minus 5% error) then there is something drastically wrong.

  24. Jill Rush
    August 1st, 2009 at 19:38 | #24

    So Ken. That means that we need to assess the evidence on the balance of probabilities. Is it likely? Unfortunately, yes. Are the figures exact? Probably no. Are they a near approximation? All too likely.

  25. ken
    August 1st, 2009 at 19:46 | #25

    OK, whatever you all think.

  26. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 19:56 | #26

    Ken, if you look closely as to where the respondents come from, you will notice a close correlation between the outcome of the poll and respondents from the South. But I still would like to know the reason as to why so many from the South do not know where their President was born.

  27. charles
    August 1st, 2009 at 20:03 | #27

    It’s all you get on the news channels, I now understand why the comedians are getting more respect when it comes to news reporting. Bill Maher summered it up, the dumb are talking to the dumb.

  28. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 20:06 | #28

    Charles, I’m a bit slow these days so tell me the reason as to why so many from the South do not know where their President was born.

  29. August 1st, 2009 at 20:16 | #29

    Failure to present a birth certificate is fuelling much of the speculation.
    The number of people who believe Obama is a natural born US citizen will increase dramatically were he to produce his birth certificate. To date Obama has declined to produce his birth certificate.

    The disqualification steed has well & truly bolted. It doesn’t matter where he was born, or what citizenship he was born with. He is now the democratically elected president. End-of-story.

  30. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 20:20 | #30

    Steve at the Pub, maybe you can answer my question for I am a bit thick as to the reason why so many from the South do not know where their President was born.

  31. jquiggin
    August 1st, 2009 at 20:30 | #31

    @Steve at the Pub
    There you are Ken. Even Australian Repug supporters are Birthers/sceptics. And so are most Republican members of Congress.

  32. Alice
    August 1st, 2009 at 20:45 | #32

    So capital D for Denial seems to be the main republican policy… well thats interesting. Have they got any policies that arent in denial is a more pertinent question. I think the answer is D on the multiple choice question – Does any policy need changing? D) = deny all of the above.

  33. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 20:53 | #33

    Alice, this is more than denial for TerjeP (say tay-a), Ken, or Steve at the pub have something in common with many from the South.

  34. August 1st, 2009 at 21:07 | #34

    Micheal of Summer Hill, most of what you type here shows you ain’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but you can stop with the implication I believe Obama is or is not born anywhere. Read for comprehension.

    JQ, read for comprehension. I have not suggested that I believe or believe anything about Obama’s birthplace/citizenship, (or that I am a republican or monarchist)

  35. Alice
    August 1st, 2009 at 21:22 | #35

    Ok Michael – The hypothesis here is that republicans deny facts more often than other parties – the null hypothesis is they dont. Steve adds to the case for rejection of the null for in the one post he manages to deny any relationship between his understanding of where Obama was born and his ability to gather facts due to immediacy of a reasonable google answer in the electronic world, by virture of sheer numbers.

    Is that a hands off opinion Steve?

    Nice try – but if I was marking your essay Id write LOGIC!! in the margin.

  36. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 21:28 | #36

    Tell me Steve at the Pub, what do you think of people who encourage ‘four years of chimpanzee/retard jokes’ about Obama.

  37. Alice
    August 1st, 2009 at 21:39 | #37

    Just in case – Obama was born August 4, 1961, Honolulu, Hawaii.

    Claiming “I dont know”, “I havent seen the birth certificate”, is well….just lame denialism – something republicans seem to specialise in (and their lame followers here).

    Steve needs to stick to the impact of pokie taxes…something he is more affected by personally and doesnt need to confirm by exercising a spirit of objective inquiry.

  38. Alice
    August 1st, 2009 at 21:47 | #38

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    Yes Michael – we do agree on this. I know who have have the dimmed light bulbs here (and I might have criticised you Micahel on prior occasions for your unquestioning acceptance of NSW Labor party – who are indeed pathetic) – but your assessment of Terje P, Ken and Steve at the pub – I would say yes – throw them in the denialist bin along with the 47% of other silly republicans poll respondents and republican denialist poiticians in congress (pants on fire)…both amazing and disturbing how political affiliations can cloud truly independent and intellectually unbiased thinking isnt it?

  39. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 21:53 | #39

    Tell me Steve at the Pub, what do you think of bloggers who argue that ‘The horn of africa types are obviously unwanted in Tamworth’.

  40. jquiggin
    August 1st, 2009 at 22:00 | #40

    Oddly enough Steve, I just read a post from you at LP, taking an almost identical line on AGW. Given that I was just accused of posting socks in my own comment threads, please advise any new readers that you’re a regular here and not someone I’ve made up to prove my point about “sceptics”.

  41. August 1st, 2009 at 22:18 | #41

    I happily confirm I am a regular/occassional poster of longstanding on this site.
    All posts made in my name are my own.
    I post under no other name.

  42. damien morris
    August 1st, 2009 at 22:59 | #42

    Barack Obama has produced his birth certificate; it’s available for viewing on numerous web sites.

    If you want to escape reality for a while have a look at the Birthers website, it’s wonderfully bizarre and includes claims that the birth certificate is a forgery and that Obama is a racist. On that latter charge, accusations that Obama is a racist have also been made by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, so the audience is wide. Joan Walsh of Salon has suggested that the claims are projection and also part of a broader right wing strategy to generally discredit Obama and thus frustrate his social and economic agenda.

  43. Ubiquity
    August 1st, 2009 at 23:51 | #43

    Any excuse to get rid of Obama, even a conspiracy will do.

  44. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 23:54 | #44

    Damien, are you suggesting that racism in the South has not been expunged?

  45. Jill Rush
    August 2nd, 2009 at 00:45 | #45

    I wonder how Birthers think that Obama could have got through the whole presidential campaign including the nasty part with Hilary without anyone noticing that he wasn’t born in the USA.

  46. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 2nd, 2009 at 00:56 | #46

    Jill Rush, to deny someone citizenship is racist. Have a good night for I’m watching the end of The Fugitive.

  47. John Mashey
    August 2nd, 2009 at 02:28 | #47

    @John Quiggin
    As evidence for the latter (Bush using the religious right more than the reverse), I’d recommend David Kuo, Tempting Faith – An Inside Story of Political Seduction, 2006., which offers one well-informed viewpoint, from isndie the Office of faith-Based Initiatives.

  48. El Mono
    August 2nd, 2009 at 02:45 | #48

    @Fran Barlow
    In effect it isn’t though as as plenty of Christians (in particular i am thinking of a particularly large Christian group who aren’t particularly liked by the evangelicals) don’t believe in Creationism who do belive that the stories in Gensis are inspired by God. I know you would love to lump all Christians into one easy to hate group but i am sorry it is not that easy.

  49. El Mono
    August 2nd, 2009 at 03:03 | #49

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    Racism has not been expunged in LA or New York either, or Sydney or Brisbane for that matter.

  50. GC
    August 2nd, 2009 at 07:25 | #50

    “Kenyan-socialist dictatorship”. Ummm… Am I missing something here? Why “Kenyan”?

  51. GC
    August 2nd, 2009 at 07:30 | #51

    Ah. “Kenyan”. As in his alleged place of birth. I get it now. Forgive me. I haven’t been following the “birther” conspiracy. Just read this.

  52. jquiggin
    August 2nd, 2009 at 08:00 | #52

    You omitted your link, GC.

  53. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 2nd, 2009 at 09:13 | #53

    El Mono, you are 100% correct but for a few Australians we are nowhere near the extremist South. Denying citizenship because of one’s background is very serious and this story has legs.

  54. charles
    August 2nd, 2009 at 10:34 | #54

    Steve at the pub, it has nothing to do with a failure to provide a birth certificate. That has been done, the birth notices in the local paper have been produced and the witnesses have made their statements, the birth really did happen.
    .
    As well as being stuck in a LA hotel, I read the financial press so I know it has been done and reported where real news matters ( the financial press). The reporting on the issue on the “new channels” however has been straight out crap. Surveys on how many people believe this or that. If the facts aren’t given then it all just becomes opinion. JQ missed one important point, facts have to be reported.
    .
    The state of affairs is an indication of just how bad news reporting is in the USA.
    .
    Michael of Summer Hill asks, “why do so many in the South not know where their president was born”? Because it is what they want to believe and the news service is so poor they have the option of believing what they want to.
    .
    I see it as an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the Obama presidency by the GOP, he seems to be a responsible family man so they are unlikely to get him on a blow job. That is the beginning and end of the matter. Reality doesn’t matter to these guys.
    .
    You seem to be left with two places to get your news, the financial press or the comedy channel. Given that Murdock now owns the wall street journal, it’s going to be down to the comedy channel; feel sorry for them, they have no hope.

  55. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 2nd, 2009 at 11:21 | #55

    Charles, JQ is not wrong but you do acknowledge that it is more than just denial which is a good start. Tell us more.

  56. August 2nd, 2009 at 11:48 | #56

    Instead of sniping away at the murkiness surrounding the documentation of Obama’s (faked) birth in Hawaii, the birthers could uncover (oh boy it would have to be rolled gold quality)credible documentation of his birth elsewhere. Until then, I recommend they pipe down.

    In the (extremely unlikely) event such proof turns up: He is still the President.

    He is the President. End-of-Story.

  57. Donald Oats
    August 2nd, 2009 at 15:53 | #57

    Okay, okay so the birth notice is in the paper, someone gave birth, etc. But what if – wait for it – there was a switcheroo and baby Obama was smuggled in from Kenya and replaced the American baby (who has since grown up in Kenya, still in denial that he is an American President). Oh, is fate sometimes too cruel or what :-)

    More seriously, this is pretty much how the Republicans started on Bill Clinton. They attacked every chink and nick in the armour, no matter what the cost, no matter what the collateral damage. Now Obama seems to have fewer areas of weakness than Clinton, so perhaps the current attack on citizenship is simply to see how much mud will stick. I wonder how long it will be until the Republicans trot out an affair, or a tax scandal, a cigar maybe?

  58. El Mono
    August 2nd, 2009 at 16:34 | #58

    Didn’t the Republicans use to accuse Bill CLinton of assinating his political rivals?

  59. August 2nd, 2009 at 18:56 | #59

    JQ #40: “Oddly enough Steve, I just read a post from you at LP, taking an almost identical line on AGW. Given that I was just accused of posting socks in my own comment threads, please advise any new readers that you’re a regular here and not someone I’ve made up to prove my point about “sceptics”.”

    My acknowledging I occassionally post here does not imply I concede any ground to JQ, or that my opinions are anything but superior to his.

    He is entitled to his beliefs, but that don’t make them any less likely to be laughed at than anybody eles’s. And occassionally he comes out with some real corkers. Nor are my beliefs anything but hardnosed and tested.

    Quite a lot of what JQ does say is downright delusional. Perhaps I am guilty of this occassionally. But far less often than he.

  60. charles
    August 2nd, 2009 at 19:02 | #60

    Steve at the Pub
    .
    If there is a birth certificate, ( the public record), you are born in the USA. It really is the end of the matter. The news paper notices and witnesses are a bonus. It really is entertaining watching the behavior of the press and those that fall for it (welcome to the club).
    .
    There is no reason for the GOP to stop pushing the matter, this is their mode of operation, the truth doesn’t matter, it’s all about a lie being repeated often enough for there to be doubt. If you watch FOX news and nothing more I have no doubt you would believe Obama was born ex USA and he is, wait for it, we have to say this in hushed tones, a socialist (friday gave us a full page advert in USAtoday pushing that line).
    .
    I do however think the GOP has overused the swift boat stunt. The GOP vote has been declining over the last three election rounds. They are clearly doing something wrong and clearly don’t have the people with the smarts to work out what.
    .
    Compared to the Liberal party the Grand Old Party is a mess.

  61. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 2nd, 2009 at 19:41 | #61

    John, I feel sorry for Steve at the Pub for it seems there are quite a few big reds running around in the top paddock.

  62. Alice
    August 2nd, 2009 at 19:56 | #62

    @Donald Oats

    Don – its a sad reality that whenever a democrat president takes power – the well financially resourced republican dirt machinery cranks up its output (it does permit a honeymoon period though) – and if it doesnt find paydirt – it invents and publishes its own dirt.

  63. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 2nd, 2009 at 20:02 | #63

    Alice, you must feel sorry for people like Steve at the Pub who truly believe Obama was not born in the USA.

  64. charles
    August 4th, 2009 at 11:06 | #64

    Birthers just got played:

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/8/2/761144/-Debunking-the-unbearably-stupid

    Fake emails, fake birth certificates, poor right winger nutters can’t win a rick. Perhaps there is a god.

  65. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 4th, 2009 at 11:21 | #65

    Charles, there is a copy floating around of another person with a Kenyan birth certificate born on the same day as Obama was in Hawii. But a close examination of the Kenyan birth certificate reveals the President’s name of Obama is missing.

  66. Fran Barlow
    August 4th, 2009 at 11:51 | #66

    And for a laugh, if you have six minites or so, check out Orly Taitz going nuts about the “MSM brownshirts”.

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