Monday, October 3, 2011

Birtherism, And Why It Makes No Sense

Okay, I am officially fed up with the Birther movement. Seriously, I've filed the paperwork and everything. Okay, maybe I'm not officially fed up, but I will be in 5-7 business days.
The following material is flagged Red Level. It deals with the blogger's original ideas, personal beliefs, and delusions; and might not be believed by any expert in any field anywhere.
For those who live outside the United States, or have been living under rocks for the past... four years or so, there is a set of people called Birthers, who believe that the current President is not a citizen by birth, which is one of the requirements for the Presidency. They are frequently accused of racism, and are called conspiracy theorists. But conspiracies sometimes do happen, so I think I'll explain in detail why it doesn't make sense for this one to.
First, let's look at the general belief of the Birthers. The Birthers believe that the President was born outside the United States, and thus is not a citizen of the U.S. by birth. They postulate that he was smuggled into the country as an infant, and that his citizenship was falsified, so that someone would be able to use him as a puppet.
First, there's the actual smuggling part. This would be the easiest, requiring only transport and control of a hospital.
Second, it is important to keep in mind that at the time this allegedly happened, it was nearly unthinkable that any black individual (which, for those living under rocks with their fingers in their ears, the current President is) could be elected President. Therefore, the omnipresent-in-these-stories nebulous They would need to have triggered the Civil Rights Movement, or known that it was going to happen. This would require that They control a pharmaceutical company, since The Pill is generally considered the thing that set the movement off. And, of course, They would need to have a good enough understanding of society to know that a single medical invention would be able to do all this, but that kind of understanding is generally something that we can spot Them.
But it is important, when one designs a conspiracy, that one leave as little as possible to chance. Maybe the (Second-Wave, for those who care about such things) Women's Movement wouldn't have triggered the Racial Movement. Maybe the Counter-Civil-Rights Movement would have prevailed. Maybe the memes of anti-racism would leave the public consciousness before the smuggled individual would be old enough. Maybe The Pill wouldn't do anything to the public consciousness. So, to ensure that public opinion unfolded in the right direction, and that the movements triggered the right other movements, and that ideas persisted, They would need to maintain long-term control over a wire service, at least one major entertainment company, major dissident figures among the oppressed populations, and a competent spin doctor.
Third, They would need to ensure that Their candidate were still loyal to Them. For this, They would need a master manipulator. After all, how easy is it to control how one person reacts to changes in their environment? How easy is it to ensure that someone will not rebel against the values you teach them?
But again: leave as little as possible to chance. They need to make sure that nothing happens to Their candidate before he is ready. For this, They need an expert medical team and a crack squad of bodyguards. They need to make sure that Their candidate stays electable, which means getting Their candidate a Law degree, which means They need to control two admissions offices. They need to make sure that no one finds out about the conspiracy, which means They need a massive internal security force (something we generally spot any competent conspiracy), or a team to discredit anyone who finds out or turns stool pigeon (don't mind me, I'm counting the money these nice gentlemen gave me. I'm totally not in on it.)
Finally, They need to get Their candidate elected. They need a massive campaign fund for this (again, most conspiracies can claim Offscreen Villain Dark Matter for this) and a reliable way of rigging an election (hacked vote machines, control over every single media outlet, Orbital Space Mind Control Lasers, take your pick).

Now, what if instead of importing someone from outside the country, They just found some random Law student who seemed to have a solid chance, and indoctrinated him? This just needs the master manipulator, the campaign fund, and the way of rigging the election. If something happens to your student, or the indoctrination doesn't take, you just need to find another one. Better yet, you can cut out the manipulator by finding someone who's already sympathetic to your goals.

So, we can see that the Birther conspiracy postulate is far more complex than the Random Law Student conspiracy postulate. There are four reasons for an unnecessarily complex conspiracy:
  1. You have no idea what you are doing, or are addicted to unnecessary complexity. Given that we are assuming that whatever conspiracy exists was competent enough to pull off whatever they did, this can be safely disregarded.
  2. You don't know what your opponents are doing, and are trying to disrupt whatever it is. This type of conspiracy is generally only the sort of thing used in the short term, hardly the sort of thing you make span even a full three years, let alone nearly half a century. So we can ignore this one.
  3. You are attempting some kind of crazy ritual magic, and the complexity is the minimum that you need in order to meet some special requirement. Well... we don't actually know that SEELE wasn't behind this. For all we know, this is some kind of plot by the Kenyan government to assert symbolic superiority so that a spell can convert it into literal supremacy. But, well, prove that there isn't a devil in the woods outside town. 
  4. You are creating a distraction from your real plan, or attempting to implicate an enemy in the conspiracy. But even this should be made no more complex than necessary, and the simplest way to create a fake conspiracy is to have someone go on the air claiming to have found it, with a bit of fabricated evidence if necessary.

    Come to think of it, given a media outlet (FOX, say), it would be easy enough to create a fake conspiracy. Just start talking about the conspiracy, claiming that you're "just asking questions" while making boldface assertions, and in the eye of your viewers, you can implicate an opponent in your conspiracy.
So why do people believe the Birthers? The tempting response is to just chalk it up to knee-jerk racism directed at a black man in a higher social position (one of these days, I really must do an article on unconscious biases and privilege), or knee-jerk reactionarism directed at someone less far right, but I like to assume good things about people. So I'll just assume that they haven't thought through all the implications of the hypothesis, and all of the things that would be needed for the conspiracy to actually work.

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