Long-Form Mirth Certificate
Hopefully (but doubtfully) the American consciousness will have learned its lesson on this one. Those who demanded to see Obama’s “real” long-form birth certificate finally stamped and shouted long enough, to enough willingly self-deceived Americans, that Obama felt the need to bend down low enough to address their specious conspiracy theories. Citing a similarly obvious need to move forward past the idiotic debate that has been decided by several court cases already, the White House released (or unveiled, depending on how much import your news organization of choice gave this event) Obama’s long-form birth certificate confirming that, in fact, it was the birthers who were born without brains.
One would think/demand/hope/pray that this release would be the end of the artificial questioning and distraction, but then one would be underestimating the power of deep-seated xenophobia and the other factors that were really motivating the “skepticism.” Skepticism, after all, is a legitimate philosophical tool for ferreting out the warrants for unevidenced assertions. What we have here is not skepticism, for a genuine skeptic would have to be persuaded by some quantum of proof. The skeptic must be able to identify at which point an idea has crossed the threshold of convincing, or else they are simply a Denier.
While those of us with faith in the cunning of reason might hope that nobody is so personally motivated as to be a true Denier, it is obvious that politics has motivated the question from the start. The whole project was initially set up to be an impossible negative to disprove. What’s more, upon the presentation of the maximum evidence that could possibly be adduced, ardent birthers came up with even more extreme conspiracy theories to justify themselves.
As one would expect, the Deniers themselves got on their pedestals to say even more ridiculous things and stoke the fires of resentment against Obama that had nothing to do with his actual citizenship:
Look at the document…it is superimposed on a different background that contains Onaka’s signature (hint: look at the curling on the left-hand margin of the text fields).
and birther-in-chief Orly Taitz, who is now (hopefully) more or less unemployed:
In those years … when they wrote race, they were writing ‘Negro’ not ‘African’ … In those days nobody wrote African as a race, it just wasn’t one of the options. It sounds like it would be written today, in the age of political correctness, and not in 1961 when they wrote white or Asian or ‘Negro’.
And, of course, the biased/motivated news outlets did their part to appear “objective” to their constituency of Deniers.
And then there are those who blithely claimed this as a political victory, having been supposedly vindicated that their totally baseless and incorrect arguments were worth addressing (which is why the whole project was a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose scenario), aka Donald Trump, who claimed that “Today I am very proud of myself, because I’ve accomplished something that nobody else was able to accomplish.”
What all this reveals is the trend that political reality has been shaped not by thoughts of what constitutes good or proper politics in general, but rather by what constitutes good politics for the individual speaker. Each of these questions, statements and positions has been designed to refocus attention and power on the commenter, rather than contributing to a discussion or assessment of what is in the nation’s best interests. This shift, from politics defined as the art of producing the general good to producing the personal good, can characterize much of how the world has changed in a world where everyone has a soapbox. When nobody needs to rely on the delegation of power to attain their self-interest, they no longer have any incentive to attain what Tocqueville called “self-interest, rightly understood,” i.e., self-interest tempered by a built-in understanding that civility and moderation avoids the worst prisoners’ dilemmas that may come along with public living. Our speech has become dominated by the urge, not to convince others that any idea or position or approach is good, but by the motive to convince others that we are good. Perhaps we accomplish that goal by adopting some such idea/position/approach that we believe others will respect, but it seems just as common that we do so by posting something pithy, and leaving it at that.