Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Eschatological Poetics of Birthers

By Ellipses

This weekend, the illustrious LittleJ made an interesting and insightful comment regarding the birther movement (read it here). Her point was that just about every county in the nation, sans Appalachia, had an increase in democratic voters in 2008. Considering that there are plenty of relatively racist pockets of population all over the US, why is that the geographic span that includes southwestern Pennsylvania appears to have underindexed on Obama support? Her point, and rightly so, is that there are plenty of places in America where I would think it would be less welcoming to be black than in Washington or Fayette County, Pennsylania. If we combine this assertion with the current birther movement, can we arrive at a new motivation for the birther conspiracy, rather than simple racism, as was asserted before?

I believe there are two explanations for this trend. The first is an extension of my earlier claim that birtherism is a convenient outlet for simple anti-black racism. There are a few unique dynamics at play, both demographic and social, that seem to promote birtherism by the run-of-the-mill Appalachian racist, and I will illuminate that dynamic.

The second explanation is wholly separate from America's tradition of hierarchical racism, and deals more with a mutable and more grand struggle between ignorance and "the other." This explanation adds a religious component to the mix and also can only thrive given a relatively precise set of inputs. It is from this explanation that I derived the title of this post.

Let's take on the first issue, first (naturally). If you recall during last year's primaries, there was an exit poll that was released that showed upwards of 18-25% of democratic voters considered "race" to be important in their decision of who to vote for. That's 1 in 4 DEMOCRATS who based their vote, in part, on the race of the candidate they voted for (which, honestly, was between Obama and Clinton). Also, if you will recall, there were a surprising number of "Democrats for McCain" stickers and signs dotting the rolling hills of Appalachia in 2008.

If you look to other parts of the country, the "Democrats" are often profiled as being progressive, liberal, young, and more highly educated than the average of the population. What we see in the Rust Belt and in Appalachia is a mutation on the makeup of the Democratic voter base. Here, your typical democrat is more likely to be an older, sparsely educated, blue collar worker from a small, depressed former mill town. In effect, Appalachia's democrats look a lot more like the rest of the country's republicans. If we assume that the baseline racism in the GOP is constant (which it likely is not), then the added racist pressures from with the democratic party in our region would be sufficient to tilt the scales in the opposite direction. It's a double-whammy for a black candidate in Appalachia. The racists are not concentrated in a single party, so even if you are a democrat, you are essentially giving up 25% of your party base based on appearance alone.

That's all well and good, but really, that dead horse has been sufficiently beaten. My auxiliary theory behind birtherism is much more fun, from the perspective of an English major who LOVES to pile on the bullshit. Here's the theory: The segment of the political right that buys into the birther conspiracy is the segment that is the most literal representation of "conservatism," ie, they are the segment that most stubbornly adheres to the status quo, not due to nostalgia or a preference to the comfort zone of the familiar, but due to an inability to keep up with an ever accelerating world. The birthers were under the impression that there were basic truths to be found in social norms, religious beliefs, and the economic certainties to be found in the faux-permanence of the monolithic and seemingly immutable factories that defined Appalachia and the Rust Belt for decades. As the world shrank and what they "knew" became increasingly difficult to reconcile with what actually was, they fell into a default position of apocalyptic dread that has dotted every generation since humanity became aware of its own mortality.

The pocket of people who are convinced that we are living in the end times is always present. They have always interpreted threats, both real and imagined, as evidence of the end of our earthly existence. True, this is generally rooted in a religious belief that God will wipe the earth clean of humanity, but the perception of the end is not limited to, or solely generated by religious texts. Surely, watching nearly half of the population of Europe whither and die during the Black Death could be interpreted as the end of the world whether one was Christian, Muslim, or just simply conscious and aware of the pestilent pustules bursting hither and yon.

Prior to 9/11, the last "Real" threat to our existence was the hair-trigger alert that the world's nuclear arsenal seemed to always be on. The Cold War may very well have been the single biggest threat to our existence since the Black Death, insofar as its actual potential to destroy civilization and cause our extinction. However, upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the world was left with one super power, and no coherent "thing" for us to cower in fear from or unite in opposition against. Rising from the metaphorical ashes of the memory of the Cold War were any number of miniature phoenixes that could be said to be harbingers of death and destruction. There were exotic sub-Saharan viruses that would cause us to be liquefied from within. There were killer asteroids that would rain down the hellfire and vaporize surface life. There were super volcanoes lurking beneath our national parks that could tear the earth a new, fiery asshole. There were alien invasions, global warming, acid rain, polar reversal, solar flares, electro-magnetic pulses, black holes, dark matter, anti matter, the anti-Christ, the New World Order, Y2k, killer bees, and the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012.

Then there was 9/11 and we were momentarily able to unite against a common enemy, a common threat. It helped that the enemy was about as much of an "other" as possible. Different race, different language, different God, different heaven... Hell, they lived in fucking caves!

But that proved to be more of a point of divergence than a point of unification. Certainly, a portion of us expected the war on terror to be more like the war against the Nazis than... well... the "conflict" in Vietnam. How much more clear cut could it be? There were good guys and bad guys. You were with us or you were against us. The plan was to go kick ass wherever there was ass to be kicked. When we were done, there would be ticker tape parades and a worthy successor to the Greatest Generation.

The problem was that the world had outgrown it's capacity for a cut and dry conflict. Information flowed from outlets free of filtration, free of spin, and free of the dressing up that maintained order and kept perception aligned at home and abroad. What should have been a really easy PR campaign to maintain became increasingly muddled in nuance and second guesses.

There was an inexplicable inability to extrapolate the threat of Islamic extremism into an end-of-the-world threat. Bin Laden's attack was a spectacle, for sure, but it was, essentially, conventional. You simply cannot exterminate humanity by blowing up airplanes or cars or hotels. Sure, it's scary as fuck... but it's not the rapture.

So, we got to work building up the threats against us. Dirty bombs, nuclear bombs, biological weapons, chemical weapons, Iraq, Iran, North Korea... We assembled an ensemble cast of baddies that would, together, represent a unified force of evil, a force worthy of our fear, and thus, worthy of our merciless, no holds barred aggression. And yet, we were not unified in that fear. Those who united in fear against the common enemy viewed those who seemed unafraid as outsiders, infiltrators, usurpers, and, perhaps, one of "them."

Which is kinda sorta how we end up at the Birther movement. We have a population of people who have, essentially, been left behind in modern society. The values and beliefs that they took for granted were being tossed aside, not just by rebellious youths, but by the very establishment that had generally been on their "side." Ginned up by ratings-driven media whores, they found their aggression bifurcated between what had become a marginalized "other" (the nebulous Islamic Jihadi) and the subversive, domestic "other," the political left.

Enter Obama.

The birthers are particularly adept at seeing "signs" in the entrails of world events. As they look for links and connections between correlated or even disparate events, they are assembling a sort of modern day Revelations. There are anti-Christ figures everywhere, and each takes its turn as the focus of aggression in the right-wing media. There is Ahmadinajad, Kim Jung Il, Chavez, Ortega, Zelaya... but none has the "it" that makes a GOOD anti-Christ.

Obama. Yes... what better focus of mistrust, hatred, spite, and vitriol than the ultimate usurper to the throne? What better story than the evil that hides in plain sight? The birthers have condensed their frustration of economic, social, militaristic, and religious insecurities and projected them upon a convenient pariah to their cause. Their rhetoric betrays their self-terminating motivation. Those who support him have been "fooled" into following a "messiah." He is illegitimate, but only those who have the "secret" info are in on the gig. There is a time limit (8 years), so you have a ticking clock (a must for any good thriller).

They recycle their apocalyptic poetics in apoplectic fits of starts and stops. Socialism, Communism, Death Squads, Nazis, Dictator, Big Brother. The ingredients are the same, which is why this dish tastes so familiar.

The birthers are torn between wanting the end to come to vindicate their beliefs. They want Obama to be all the bad that they project onto him in order to validate their hyperbole. They want his presidency to culminate in a cataclysmic event, only to be vanquished by the "truth..." A "reset" button on "normal" life that will return them to the lily-white blue collar burghs and villes of yesteryear. They want to win by default. They want to win on account of this new philosophy, this progressive bullshit, this leftist illusion... failing. It has to be as bad as they say, as underhanded and evil as they predict... but it has to be non-terminal because, well, what fun is it to be right if you can't rub it in?

Obama is their anti-Christ. He is their imposter, their usurper, their harbinger of doom. He is a human representation of their proclivity for clinging to guns and religion. And just like every other prophesy to come before it, this one is fucking retarded. If the birthers bet the farm on this theory, they will ultimately end up like all those who have walked this path before... naked and possessionless, standing at the top of the mountain, arms outstretched to heaven... looking like a goddamn idiot while everyone else goes about their lives comfortable in the knowledge that it will end, but it will not be "the end." Sphere: Related Content


Brant said...

Isn't it funny how the Democrats for McCain signs didn't pop up until AFTER it became clear that Obama was going to defeat Clinton for the Democratic nomination, even though there was virtually no difference between what Clinton and Obama believed in and campaigned on? They were essentially the same candidate, but one of them was ... oh, black.

Cherrie Webb said...

I noticed that as well. And why were they so quick to state that Black people were only voting Obama because he was black while never mentioning that white women were only voting for Hillary because she was a white woman?

Lori said...

Because racist assume blacks vote black because they are uneducated. If white women vote for a white woman it is because the racists think white women made an educated decision.

Ellipses said...

I think that they assume that blacks flock with blacks, women flock with women (which explains why the right doesn't "get" the lack of support for Palin), hispanics flock with hispanics...

Basically, when someone else votes for someone vaguely like themselves, it's an ignorant decision based on lies told by the media... when White Men vote for White Men, it's because they love their country, God, freedom, capitalism, the American way, etc...

And when white men vote for Palin, it's because she "excites" them about conservatism... which is like getting excited about nilla wafers, but never mind... it's about what she stands for, of course! Couldn't possibly be her tits, right?

Oh, but if a woman votes for Obama, it's because he's a hollywood rock star celebrity...

Anonymous said...

What parts do you consider Appalachia? Not what you see on google but regions you are specifically reffering to?

Gary Anderson said...

Nice post. And thanks for checking mine out, Elipsis.

Wesley said...

Blogitard - there is one way to end this controversy and that is to show us the fucking source document. But this sudden frothing at the mouth is not about the birth certificate which is a vacuous issue that only liberals seem to be foaming about in an obvious attempt to distract from the real issue of the crashing and burning of Obamacare.

But while you are getting so apoplectic, consider this: when did information suddenly become a bad thing? While it is all well and good to belittle the birth-certificate controversy, without it we’d know only what the media and Obama himself would tell us about his multiple citizenships, which is nothing.

We now know Obama, by operation of British and Kenyan law, was a citizen of Kenya (a status that lapsed in 1982, when he turned 21). That’s something voters would find relevant, especially when Obama’s shocking 2006 conduct in Kenya is considered. But we don’t know about his Kenyan citizenship because the media thought it was not newsworthy.

By contrast, the question whether Obama ever was an Indonesian citizen is still unresolved, as are such related matters as whether the foreign citizenship (if he had it) ever lapsed, and whether he ever held or used an Indonesian passport. There may be perfectly benign answers to all of this. But the real question is: Why don’t the media — the watchdog legions who trekked to Sarah Palin’s Alaska hometown to scour for every kernel of gossip, and who were so desperate for Bush dirt that they ran with palpably forged military records — want to dig into Obama’s background?

Who cares that Hawaii’s full state records would doubtless confirm what we already know about Obama’s birthplace? They would also reveal interesting facts about Obama’s life: the delivering doctor, how his parents described themselves, which of them provided the pertinent information, etc. Wasn’t the press once in the business of interesting — and even not-so-interesting — news?

And why would Obama not welcome Hawaii’s release of any record in its possession about the facts and circumstances of his birth? Isn’t that kind of weird? It would, after all, make the whole issue go away and, if there’s nothing there, make those who’ve obsessed over it look like fools. Why should I need any better reason to be curious than Obama’s odd resistance to so obvious a resolution?

The point has little to do with whether Obama was born in Hawaii. I’m quite confident that he was. The issue is: What is the true personal history of the man who has been sold to us based on nothing but his personal history? On that issue, Obama has demonstrated himself to be an unreliable source and, sadly, we can’t trust the media to get to the bottom of it. What’s wrong with saying, to a president who promised unprecedented “transparency” : Give us all the God Damned raw data and we’ll figure it out for fucking selves?

Get Obama's dick out of your mouth long enough to think about this.

Ellipses said...

Should I get Bill O'reilly's dick out of my mouth, too?


Ellipses said...



Rust Belt:

Cylinsier said...

I like how the birthers are backpeddling now. "Oh, we have no doubt that Obama was born in Hawaii, its just that when the moons aligned on his 15th birthday and the blood of the lamb was shed on the sacrificial alter of the crescent sun, his citizenship may or may not have briefly lapsed in the eyes of god."

Wesley said...

Ellipsed one...to answer your question...you can take Bill Oreily's dick out of your mouth if you like...how many dicks do you have in your mouth anyway?

Cylenturd...thanks for electing me the spokesperson for the birthers. And I am not a conservative. I refuse to be limited by any label. I have to refuse all the compartments you have selected for me. I want nothing to do with the miscreant groups you want to affiliate me with. Especially religious zombies.

What a waste of brain cells. Read me again. You still have no answer for why there is no media curiosity? The media has become a stenographer pool. What a disgrace. When allegations came from your whack job friends on the left that Bush and Cheney killed 3000 Americans just so they could go to war in Iraq, the media fanned those flames. The absurdity is breathtaking. But something as simple as a birth certificate cannot be produced (not a certificate of live birth anus sockets) then we no longer have an objective media. You won't agree with me but in the back of your potted brain you know I am right.

Ellipses said...

When the 9/11 "truthers" started ranting, every sane individual in america put them in their place... Bill Maher threated to kick their ass when they got in the audience of his show.

Likewise, even fucking BILL O'REILLY and ANNE COULTER are saying this is a bullshit conspiracy. Why isn't the media giving it the attention that YOU think it deserves? I think it has MORE media attention than it deserves... why isn't Brian Williams out looking for bigfoot or the headquarters of the NWO?

Because it's bullshit.

You hit the nail on the head... those who think 9/11 was an inside job? Fucking retards.

Those who think Obama wasn't born in America? Fucking retards, also.

Dick Mace said...

Great post. Seriously, that was beautifully written.

Ellipses said...

Thanks buddy :-)

Wesley said...

Elliptitard...BILL O'REILLY does not speak for me and I do not consider him an authority on anything except blowing hard. Anne Coulter said this is not a fight to have. There are more important things to talk about right now and that nails it on the head for me as well. You have jumbled my arguments and reassembled them to suit your purposes.

The issue is the media's curiosity. The issue is not the retards that believe either of these theories. We violently agree on that assessment. The issue is the State run media that scours garbage dumpsters in Wasila to find something on Sara P but has never raised a curious eyebrow about the birth certificate. Its disgraceful that instead of media watchdogs, when it comes to Obama, we have media lap dogs.

I think feminine heigeine protective spray man (Dick Mace) was complementing my post.

Cylinsier said...

Dick Mace is one of our fellow bloggers. Scroll down and read his pro-MaryJay blog and you'll see that he's also quite the liberal thinker. Probably unlikely that the comment was meant for you. No offense.

And on Sarah P, the media didn't really have to dig for anything. It was all right there.

The news always has a bias. CNN sways left, MSNBC sways left of CNN, FOXNews sways right of right...its up to each person to develop their own bullshit filter and figure out what's right for them. Me? At least for congressional commentary, I normally go off what I catch on C-SPAN (than's e-man). After all, why let any media outlet tell you what your congressmen are saying when you can get it directly from them?

Ellipses said...

How much time did the lap dog media give to the "loose change" crowd? Barely any.

How much time has been given to the birthers? Tons.

Doesn't that defeat your argument? Msnbc didn't even take the time to call those tards "tards."

Do a blind survey. Ask 100 strangers if they know who the "loose change" guys are. Then ask them of they know who the birthers are.

The only tv time that the dipshit left wing group got was to get smacked down on a Sunday morning show by Popular Science editors.

If anything, birthers are getting more favorable press

Ellipses said...

I consider the main page content "posts" while this = "comments." sorry if I was confused with where the compliments were directed.

Cy- I haven't been in my office enough to watch much cspan since I told you about it... Dangit

Wesley said...

Point one: Birthers are plastered everywhere in the news. The issue is getting wall to wall coverage and my theory its to give a smoke screen to the socialized healthcare debacle where Obama is crashing and burning. I have seen NO favorable press for birthers. Zero, zip, nada. But they do get a LOT of press.

Point Two: The 911 inside job whackos were not touched with a ten foot pole by the media. They just let those flames run unretarded.

Do you see the difference? We seem to be making the same point. But you are leaving off the conclusion that when it is right wing fuck wads the media makes sure they are in the press every day. When it is left wing shit sticks the media has a field day and the story not only has legs it has wings.

Wesley said...

BTW I was joking. I could see that Weiner Defensive Spray dude was slobbering on Eliptipussy not me. Lighten up.

Cylinsier said...

This guy is pretty funny with his creative name games. Eliptipussy sounds like a James Bond film.

Ellipses said...

I smell what you're cookin', Wes... But as a guy who works with traditional media (tv), I am reminded of television's first objective... Make money.

I have to admit, watching old, redneck white people have a conniption is more entertaining than watching mousey emo liberals pontificate on how George Bush planned 9/11.

Loose change guys are a novelty... Orly Taitz breaking down on msnbc is GOLD. The media isn't trying to pull the strings on some big master plan, they are trying to put eyeballs on Viagra ads. Old white guys with a drawal and a batshit crazy rant does that... A couple of erudite shitheads trying to pitch a contrived conspiracy that defies logic, not to mention physics, does not.

Don't worry, it will all be pushed aside if Barry Manilow dies or if one of Kate Gosselin's tits pops out in public.

LittleJ said...

Wow, awesome blog post in response to my question! Sorry I didn't respond sooner, but I'm on staycation and thus haven't spent as much time on the internets as usual.

I have some additional comments, but I have to find some coffee before I post.

Also, I will look for that map.

Dick Mace said...

Wes, I actually thought your post was great! Next time I'll be more clear on what I'm talking about. Keep up the good fight. Its great to fight for what you believe in. You might have a little more credibility if you cut out the name calling... unless you're in 3rd grade. Then name calling is the coolest.

Anonymous said...

CHERRIE WEBB, you are so full of it.

White women such as "N.O.W." didn't vote for McCain because of Palin....

I thought that women were supposed to rally around all women when attempting to crash through the glass ceiling????