Obama's Birth Certificate Release Won't End Conspiracy Theories

Birtherism was a symptom, not the disease.

By + More

President Obama released his long-form birth certificate—excuse me, his long-form Certificate of Live Birth—today (scroll down to see it at bottom) and took the surreal step of standing at the White House podium to chastise the media over the whole non-issue. So does this mean that the nutty Obama conspiracy theories that have dogged Obama for more than two years are finally done and over? As the late, great, fictitious Sen. John Blutarsky once said, “What? Over? Did you say ‘over?’ Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”

And it ain’t over now. Birtherism was always a symptom, not the actual problem. It represented an articulation of an irrational problem Obama’s fringiest opponents had with him. That irrationality won’t go away, it will simply find a new outlet. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the GOP.]

As Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey notes: “I’m going to guess that this will only shake off those with minimal or moderate attachment to the birth certificate issue, and that the industry will somehow muster onward after this bleak day.” Indeed, while polls show that large numbers of Republicans doubted that Obama was a natural born U.S. citizen, it was always less clear how that broke down between actual hard core birthers—people who bought into the theory that he was a Kenyan and so was not eligible to be president—and folks who simply didn’t know any better, hadn’t given much thought to Obama’s birth place, and may not even know foreign-born citizens are ineligible for the presidency. That latter group will probably diminish now, but the former group will endure.

As Time’s Michael Scherer astutely observes today, the birth certificate “issue” was always a MacGuffin, the “symbolic, meaningless device” in Alfred Hitchcock movies “for moving forward a narrative.” Scherer continues:

Like Glenn Beck, who can seamlessly connect the uprising in Cairo with the 1960s radical Bill Ayers, [the conspiracy mongers] are trying to provide answers to a certain segment of the population seeking outlandish explanations for recent events, because the factual ones are not satisfactory. They seek an emotionally satisfying outlet for their fury at their country’s decline, the decade-long collapse of its institutions, and the rapidly changing demographic makeup of its leadership.

What’s next from crazy land? Trump has already moved on to questions about Obama’s academic record (seriously), and whether his grades were good enough for admittance to Columbia, Harvard Law, and the Harvard Law Review. Presumably the same sinister forces who had the foresight to forge a long-form birth certificate 50 years ago and plant birth announcements in the local newspapers were also behind Obama’s unwarranted educational opportunities. Sarah Palin has started peddling the theory that Obama didn’t actually write his books, but that instead they were penned by the infamous Bill Ayers. And of course it shouldn’t be too long before point-by-point deconstructions start circulating around the Internet proving that the birth certificate is a fraud. [ Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Obama.]

In fact, as Think Progress reports, conspiracy nuts like World Net Daily are already saying that even if the newly released birth certificate is real, it doesn’t prove anything, that “there are still dozens of other questions concerning this question of eligibility that need to be resolved.”

Dozens of questions. Like the Journey song says, it goes on and on and on and on.