Alex Massie

Conspiracy Deathmatch: Birthers vs Truthers

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Blimey. A new poll asks: "Do you believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America or not?"

Just 42% of Republican respondents answer "Yes". 28% say "No" and 30% "Aren't Sure".

As Dave Weigel points out, this is the GOP equivalent of an infamous poll in 2007 which reported that 35% of Democrats suspected that George W Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.

Enquiring minds want to know, mind you, how many people think Obama was born in Kenya/Indonesia/Wherever and think Dick Cheney blew up the World Trade Center?

I really don't know how one deals with this sort of nuttiness. But I suspect ignoring them may prove more profitable than wasting time denunking the nonsense spouted by people who won't be satisfied, regardless of the absurdity of their claims. As Julian Sanchez argues:

Mainstream outlets may want to reconsider the point at which it’s worth taking up and debunking these sorts of fringe ideas, even at the risk of giving them undeserved exposure. The pattern we’re seeing in the new media environment is that these conspiracy theories end up getting pretty wide exposure anyway, but only taken up by real journalists once there’s a core group who can’t be disabused of their false beliefs without fairly serious threat to their self images, which is the worst of both worlds. The kooky ideas don’t end up being contained by major media’s refusal to take note of them, and the debunking is less effective when they do.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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