This past weekend a loyal MM reader reminded me that I have as yet been mum on the topic of the “birthers,” and shame on me. They are, after all, one of the biggest purveyors of political misinformation since the Swift Boaters and more than deserved to be busted, debunked, and hopefully, defused. And I had to sit back and wonder why I hadn’t found anything to say about them yet. Quite honestly when I started to hear the term “birthers” floating around it sounded like a lifestyle choice, something the Slow Fooders or the La Leche League, or raising farm animals.
I’d heard that people were propagating the insane falsehood that President Obama was not born in the United States and therefore can’t be President. I just had no idea there were enough of these people to warrant a name. If enough people believe something crazy, does that make it, or them, important? How many is “enough” people anyway? That’s when I realized why I hadn’t even considered the birthers as a mythography topic….
Modern Mythographer is all about the idea that if enough people believe something factually untrue, or a few people believe it for long enough for others to notice, then there must be something inherently interesting or informative about the untruth. A lie that gets at the truth, a story behind the story. But when the un-fact is something as clearly manufactured as this birthers movement is, the lie becomes less appealing from a mythographer’s perspective. Scratch the surface, and all you’ll get is a pollster and a campaign message.
These manufactured myths are kind of the opposite of the “zombie myths” that I uncovered a couple months ago in this post. Those are myths that were once true, but now their time has passed and they stalk around haunting the present anyway. The birthers, and the death-panels, belong to some other category. Let’s call them “insta-myths”; they are fake food sitting there in a package on your shelf. Then just add water–a.k.a. political imperative like a bunch of insurance companies about to lose money–and watch the insta-myth come to life.
The good news is: it’s become common knowledge (I think, then again I do live in New York City) that the present health-reform hysteria can be traced directly to Betsy McCaughey, the fearmonger who was involved in sabotaging the last attempt at health care reform, during the Clinton adminstration. Thank you, New York Times. I hope that with the availability of ready debunking like this, destructive insta-myths like this will have extremely short lives, and MM can continue ignoring them.