Friday, 3 January 2014

The Amygdala Brigade and Confirmation Bias

I was sent an email recently, headed up " 4 Simple Questions from a New Jersey Attorney".  It should have read "4 Questions from a Simple New Jersey Attorney". It is a prime example of right-wing rumour-mongering and confirmation bias. 

We've got a lot of reasons to distrust and to criticise Obama but this Tea Party orchestrated 'birther' nonsense is offensive both because it is motivated by racism, and because it is astonishingly dumb.

So, here's the e-mail- in all its erudite glory. 

"1. Back in 1961 people of color were called ‘Negroes.’ So how can the Obama ’birth certificate’ state he is “African-American” when the term wasn’t even used at that time?

2. The birth certificate that the White House released lists Obama’s birth as August 4, 1961 & Lists Barack Hussein Obama as his father. No big deal, right ? At the time of Obama’s birth, it also shows that his father is aged 25 years old, and that Obama’s father was born in “Kenya , East Africa”. This wouldn’t seem like anything of concern, except the fact that Kenya did not even exist until 1963, two whole years after Obama’s birth, and 27 years after his father’s birth. How could Obama’s father have been born in a country that did not yet Exist? Up and until Kenya was formed in 1963, it was known as the “British East Africa Protectorate”. (check it below)

3. On the Birth Certificate released by the White House, the listed place of birth is “Kapi’olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital”. This cannot be, because the hospital(s) in question in 1961 were called ”KauiKeolani Children’s Hospital” and “Kapi’olani Maternity Home”, respectively. The name did not change to Kapi’olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital until 1978, when these two hospitals merged. How can this particular name of the hospital be on a birth certificate dated 1961 if this name had not yet been applied to it until 1978?

Why hasn’t this been discussed in the major media ?

4. Perhaps a clue comes from Obama’s book on his father. He states how proud he is of his father fighting in WW II. I’m not a math genius, so I may need some help from you. Barack Obama’s “birth certificate” says his father was 25 years old in 1961 when Obama was born. That should have put his father’s date of birth approximately 1936 – if my math holds (Honest! I did That without a calculator!). Now we need a non-revised history book – one that hasn’t been altered to satisfy the author’s goals – to verify that WW II was basically between 1939 and 1945. Just how many 3 year olds fight in Wars? Even in the latest stages of WW II his father wouldn’t have been more than 9 years old. Does that mean that Mr. Obama is a liar, or simply chooses to alter the facts to satisfy his imagination or political purposes? If you copy and paste the following into your search engine, you will see Obama making the statement that his father served in WWII. (Preview)  "

Now for some FACTS which have been verified by sources such as Snopes. 

Point 1 : 

The original 'short form' birth record that was released by the Obama campaign in 2007 was a copy of an electronic form created in 2001 when Hawaii computerised its birth records, ie it was based on an original part typed/part handwritten document that is kept in a bound volume in an archive. 

In neither that form, nor the 'long form' that the White House later released to try to quiet ultra-rightist rumours about his ineligibility to be President, is there any mention of the term African-American. In both documents, Obama's father's 'race' is given as 'African' - which was very likely how Obama Snr described his own ethnicity.

The originals have been viewed by many agencies and individuals - none of which/whom have found them to be false. All the claims that the electronic images had been doctored have been proven to be false by many independent experts.

Point 2 : 

The British East Africa Protectorate was a combination of what is now Uganda and Kenya and was formed by Britain to protect its colonial interests in the region. It became the colony of Kenya in 1920 and it gained formal independence from Britain in 1964. Anyone born in the colony after 1920 would describe their place of birth as Kenya.
1950 National Geographic map.

Point 3:

The former Kapio'lani Maternity Home became the Kapio'lani Maternity and Gynecological hospital in 1931 and retained that name until it was renamed the Kapi'olani Hospital in 1971.  The KauiKeolani Children’s Hospital merged with the Kapi'olani Hospital in 1978 to become the Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women and Children. There are other people born at the same time as Obama with the same hospital name on their birth certificates and all this is easily verifiable.

Point 4:

Because of the pressure on US political candidates to prove their 'patriotism' by either having served in the military or by laying claim to family who have - Obama made a speech in which he said his father served in WW2.  

Now, Obama was a constitutional law professor and even his detractors will acknowledge that he is a bright man, so, what makes more sense: that he would make the ridiculous claim that either his father or his stepfather served in WW2 when both of them would have still been children; or, that he was referring to his maternal grandfather - who raised him from the age of 10 and who he regarded as his primary paternal influence - who did serve in WW2?  Either he thinks of his grandfather as his father - hardly uncommon - or it was a slip of the tongue, ie he meant to say 'grandfather'. 

He also said an uncle helped liberate Auschwitz and he was attacked for that as well because of course the Soviets liberated Auschwitz.  He didn't lie about the uncle but he did get the name of the camp wrong - his uncle had been in the US forces that liberated Buchenwald. It's an easy enough mistake to make. It might even be a measure of how partisan and partial the US education system is when it comes to both its own and world history and never more so than in relation to the Soviets' role in WW2. 

Once right-wing conspiracy theorists have something in their sights, they plough on in pursuit, disregarding any fact that doesn't support the theory and in the process dispensing with logic. If their assertions are proven beyond doubt to be wrong, they either abandon them and create new ones (and once abandoned it's as if the initial assertions never existed), or they just make up stuff to counter the counter arguments. 

I think that most of these chumps just can't get their heads around someone of mixed race being President of their still profoundly racist country. They have to prove he's not really an American, that he's a puppet of some shadowy, anti-American force - because the disruption to the foundations of their little world simply cannot be borne. The very earth feels unstable beneath their feet; their fused senses of self and nationhood have been wrenched out order - big gaps have opened up in the fabric of their reality. When they salute their flag and pledge allegiance to their country, instead of feeling that deep sense of complacent certainty that comes from the belief in their essential superiority, they are looking at - a person of colour!  Their little brains are screaming "does not compute!!" and their already hyper-active amygdalas go into overdrive. 

And how about all the female and black chumps in the Tea Party?  Well, it all goes to prove that, in the final analysis, it's ALL about class - not the social class you were born into, but the class interests you identify with. 

I distrust Obama because he is in bed with the Corporatocracy - if he hadn't been prepared to pander to them he'd never have been elected or re-elected - but I detest the sort of people who attack him on the grounds of his ethnicity. But, the person who started the 'birther' hysteria was - Hilary Clinton. With friends like that ......

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