Millions believe these things. I've been astonished to find that even learned people fall for one or the other -- particularly people raised in cultures where the media makes our flacks look good.
Millions believe in these stories, but they can't for the life of them spin an evidence-based or even rationally empiric argument for their positions.
So should we mock the weak, or, with greater wisdom, accept that Reason is a hard road that few follow?
I would say neither.
I have had the opportunity to observe someone with a quite low IQ be right when I am wrong. True, he cannot usually explain his reasoning - perhaps because he cannot translate the workings of his mind into words. Nonetheless, he's right more often than chance would allow. Sometimes the weak are wrong, but sometimes there's a rightness they cannot express.
So instead of mocking them, I will try to articulate the unexpressed reasoning of the Birthers, Deathers and and Truthers.
The Birther claims are utterly implausible. Yet, how plausible is that the same America that reelected George Bush and Dick Cheney would elect a brilliant champion of Reason with a Black wife, Black children, a Black father and the middle name of Hussein?
Really. Think about it. America?! It's absolutely implausible.
The Birthers are delusional, but perhaps they are reacting to the sheer implausibility of Barack Obama. Myself I tend to suspect the benign intervention of extra-terrestrials.
The Deathers are likewise perversely wrong about the health care reform mission. They are not wrong to worry however. If Obama succeeds, as I think he will, the world of health care will be recast. Nobody knows what all the side-effects and unanticipated consequences will be. The Deathers' are right to be fearful, though they should fear the status quo more.
Lastly, the Truthers. To defend their irrational beliefs, consider my own story.
When the towers fell I was sure that we'd face a long struggle against a brilliant and implacable foe. I forecast mass casualties in America. The falling cost of havoc meant we'd soon face detonation of a truck born black market nuke in an American city. There were so many, many ways for smart people to wreak havoc on a modern industrial nation - a terrible struggle lay ahead.
Except, like a lot of other people, I was wrong. When poor, pitiful, Richard Reid tried to ignite his shoes I began to doubt, and the more we saw, the more al Qaeda seemed to be a conspiracy of the dullard -- especially compared to, say, Hamas.
So how could these medieval drudges have ever been so horribly, terribly successful? It defies Reason that such a convoluted plot should have worked. Nobody has a confident answer -- save the Truthers.
Birthers, Deathers, Truthers -- all of them wrong in what they say and write. Yet, despite the wrongness of their words, their feelings are easy to understand. We live in a profoundly strange and unpredictable world.