Rhetoric, Birthers, Truthers, and End-Timers

For the site, TPM (Talking Points Memo), Eric Kleefeld has written the following short-but-fascinating piece about what some citizens in New Jersey believe:

“My home state of New Jersey is one crazy place, according to the new survey of the state by Public Policy Polling (D).

Dave Weigel points out that one out of every three New Jersey conservatives think that Obama could be the anti-Christ. To be precise, 18% of self-identified conservatives affirmatively say that Obama is the anti-Christ, with 17% not sure. Among the self-identified Republican label, it’s 14% who say Obama has the number 666 hidden underneath his hair, plus 15% who aren’t sure.

But oh it gets even worse on some other questions — among both the right and the left.

It turns out that 33% of New Jersey Republicans say that Obama was not born in the United States, plus 19% in the Birther-Curious undecided category.

But Democrats shouldn’t be too eager to laugh at this. On the other side of the political spectrum, there’s some significant 9/11 Trutherism among Dem voters. We’ve got 32% of Jersey Democrats who say that George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. In addition, another 19% of Jersey Dems are Truther-Curious, in the undecided column.

So that’s only 48% of Jersey Republicans who definitively are not Birthers, and 49% of Dems who are officially not Truthers. Don’t you just love our polarized politics?”

For me, Kleefeld’s concluding question isn’t among the most pertinent ones to ask. I’d ask why a third of NJ conservatives even think in terms of politicians and “the anti-Christ,” and I’d ask why they believe Obama is “the anti-Christ.” I fear the answer to the second question has something to do with race. The history of more than a few white Christians with regard to race–and specifically African Americans–is not pleasant.

As to the “birther” question, I’d ask, “What documentation did Mr. Obama use, say, to apply for his first U.S. passport?” That should be easy enough to detect. At the same time, the question is inappropriate; why is anyone suddenly asking about the birth-status of the president?

Kleefeld is rhetorically smart to include Democrats among those in Jersey whose judgment he questions. The issue of whether George Bush had “advance knowledge”, however, is just a wee bit more complicated and less “out there” than the “anti-Christ” one. First, there’s the question of how to define “advance knowledge”; that is, we might change the question to . . . “Did intelligence agencies have a lot of information that pointed to such an attack at such a time?” I think that’s a fair question to ask. Also, in the broad panorama of “9/11,” I’ve always wondered about just one detail: why (apparently) U.S. military jets weren’t scrambled right away. Maybe they were, and I just don’t know the facts. Maybe they weren’t; if so, why? Basically, I’m just curious. But if one asks such questions of fact, one is likely to be labeled a “conspiracy theorist,” a far cry from being labeled “the anti-Christ.”

A link to the TPM site:

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/09/new-jersey-poll-birthers-truthers-and-the-anti-christ—-oh-my.php/

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