Are Liberals Too Mean To Birthers?

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JONATHAN CHAIT MAY 17, 2010

Are Liberals Too Mean To Birthers?

Jonah Goldberg sees a pernicious double standard between the treatment of kooks who think Barack Obama is not a citizen and kook who think 9/11 was an inside job. "Birtherism" is dangerous and paranoid and "Trutherism" is quirky and no big deal, according to liberals," he writes.

There are two claims here. The first is that liberals understate the craziness of Truthers. Goldberg's sole piece of evidence to support this claim is a New York Times article that he deems insufficiently hostile to the Truthers. The headline of the article -- 500 Conspiracy Buffs Meet To Seek The Truth Of 9/11 -- captures the tone. The term "conspiracy buffs," Goldberg seems not to realize, is media code for "whackjobs." The article also has sections like this:

Whatever one thinks of the claim that the state would plan, then execute, a scheme to murder thousands of its own, there was something to the fact that more than 500 people — from Italy to Northern California — gathered for the weekend at a major chain hotel near the runways of O'Hare International. It was, in tone, half trade show, half political convention. There were talks on the Reichstag fire and the sinking of the Battleship Maine as precedents for 9/11. There were speeches by the lawyer for James Earl Ray, who claimed that a military conspiracy killed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and by a former operative for the British secret service, MI5.

If this is is best evidence that the media is soft on Truthers, it's not much.

Goldberg's second claim is that, since the Truthers have a nuttier and more significant conspiracy theory, the media should be subjecting them to more extensive and hostile coverage than the Birthers. I agree that Birthers have attracted far more coverage than Truthers. I attribute the difference to the fact that Birthers have a significant foothold within the GOP, gaining at leats soft support from numerous elected Republicans at the state and even national level. This is not true at all of the Truthers.

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posted in: jonathan chait, new york times, italy, barack obama, james earl ray, jonah goldberg, martin luther king, california, maine

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