A recent article unveils the results of a “new CNN investigation” into the birther claims against Obama. But CNN, just like the rest of the media, doesn’t seem to understand that they no longer have the credibility to persuade.
The crux of the story deals with how ridiculous the birthers are for insisting that more persuasive evidence should be provided that Obama is indeed a U.S. citizen. But in attempting to make the birther movement look stupid, CNN ultimately falls flat on its collective face.
Well, because it’s intrinsically absurd. Those who believe in the theory that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. (obviously) don’t trust the media—not one whit! Then a representative of that very media comes along and writes a story that tries to call adherents of the movement into question and make them look fringe and goofy?
Now. for my part I don’t see the writer (or those who did the “research”) really addressing the issue as the so-called “birthers” see it. What are their positions on the issue?
They believe that a Certificate of Live Birth is not compelling evidence. Why? Well, they indicate that, at that time in the state of Hawaii, anyone could have come forward, asked for, and received a document identical to that which Obama has shown. Where’s the answer to that in this article? Where’s even mention of it?
- They believe that the original birth certificate should be produced. Even though the author takes pains to make clear that a former official “took one step further” to look at the original, he can’t provide proof this occurred. Indeed, no one has ever produced the document, and that’s a core problem for the movement.
The media (CNN) seems to believe that the fact that the official is a Republican should persuade readers that she should be taken at her word. But it’s not a valid argument: Person A is a Republican and has seen the original record; Republicans make up a majority of the birther movement; Person A believes Obama is a citizen; therefore, doubting Republicans should believe Obama is a citizen. Typical doublespeak fallacy…
- They believe that the newspaper accounts could have been fudged after the fact. This is handled well in the article, I believe. But to my mind an objective writer would also attempt to explore what it would mean to falsify a document like a newspaper—how does that work? And to examine whether similar events had occurred in the past. Only in this way can the reporter respond to what is for the birthers a very real, very serious concern.
- The birthers believe there should be people who know some details of the birth for a fact. I have no doubt that some of the conversations related in the article may have taken place, but to recall the minute details of a conversation that occurred over 40 years ago is stretching things a bit. The author does nothing to convince the reader by quoting such a “witness” word for word. In this case, it would be better not to quote directly, but to provide the gist of what the person said by summarizing.
Overall, CNN does nothing to persuade here. Ad hominem arguments trying to make birthers appear foolish and the attempt to appeal to emotion through direct quotes of spurious information neither provide refuting nor persuasive power against the to them very real concerns about Obama’s birthright.
To address the concerns in a methodical, straightforward way, the writer/researchers should first have identified exactly what the birthers believe/want to know, instead of making them appear to be “silly fringe wingnuts.”
To the birthers, their concerns are very real. If the media wants us to believe them, they first have to take us seriously enough to address our questions and then cogently respond in a persuasive—not belittling—manner.