About the Impossibility of Convincing Conspiracy Theorists… (Update: Jon Stewart Says Release the Photos!”)
[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here. Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]
Update: First, thanks for the link from Legal Insurrection who writes Post Birth Certificate Polling Shows It Wasn’t About Race, But About Evidence. Indeed he even alludes to the Best Evidence Rule thus showing that great minds think alike.
Meanwhile Jon Stewart makes the case for releasing the photos, here:
And you know what? I agree with almost all of it (except for his implication that the people asking for evidence are denying that bin Laden is dead). But I especially like the part where he argues that we Americans should face the reality of war. I support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if Obama got permission from Congress and a clue on how to fight it, I would support the war in Libya. The cause is certainly just. But we should be aware of the costs of that decision, to go to war. We owe it to the good people who have died in those wars–as long as we are not selective in our realism and remember that there was brutality in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya long before we got there.
The original post follows.
One of the chief arguments arrayed against releasing the photos of a dead bin Laden is the claim that the people who are not convinced already will not be convinced.
Now, I have already attacked that notion here, and I concur with pretty much everything Patrick wrote, here. But let us point out a more basic fact: even the conspiratorially inclined can be convinced.
For instance, how many people cynically said that when Obama finally released his long form birth certificate, that the birthers wouldn’t be dissuaded. And of course for some people that is true—but not everyone:
The number of Americans saying President Obama was born in another country has been sliced in half, according to a new Washington Post poll.
In interviews following the public release the president’s “long-form” birth certificate last week, fully 70 percent of Americans say Obama was born in Hawaii, a big bump-up from the 48 percent who said so a year ago. Even more say he was U.S.-born, or call that their best guess, for a total of 86 percent.
Overall, 10 percent of Americans say Obama was likely born abroad, down from 20 percent in an April 2010 Post-ABC poll. Almost all those who now say Obama was born in a foreign country say that it’s only their “suspicion;” just 1 percent claim “solid evidence” that the president was born elsewhere (9 percent said so last year).
The drop-off in the mistaken belief that Obama was not-U.S.-born has come most prominently among his sharpest critics. Today, 14 percent of Republicans say Obama was not born in the U.S., down from 31 percent in April of last year. Among the most conservative Republicans, the number of skeptics fell from 35 to 16 percent.
Read the whole thing. It also supports my belief that the very fact he had been withholding that evidence was feeding the conspiracy theories and even led non-birthers to wonder what was on his BC that he was trying to hide.
Another argument is that this is not going to have any effect on al Qaeda and potential. The argument goes like this: the terrorists are ready to die for their cause, and therefore bin Laden dying is fully expected and even welcomed. Now that is undeniably true in some cases, but bluntly, I don’t think everyone in that organization is quite so committed, and indeed there is some evidence of a first defection:
In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s demise, is al Qaeda falling apart?
The Saudi Interior Ministry said today that a senior al Qaeda member on Riyadh’s most-wanted list named Khaled al-Qahtani called from abroad and turned himself in.
“Interior Ministry’s spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said in a statement Wednesday that Khaled Hathal Abdullah al-Atifi al-Qahtani contacted the security authorities from an undisclosed country and expressed his wish to come home,” the Associated Press reports.
“Al-Qahtani was reunited with his family and his surrender will be taken into consideration while looking into his case, Al-Turki said.”
Now that’s not 100% certain, but still the argument that it will do no good imagines a purity and consistency that seems alien to me. We have never heard of ministers who preach the sanctity of marriage and the evils of homosexualilty who then turn out of be having gay affairs behind their wives’ back? We have never heard of politicians preaching the evils of corporate money while once having been the direct benefit of a corporate donation to his campaign fund? So is it hard to believe that some members of al Qaeda will tell other people that if they die in holy war, they will get seventy-two virgins in paradise, but when their own lives are threatened, tremble in fear of death? No, indeed, knowing what we know about human nature it shouldn’t shock us that many al Qaeda types preach suicide tactics while maximizing their own chances of survival. And thus seeing bin Laden dead, they might have second thoughts.
Besides there was a real chance that his ability to evade us was becoming part of his legend. And thus proving his death might take him down a notch that way, too.
So to those who think we shoudn’t release the photos… are you still convinced we shouldn’t?
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]