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Bin Laden Death Conspiracy Theories?

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyMay 2, 2011 7:54 PM


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I just got this question through my Facebook page:

Hey Chris. You and a few others have been talking recently about how conspiracy theorists manufactured the birther controversy, partly out of a disbelief that a non-conservative, untraditional guy who doesn’t match their stereotype for a President could somehow be leader of their country. On Twitter, various people have been jokingly wondering whether Trump will ask for the death certificate of Bin Laden. But, do you reckon the birther folks will, over the coming days, actually resort to trying to whip up a conspiracy theory about Bin Laden's death, eg we haven't seen the scientist's report from the DNA tests, the photo of Osama's body was faked, that he really died five years ago etc? Will they be so miffed that a Democrat-run military killed public enemy #1 instead of during the reign of Bush that they will be forced into denial? Or will this be one issue where everyone, whether liberal or conservative, can finally unite in celebrating a common goal having been achieved?

My answer is that, first, I would hope strongly for the latter. And second, I think the questioner is being a bit too logical, rather than emotional, about this. The thinking seems to be that one conspiracy theory engenders another, so that one conspiracist (a birther) will generate new conspiracies (Bin Laden isn't dead!). The question is also posed to imply that somehow conspiracy thinking comes first, and then come a bevy of conspiracies--but that's not how it goes, in my mind. Rather, I would say beliefs in which we are emotionally invested come first--and then, maybe, conspiracy theories emerge to justify the beliefs. So here's how I would think about it. Birthers certainly have an emotional motivation to question President Obama's legitimacy, but does this translate into a motivation to question Bin Laden's death, just because they really hate Obama that much and don't ever want to see him succeed? Don't they have a strong emotional counter-motivation to want Bin Laden dead, and the U.S. triumphant? If you want to find Bin Laden death conspiracy theories--and apparently they're already hatching--it seems to me the pertinent question to ask is, who has a deep emotional motivation to question the fact that Bin Laden is actually dead? So I would tend to look first to Al Qaeda supporters, etc, not birthers. But this will be interesting to watch and I'm interested in what others think. I will also add that I don't know enough about 9/11 Truthers to guess what they will do in this situation.

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