Editor's Note: After releasing his long-form birth certificate last week, President Barack Obama made fun of the "birther" issue during his remarks to the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night -- even showing a clip from the Disney movie, "The Lion King," as a supposed "video of my birth."
Obama then pointedly informed Fox News attendees that the video was meant as a joke and that they could check with Disney if they wanted to see "the long-form" version. However, as Danny Schechter notes in this guest essay, there is a serious side to what the "birther" nonsense says about today's U.S. "news" media:
In the aftermath of the resolution of the Great Birther bash-up, even as President Obama tried to lay the issue to rest by producing the document that showed, proved, verified, documented, and validated his birth in one of the great states of our disunion, it was said that its release would only fuel more debate and convince no one.
In other words, in the end, this long debated fact didn't matter.
Facts no longer seem to matter on other issues, too, as articulated in the now infamous memo issued by the office of retiring Sen. Jon Kyl when confronted with evidence that he misspoke on the matter of how much money Planned Parenthood spent on abortions -- he claimed 90 percent, the truth was but 3 percent, issued an advisory that said, "The statement was not meant to be factual."
Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" and Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report" had a lot of fun with that, but one thing that's not funny is that even when media coverage discredits or exposes some canard, public opinion is not necessarily impacted.
It doesn't change the minds of those whose minds are made up.
Once some people buy into a narrative or worldview, they seem to be locked into a way of thinking. For some, efforts to discredit a conspiracy theory offer more evidence that the conspiracy theory is valid -- because why else would THEY want to refute it.
If you don't trust the President, don't believe he is an American or do believe he is a socialist, nothing he or his supporters say will change your mind. After all, what would you expect them to say?
So even refutation can turn into reinforcement and trigger more stridency.
Dismissing critics as "silly," as Obama has done, only annoys them and makes them more determined to cling to their ideas, attitudes and anger.
The values (and prejudices) people grew up with often shape their worldviews. Their parochialism limits what they are exposed to. Their schooling seems to have had little impact in broadening their views.
Political scientist Thomas Patterson says, "the process by which individuals acquire their political opinions is called political socialization. This process begins in childhood, when, through family and school, Americans acquire many of their basic political values and beliefs.
"Socialization continues into adulthood, when peers, political institutions and leaders, and the news media are major influences."
Writes Edward Song on Huffington Post, "For example, people who believe in health care reform value helping the poor and needy. For progressives, it is moral to help the poor.
"For conservatives, helping the poor is helping people who are irresponsible, and goes against their principle of individual responsibility. The conservative's solution to poverty is called 'Tough Love.'