Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Sigh. Orly?

So I listen to this podcast. 'On Point with Tom Ashbrook,' out of Boston.

It's typically a low-key show. Ashbrook is a level-headed, thoughtful host who spends his weekdays talking about current events with newsmakers or whatever. Pundits, celebrities, authors, journalists, scientists, experts. Today, Dave Eggers. Last month, a sit-down with Adam Davidson and David Kestenbaum. A few months back, a discussion on Afghanistan.

Reasonable host. Reasonable guests. Reasonable, relevant topics. It's public radio, so... you know. Thoughtful but not obnoxious.


So like today, I'm going to work, and I'm kind of groggy, and I do the usual going-to-work ritual where I go outside, dodge a few cars, plug ear buds into my ears to seal out the city's noise, walk to the train station, scroll through podcasts. I choose 'The Furry of the Birthers.' Hm. Furry Birthers. I walk past a construction guy beating hardened concrete out of an upside-down dumpster dangling from a crane. The Birthers are now attracting Furries. Should be interesting.

Anyway. 'The Furry of the Birthers.' It was an 'On Point with Tom Ashbrook' podcast. Calm, measured voice. The steps leading up to the train platform in view. A sunny day. A construction worker beating the shit out of a dumpster. Traffic. The whole day ahead of me, a pee-drained and napping dog behind me. A whole short day since I get off early on Fridays in the summer. And a pee-full short dog to come home to afterwards.

While listening to 'On Point,' rather than to the screams and shouts of NY, I am civilized. Calm. I'm ready to wrestle grandmothers for a seat on the train, I'm ready to shove fat Midwestern tourist-spawn out of the way on sidewalks.

"In the past week here at On Point, we've taken on health care, the fight in Afghanistan, and the Wall Street banks and the US economy."

Ashbrook's sounding a bit like he's laying out his credentials, reminding me why I listen to him.

"But there's another story out there in the wings. It's a strange one. Promoted by a fringe that call themselves the 'Birthers.'"

I'm in mid-step almost to the platform when he says the word 'Birthers.' Shit, I think. Not Furry. Fury. The title of the podcast is 'The Fury of the Birthers.' Oh Tom Ashbrook, not you too. Not this subject. You're always so reasonable.

"The Birthers say Barack Obama has no right to be in the White House because, they claim, he's not American-born. The evidence says otherwise, but the Birthers have been getting plenty of attention on cable TV."

I'm on the platform now. I'm hearing Tom Ashbrook but looking at a man shouting at his teenage daughter. I'm looking at a middle-aged woman in a slacks reading a newspaper to her companion. I'm looking at a man jabbering into a cell phone, and a younger woman dancing on the platform, her iPod in her hand and the wire to her ear buds twisting around her like a commercial. We're all waiting for the train, which will slide over the Broadway Bridge, swallow us up, and slither us downtown.

"This hour On Point, the Birther movement and what's behind the fringe obsession with the President's birth. You can join the conversation--have you heard the theory and what's deriving it? Are the Birther's just a wacky fringe or do they represent a dangerous threat, a resistance to the will of the majority of American voters? You can also comment on our website...."

The train comes, and swallows, and shoots us down to the next stop, and a series of stops, opening and closing, regurgitating and swallowing. I cling to a pole. Listening.

Tom's first guest is Ben Smith of He and Tom discuss the evidence supporting Obama's legit American birth, and both seem apologetic about having to discuss it, as if they're really talking about how Earth is round no matter what flat-earthers say. And I'm enjoying the conversation, especially since the train's crowded and some misshapen mass keeps pressing into my thigh. Podcasts: disassociation for straphangers.

At some point around 168th Street, Tom breaks away from Ben to introduce Orly Taitz. I think that's how you spell her name. Orly. And Tom says her name as if it's a decent thing to say. As if each day, we all look at a loved one and say, Orly Taitz, then hug and squeeze inappropriately, and feel loved, and move on.

Orly speaks. Reasonable? Rational? I'm not too familiar with her. Surely Tom wouldn't have a nut-case on his show? "First of all, Ben Smith," she says, "knowingly and intentionally lied and defrauded American citizens."

As the mysterious mass presses into my thigh, I listen to Orly Taitz. The woman goes on and on, laying out her case as if she were designing the Winchester house.

Obama was not born in the United States. Unless he was, in which case he's not a natural born citizen because his father was Kenyan. Unless that doesn't matter, in which case Obama was adopted by his Indonesian step-father so he's got a dual citizenship, and that makes him ineligible for the Presidency, unless it doesn't. Orly yells--there's never yelling on On Point!--and blusters on and on about how unfairly she's being treated, and then it's time for a break.

I don't get the Birthers. I mean, I get them, sort of, but I don't think they're very rational. They're like a construction guy beating a bat against a dumpster full of cement, suspended upside-down by a crane.


Matt Osborne said...

Marc, I've been fascinated by the fringe since I was little. I've deconstructed their belief systems as far as humanly possible, and it really is like being a scholar of Tolkien's Silmarillion. You just can't keep up without taking notes. Their theoretical reconstructions of history are like Rube Goldberg devices.

But here's all you need to know: the fringe wants to erase the election.

To attract attention, they sound the alarm as loud as possible and throw every scare-word they can think of in hopes that something sticks.

Here are the three rules you have to follow in order to understand their logic:

1) THEY are out to get you.

2) THEY are everywhere.

3) THEY are all in it together.

MM said...

Matt, I'd say you're a bit paranoid, but after listening to this and reading a few other things, you're probably right. Some segments of the population--the same segments that were pushing for an amendment to get The Terminator made eligible for president--can't accept that we have a black leader.

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