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Updated on December 23, 2013


Many conspiracy theories over Obama’s citizenship have been circulating in US since his election as US president. The conspiracies are that president Obama was not naturally born in America and therefore, under the US constitution, he is not supposed to become the president of the nation. These conspiracies were particularly intense in the years that preceded his election. During this time, Obama’s opponents were arguing that his birth certificate had been obtained through fraud. Other people claim that the real birthplace of Obama is in Kenya and therefore, his birth certificate, which is indicated as being a US citizen, was obtained through forgery. Other theorists have gone on to assert that Obama is a dual citizen, that is half-American and half British. However, some commentators have been arguing that these reactions and perceptions are racist, owing to Obama’s status as an African –American.

In his commentary about these views, Obama has regularly avoided to answer the question directly by articulating that the kind of policies executed were more of important than birth certificates or citizenship for that matter. Asked by Williams, a journalist, on the fact that one fifth of US citizens did not belief that he was not a US citizen nor was he a Christian, his response was that the beliefs had been instigated by misinformation and propaganda from political leaders and media concerning his citizenship. He then added that his life could not be spent on confirming his citizenship or birth certificates.

Reasons Why People are believing in Obama’s Conspiracy Theories

One of the main reasons why people believed the rumor that Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent was because they believed in what they knew. The information they had was wrong and they did not have a different perspective from the little information they had. Such people are said to have a crippled epistemology. They have scanty relevant information and they back up their perceptions through the little information they have.

Another reason why people believe in such rumors is that they feel under pressure to retain their reputation among peers that hold onto the conspiracy theory. They are pressurized to stay in the reputational cascades of the crowd. For instance, people that are strongly opposed to Obama’s presidency may form a reputational cascade to give an impression of a united front. All members of the opposition may not necessarily think that the conspiracy theory about Obama’s certificate is true but they would fail to offer contradicting opinions even when they personally believe it to be wrong. They would play along to avoid sanctions or reputational damage in their standing as favorable in other people’s opinions within the social set up.

Group polarization also has a strong impact on people’s belief in conspiracy theories. Polarization occurs when people have strong ties and solidarity to ideas or conspiracy theories held by the group. It becomes particularly difficult for others to convince members of such a group to other ideas because they have a strong sense of belonging in the group and a common sense of identity. Members of groups cement their extreme position before deliberations on the issue commence and they increase their commitment to such beliefs after they engage in deliberations on the issue. This is because when like-minded people speak on a given theory, they find it more appealing.

Selection perception also plays a significant role in furthering belief in crippled epistemology. People in a group classify themselves in accordance to the level of extremism in the group’s view. The group may lose some of the members that doubt the group’s view but the remnants often indicate more fanaticism through a self-selection process. People in the group segregate others based on what they each member in the group chooses to believe in. It results in people holding different opinions and seeking facts that are different (Johnson n.p.). The leaders in the group may also foster division to guard against a certain rank in the group from debates that would weaken their strong grip on the group. This in turn intensifies polarization among the selective rank in their perception (Sunstein and Vermuele 218).

Others believe in conspiracy theories because they have strong belief in other similar conspiracy theories. It is believed that people form certain beliefs from how they experience events and issues over time. Their experiences which include conspiracy theories alluded to previously lead them to subsequently establish their world view. This way, people become accustomed to making certain decisions based on their past experiences of formed world views. Do the people who promote this theory do so because they are actively trying to undermine a black president, or are the birthers racist without even knowing it?

The birthers that challenge Obama’s citizenship and his eligibility for presidency do so without recognizing their racial discrimination inclinations. This is because the racist stigma is still prevalent in the US albeit in a hidden way. Cohen indicates that even Obama stated that his grandmother feared black men. She associated black men passing in the streets with crime. It indicates that even when racist ideologies remain largely unspoken, they are prevalent in the American society. Obama indicated this in speech at Philadelphia and it is clearly evident that the birthers were only verbalizing their fear of black men.

They were indicating their lack of trust in a black president to steer the country towards growth and development. Birthers hold sentiments that Obama’s leadership would propagate war, debt and man-made disasters among other forms of evils associated with African leadership in war torn and underdeveloped countries. They indicate that they are not allowed to question his citizenship lest it implies their racist nature and labels them as birthers.

It is evident that Americans still hold racist perceptions albeit in a subtle way and it is reflected through the bias. They indirectly communicate their bias for an Americanized president to disguise their real attitudes towards black people. They understand that egalitarian principles sanctions racial discrimination and often defy them when sure that their actions would be justified through other means. It would therefore seem that the racists were using the fraudulent citizenship claims to further their discriminatory attitudes and justify it by displaying Obama as an ineligible candidate for presidency.

Birthers indicate racial prejudice is demonstrated through their view that Obama is not Americanized and unable to register acceptable performance in his presidential capacity. They do so in covert ways through controversies, which are not based on facts. Their race based prejudices about Obama not being American in the fullest sense bear a strong indication of mistrust in him as a national leader.


People believe in conspiracy theories that have little relevant information. They believe in rumors because they lack sufficient information on the controversial issues. They spread the rumors widely and others subscribe to those ideas because of reasons such as retaining their reputational standing, group polarization, selective perception and because of previously held conspiracy theories that form their worldview. The Conspiracy theory as propagated by birthers indicates covert and indirect racist prejudice against a black president. Birthers covertly considered a black president as being unable to register good performance in his presidential capacity owing to his racial descent.


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    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 4 years ago from Singapore

      Either way it doesn't matter now as Obama is into his second term. But the fact remains most whites have not accepted Obama.