Paul Isn’t Dead

Copyright © by Len Holman, 8/13/10


  In 1969, a pervasive, persistent rumor circulated that Paul McCartney, of the world-famous Beatles, was dead, killed in a car crash three years earlier.  More incredible, that singer we all thought was McCartney was really a “William Campbell,” who had been picked as a near-perfect look-alike, and performed with the band as McCartney.  The experts came out of the woodwork to “verify” the facts, and even after McCartney was interviewed, had his pulse taken, fingerprints recorded, and asked if he could correctly give the name of the dog he had when he was five, the rumor refused to die.  The idea was that since the Beatles were very rich and very powerful, with contacts among the well-connected and wealthy, they could pull off this massive fraud—which they did.

  Conspiracies can be like hot fudge.  You spill some on you and it burns and you desperately try to rub it off, but it sticks and clings to your flesh, and it seems that you’ll never be rid of it.  And now we have yet another, “proven,” indisputable rumor which, it is claimed, is built on a liberal conspiracy:  The President of the United States was not born IN the United States.  One in five Americans believe this, according to a Washington Post/ABC poll, and if you just count the Republicans in the poll, the number is 1 in 3.  This is one of those conspiracy theories which will have a long shelf life—at least as long as the current president remains in office, and we are all the better for it, since it gives endless pleasure to those whose lives are barren, those whose smart phone batteries died, those who only have dial-up, and those who still don’t own one of Apple’s seductive machines, and it  provides almost limitless employment to those whose business it is to promulgate, disseminate, and pontificate on such.  The economy is helped thereby and reducing the need for any more stimulus money.  No wonder, then, that Republicans love this theory.  And while liberals might gnash their teeth over it, this conspiracy idea fertilizes their continued need to pick fights with anyone not of their faith, too, instead of offering solid proposals.  Both sides of the aisle need to grow up, and both sides have their zealots, but right now, the so-called “Birther” movement is ahead on points.

  For example, Lt. Col Terry Lankin is going to be court-martialed for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan, which is not so crazy, given the deteriorating situation there, but his reasoning—if that’s what it may be called—is a bit bizarre.  He refuses to go because he believes that, since President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. and is not a citizen, the president has no constitutional authority to send him anywhere.  He is not challenging the legality of the war, as others have done for other wars, and he is not saying that he doesn’t have enough sun block for a tour in Afghanistan.  He is saying that Obama is illegitimate as president and cannot even legally require him to deploy to the latrine.  Now, the Lt. Colonel is a decorated, 18-year veteran, on the promotion list for full bird colonel, but this court-martial thing is going to put a crimp in his career plans.  All because he, and many others, don’t believe the evidence presented in support of the presidential birthplace as Hawaii.  There is a certificate of live birth (COLB) showing the birth of the president in Hawaii at Kapi’olani Hospital in Honolulu, and a birth announcement in the paper for the date and place of his birth, and the Republican governor, Linda Lingle, had it checked and found it all legitimate and that should be that.  Except it isn’t. 

  If the president was not born in the United States, then the conspiracy to cover up this fact is as massive as any in American history, an the people promoting this idea make the Grassy Knoll people look like the sober, rational physics faculty at MIT.  In fact, it’s possible that the two conspiracies will merge someday:  it will be declared there is “proof” Obama was born on the Grassy Knoll in a parallel Dallas, as required by the “multiverse” interpretation of quantum theory.  Since the parallel Dallas is not in OUR United States, the birthers will have retained traction, and the Kennedy conspiracy folk will have yet another, richer set of possible gunmen—the Obama family, who had this all done to change the course of history.  That set of conspiracy theories will take us into the 22nd century—easily.

  I think the birther movement is missing a golden opportunity in not going to the source of it all: the actual conception of baby Barack.  If this new movement—let’s call them the Inseminators—could pinpoint the exact place and moment of the president’s conception, then they could argue that, since he was  conceived in, say, Indonesia—a Muslim state—this makes his legitimacy as president,  at the very least, suspicious, since the Islamic sperm  started the whole thing, and the non-Muslim egg let it all happen—an ovarian conspiracy which needs looking into.

  Just as with McCartney’s demise, the True Believers will not stand for any evidence which refutes their convictions.  They believe what they believe.  Is this an evolutionary adaptation or just fear of a world unknowable, uncomfortable and unwanted?  This behavior is called “confirmation bias,” which, say the experts, help us win argument and persuade other people—but this is nuts, since the purpose of argumentation is not to win, but to come to an understanding of the truth, if it’s possible, and the Sophists of ancient Greece would still be around if arguing any side of a position, depending on the audience, was a viable way to get to a true result.  But I don’t believe we’re talking about truth; I believe we’re talking about fear.  In Sir Paul’s case, the original hoax, started by students, developed into a shudder among fans and media that all was not as it was supposed to be, and that is scary for all of us, and this birther craze is predicated on a fear, a dread, of What No Longer Seems Usual, and many are sore afraid. 

  But not to worry:  this, too, shall pass—becoming background noise when the next rumor hits, and there will be those who will follow along with whatever crazy, irrational, unproven, don’t-confuse-me-with-facts scenario is presented.  Let them believe, and put up websites with really bad spelling, and let the commentators spit into their radio microphones in outrage.  It’s all harmless fun, and there is no arguing with a crazy person who will always “know” the truth.  That hot fudge eventually does come off, the burning stops and what is left is the memory.  So somewhere, for some believers, William Campbell walks the streets, alive and well.


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