Is it really a surprise that the death of Osama Bin Laden has brought the conspiracy theorists out of the woodworks??? I'm not here to give off a blow by blow of specific conspiracy theories so much as to contemplate conspiracy theories in general.
It seems to me that it is just as foolish to assume that the government has your best interests at heart and that the media is all truth all the time as it is to unquestioningly suck up any conspiracy theory that hits the right spot emotionally.
I've read some attempts at explaining the psychology of conspiracy theories. These are usually from a liberal-ish point of view, and usually wanting to paint all who aren't drinking their particular brand of kool-aid as wild-eyed whackjobs. It may help to maintain one's own worldview to believe that those who aren't buying it are insecure or racist or scapegoating or whatever, but the fact remains, government and mainstream media both have given the American public an awful lot of reasons to feel suspicious over the years. I'm sure there ARE people who are just unbalanced and have paranoid tendencies anyhow who let their imaginations entirely get the best of them.
It's a gross misrepresentation to give us two choices: either suck up what you are told by the powers that be or float off into mere speculation and heresay.
See, this is where I think a lot of conspiracy theory types get it wrong. It's obvious there is something off. Let's take the whole birth certificate mess. Obama was not terribly forthcoming with information. He did not display an open willingness to put the American public at ease. Why that might be is mere speculation. I've seen theories that he was an illegitimate child and is in fact hiding that he was the product of an affair. This is plausible. Doesn't make it fact. It is also possible that Obama was just being cantankerous; and because his questioners were people at the diametric end of the political spectrum than himself, he thought that not dignifying their suspicions with what they wanted was a smooth move. Not so much. If people accuse you, you show them you have nothing to hide. It doesn't take a genius to figure that one out. So, as a result of Obama's unwillingness to be an open book on the matter of his official documentation, we've had a lot of theories floating around out there that go well beyond anything that can be proven. It is one thing to say "I do not trust him. He is hiding SOMETHING" and it is quite another to fill in the blanks with mere speculation (lets see how many times I can use the word "speculation" in this post, eh?). Look, I've read some of the articles that are based on statements of relatives and half-siblings that can't even get their facts straight. At the same time, it strikes me as kinda odd that Obama has an Indonesian half sister that he fails to mention in his book AT ALL. This lack of forthrightness is of course going to breed suspicion that the man is hiding something. Or lots of somethings. He may think he is being private, but that's not how an awful lot of folks, particularly those who don't like his politics already, are gonna perceive it. As for the privacy: I'm sorry, you choose to run for the president of the United States, any semblance of privacy flies out the window. If you are not prepared to answer touchy questions about yourself and your history to reassure people, inspire trust and put their minds at ease, then why don't you just find another profession?
This is what I think: conspiracy theories (note the word THEORY. If it were more than that, a different word would be used than THEORY) flourish where people have good reason to believe that they are not being told the truth through mainstream sources. When they believe that information is being withheld or even that they are being lied to outright, a certain number of people's imaginations run wild. Maybe it makes some of us feel more control to have a plausible explanation rather than just a lot of dangling loose ends. I don't know. But some of the explanations I've read in some of the self-congratulatory back-patting liberal publications out there (Huffington Post, I'm looking at you!!!) reek of just as much speculatory accusation as the so-called conspiracy theorists.
To reduce people who question Obamas birth to a bunch of racists who want to rid the country of its first African-American president is one of the most ridiculous things that I have ever heard in my entire life. The man's father and stepfather both were foreigners. He spent a significant portion of his youth living not only in a foreign country, but a foreign country who's predominant religion is known to have large factions that have expressed their undying hatred of America. If that means people want a little more reassurance than they would from another candidate, then I don't think that makes them racists. Especially in this current political climate. That they take that lack of reassurance and spin fanciful stories is not really a surprise. I think most people feel more comfortable if they can explain stuff away instead of living with a big gaping hole of stuff-we-don't-know.