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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Birth Control

So Barack Obama's released his birth certificate in an attempt to end the ludicrous right-wing claims that he wasn't born in the USA. Well, fine. Whether this actually stops the half-baked 'birther' movement in its tracks remains to be seen - as others are pointing out, this was never really about his birthplace at all, but a pretty ineptly coded and rather nasty example of the sort of just-beneath-the-surface racism so brilliantly satirised in Clybourne Park, which we saw recently in the West End. (In fact, it's a kind of double racism - that directed against the first black President, plus the underlying assumption that Hawaii is some kind of banana republic which must, by definition, be lying repeatedly about the presidential birth certificate. But yes, I confess that my knowledge of Hawaii is derived principally from both the old and new versions of Hawaii Five-O.) Personally, I doubt whether this will end 'birthism', or whatever it's called; the conspiracy theorists who cry out loudest and longest for hard evidence are actually terrified of some turning up, either because it will give the lie to their fantasies or because they'll have to dream up an even more byzantine explanation of why this development doesn't satisfy them. I suspect that even now, pale young men staring at computer screens in bedrooms in West Virginia or wherever are putting together 'proof' that this certificate is some sort of elaborate forgery put together by an unholy alliance of the CIA, the Illuminati and Al Qaeda - just look at the way in which the conspiracy theories about the moon landings, the death of Diana and 9/11 have survived each new piece of 'definitive' evidence contradicting their cases.

My personal favourite was the story circulated after the Falklands War, when Argentina claimed to have badly damaged HMS Invincible,  now being torn apart in a Turkish scrapyard. I came across a suggestion just the other day that some Argentinians still believe this: the 'proof' was that all of the press photos and TV footage of Invincible's return to Portsmouth on 17 September 1982 was shot from the starboard side, thus cunningly concealing the hideous damage to her port side. Ah well, don't cry for me, Argentina (to coin a phrase) - as anybody who has actually been to Portsmouth knows, the best viewing positions to watch ships entering and leaving the harbour are all on the Portsmouth side (i.e. the starboard side of incoming ships). Moreover, I was there that day and have photos of her from the port side about an hour after she docked. But no doubt this will be disbelieved by pale young men staring at computer screens in bedrooms in the Chubut Valley...


The new Kindle (see my last post) is still proving to be a revelation. Unfortunately, though, it's altering my reading habits, so that rather than sitting down and reading say three chapters of one book, I'm now skipping between two or three books at a time (of which more anon). Worse, I'm actually finding Peter Mandelson's memoirs pretty compelling - so much so that I've now downloaded Tony Blair's memoirs too. This is troubling. In fact, this is very troubling indeed.   

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