The Real Lesson of Trig Trutherism:
Stupid Politics Attracts Stupid People

The sad case of “Trig Truthers” — the wacko conspiracy theorists who insist that Gov. Sarah Palin did not give birth to her fifth son, Trig — would be a senseless tragedy if we did not learn the valuable lesson this episode teaches.

In reflecting on this situation earlier today, I observed:

What is most interesting about anti-Palin fanatics is how uninteresting they are. Insanity is interesting; stupidity is not. And never have such dull people gone so hopelessly mad.

That was prompted by a typical engagement with the Palin Derangement Syndrome crowd. A leading Trig Truther blogger, “Audrey” claims that hers is “The Web site that started it all.” When I discovered that “Audrey” is not actually named “Audrey,” and that she had claimed obstetric expertise for her attacks on the Palin family, I went to work.

A few important points here:

  • Many political bloggers are anonymous, and that’s OK. People have professional and personal lives which they do not wish disrupted by their political interests. Ace of Spades is an aspiring screenwriter, a professional activity separate from, and irrelevant to, his political commentary. And then there is Rusty Shacklerod of the Jawa Report, who specializes in breaking up the “online jihad” activities of terrorists — for Rusty, his anonymity may be a matter of national security.
  • The assertion of expertise makes anonymity problematic. If an anonymous blogger is offering stock tips, how do you know that he is not being paid as a shill for a specific stock or otherwise operating unethically or in violation of SEC regulations? There is always good reason to be skeptical toward those who claim to have specific “inside” information or specialized knowledged, when that claim comes from behind a pseudonym.
  • Anonymous “attack blogging” is simply wrong. It is one thing to debate politics or to ridicule politicians while anonymous. However, the anonymous blogger who claims to be conducting an “investigation,” and who then proceeds to flatly assert otherwise unknown “facts” on the basis of his own authority or his equally anonymous “sources,” by way of making personal attacks, is engaging in a morally dubious activity.

This last consideration is what particularly makes the vituperative anti-Palin bloggers so odious. Scratch a Palin-hating blogger and a Trig Truther bleeds; all of them push that crackpot stuff. This is what distinguishes the PDS moonbats from other “progressive” bloggers who, whatever their faults, are not obsessed with Sarah Palin’s obstetric history.

My own engagement with the PDS brigade has been intermittent. As early as Sept. 1, 2008, I dismissed their Trig Truther speculations as implausible, based on two simple facts:

  1. Only eight months separated the April birth of Sarah Palin’s son, Trig, and the December birth of Bristol Palin’s son, Tripp Johnston. Given that Bristol’s son was a healthy 7 pounds, 7 ounces — i.e., a full-term gestation — it was biologically impossible that Bristol was also the mother of Trig, as the Truthers suggest.
  2. Trig Palin was born with Down Syndrome, a condition clearly associated with advanced maternal age. Consulting medical data on this subject, it can be demonstrated that Sarah Palin, at age 44, was 50 times more likely to give birth to a Down Syndrome baby than was her then-17-year-old daughter. So, in addition to the insuperable obstacle of gestational mathematics, the Trig Truthers were also on the short end of a 50-to-1 statistical improbability.

OK, so the Trig Truthers were demonstrably kooky. Case dismissed. And yet, encouraged in their kookiness by Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic Monthly, they persisted — long after the November election, and even after Palin resigned in July as Alaska governor.

What was at work here was idee fixe , the madman’s monomaniacal fixation on some sick obsession. The hypochondriac who obsesses over the danger of germs, the hoarder who is found dead in a feces-strewn house full of cats — we recognize these phenomena as symptomatic of mental pathology. What happens, however, when disordered minds become focused on subjects of a political nature?

We’ve seen this sort of thing before. I well recall how, in 1993-94, some opponents of the Clinton administration became fixated on a few characteristic scandals — the death of former White House counsel Vince Foster, the botched raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, the allegations that Mena Airport in Arkansas had been a center of drug-related criminality during Clinton’s governorship. Whatever the facts or political relevance of these matters, they became the focus of a rather clearly defined species of paranoid speculation.

Why? In the simplest terms, these scandals provided an opportunity for amateur expertise. Certain people seized on things like Vince Foster’s death because politicized suspicion provided an opportunity for them to present themselves as authorities — experts! — on subjects that were especially interesting to a highly-motivated audience of gullible fanatics.

The type of person who was willing to believe that Foster’s suicide was actually an assassination — a conspiratorial cover-up of the Mena Airport scandal, for example, with Foster cast in the tragic role of The Man Who Knew Too Much — was clearly a chump, a rube, the sort of sucker who should never be given an even break. And there was no shortage of hustlers willing to exploit those suckers.

Insofar as all that Clinton-hating conspiracy stuff had any real political impact, it served to divert people from more useful avenues of opposing the Clintons, and to discredit Clinton’s opposition with the taint of kookdom.

Fast-forward to August 2009. On a Saturday about three weeks ago, I was minding my own business when I saw the headline “Todd and Sarah Palin to divorce” at the top of Memeorandum, the aggregation site I use as a guide to what’s going on in the political blogosphere. This story was quickly debunked, but an anonymous e-mail tip led to the identification of the false rumor’s source as an Anchorage kindergarten teacher, a project in which Dan Riehl’s investigative abilities were indispensible.

At the time, the health-care debate was in full swing and I had recently been involved in reporting the IG-Gate investigation. Many of my blogger friends refused to link the posts exposing “Gryphen” as Jesse Griffin, and some asked in all sincerity, “Why are you wasting your time on this idiot moonbat?”

Because it’s important, that’s why. The Jesse Griffins of the world become accustomed to preaching to the converted, being the Big Fish in the Small Pond of their fellow kooks, ignored by serious people who might expose them as the idiots and frauds they are. However, when their kookiness erupts into the news — causing legitimate reporters to expend time and effort knocking down their bogus “exclusives” — we see the danger of ignoring these anonymous online cesspools of toxic slime.

Turn on the light and stomp a few of these cockroaches, and the rest will scurry off behind the refrigerator. So when I discovered that “Audrey” of the Palin’s Deceptions blog had left an online bread-crumb trail as “AnnieB393,” and that “Audrey’s” claim to be a “childbirth educator” and author matched the connection of “AnnieB393” to an anti-circumcision book published in 1985 — on went the light. Stomp, stomp, stomp.

Then another anonymous e-mailer pointed out that one of “Audrey’s” blog colleagues used the same Internet alias as a Web Cam porn enthusiast — stomp, stomp, stomp. And yet, stupidly, the cockroaches came over into my comments to foment their dimwitted kookery, and at one point “Patrick12344” accused me of defamation, to which I replied:

Breaking new legal ground, in the comments below, “Patrick” accuses me of defaming his Internet pseudonym. Think about that.
The case of “Patrick12344” v. McCain could establish an important precedent for the landmark Supreme Court decision in Doe v. “HotBiChrlder19.”

Sarcasm is the only response these vicious creatures deserve. If they wish to spread malicious nonsense to their fellow dimwits, the PDS moonbats at least ought to do it under their own names. If the Trig Truthers arrogantly assume they are secure in their online anonymity, further demonstrations of their stupidity may be required.

UPDATE 3 A.M., 8/26: Just in case “Audrey”/”AnnieB393” doubts that “further demonstrations” are possible, perhaps she’ll be able to read between the lines here.

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