11/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Think Again: The Conspiracy Nuts Take Over

Crossposted with the Center for American Progress. With Mickey Ehrlich

The Van Jones contretemps is over and Mr. Jones is now a private citizen. On his way out the White House door he was defended by The Nation and Arianna Huffington. However, the facts relating to his past statement, including one in which he termed himself a "communist," and about his association with a distracting group of conspiracy theorists who make outrageous claims about the "true" story of the September 11 attacks are available to all.

Truthers, as they are known, have attracted understandable ire from pundits and politicians. Laura Ingraham has called them "insane" and Bill Clinton has called them "idiots." Because rejection of the truthers has been so consistently bipartisan, it is easy to see why Mr. Jones's association with the group would spark so much fear and outrage. The rejection of the theses and hypotheses of the truthers should mean an effort to prevent parades of malicious rumor and distortions of facts from becoming part of legitimate discourse.

We wish we could say the same about those folks who believe it is their duty to perpetuate lies about Barack Obama. But ever since the 2008 campaign, the president has faced accusations that he isn't an American citizen or that he wasn't born here and so he is not eligible to be the president. The claim is easily refutable by evidence, but this appears to have precious little effect on those who continue to perpetrate these lies. Because the claim is so obviously untrue, the defense of the birthers' claims in the media is ipso facto an act of double talk.

Either by denial or by omission, pundits and politicians claim that they don't believe birther accusations. Nonetheless, they stand in alliance with professed birthers, and they defend the conspiracy theorists' right to free speech by giving them airtime that they don't deserve. While no one, not even his defenders or even Mr. Jones himself, defends his decision to sign a "truther" petition, apologists for birthers are everywhere....

You can read the rest of Eric Alterman and Mickey Ehrlich's analysis in their recent article, "Think Again: The Conspiracy Nuts Take Over"

Eric Alterman is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College. He is also a Nation columnist and a professor of journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His seventh book, Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Most Important Ideals, was recently published in paperback. He occasionally blogs at and is a regular contributor to The Daily Beast.

Mickey Ehrlich is a freelance writer based in New York.