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Not Just Crazy: An Explanation for the Resonance of the Birther Narrative

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In this essay I use an updated approach to Richard Hofstadter's paranoid style to analyze the contemporary birther movement. While the paranoid style provides a set of characteristics that describes paranoid narratives, it does not account for why some narratives ring true for certain audiences. Thus, in order to explain how and why the birther narrative resonates with a substantial portion of Americans, I argue that the resonance of the birther narrative can be explained through Kenneth Burke's scapegoating process, which activates the conspiratorial story for the birther audience. I use an analysis of a popular birther film, materials on the birthers' website, and media commentary on the group to illustrate this position.

Keywords: Birthers; Obama; Paranoid Style; Scapegoating

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2012

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