Shaffer

Raleigh-based anti-birther website has global reach

June 18, 2012 

Bill Bryan mug

COURTESY OF BILL BRYAN

— More than a year after President Barack Obama produced a copy of his birth certificate documenting his arrival on Earth in a Honolulu hospital in 1961, the conspiracy theory persists that his citizenship is bogus, a forgery, a fiction, a liberal plot involving Kenya, Indonesia, Communists and Malcolm X.

So from his North Raleigh home, Bill Bryan keeps up a spirited fight against this line of thinking known as the “birther” movement, piloting what is probably the best-known online counterpunch: The Fogbow.

Nearly two years old, with roughly 300 members worldwide, Bryan’s Fogbow exists to shove a burr under the saddle of birthers and their intractable belief that Obama wasn’t born in the United States, and Bryan provides detailed and wildly funny attacks.

A sample:

“You can find Web sites claiming that George H.W. Bush was born in Germany, the son of Nicola Tesla’s accountant. Or that the Queen of England is a lizard. Mere presence of such claims on the Web doesn’t make them credible.”

By most people’s political barometer, the birther movement is deader than Warren G. Harding, their collection of conspiracy theories so universally discredited, officially disproven and widely thought to be wacko that no less a Republican than Newt Gingrich offered this explanation for their staying power:

“Beats me.”

So why get into the ring with the birthers, especially if you’re Bryan, a 59-year-old ex-lawyer in North Raleigh, running a small business, living a life that is totally unrelated to Obama’s birthplace? Why wrestle with a pig, knowing how dirty you’ll get, and how much the pig will enjoy it?

Bryan explains it like this:

Once in a while, somebody says something so outrageous, so irrational, so demonstrably false that it bores into your skin like a tick – and against your better judgment, even though every brain cell in your skull says let it be, you decide to fight back.

“I’m lucky they haven’t shown up with torches and pitchforks,” he said. “But I have gotten harassing phone calls telling me I’m going to hell and I’m a Communist.”

Outrage birthed Fogbow.com

Bryan is a well-known presence in online forums, including some that no longer exist on The News & Observer, and he enjoys a blistering Internet battle.

His site, TheFogbow.com, got started when eight like-minded birther-haters found each other online and decided to combine forces – giving Bryan the reins because he knew how to embed YouTube videos.

“They call us Obots,” he explained. “We’re Obama robots and we can’t think for ourselves.”

By definition, a fogbow is similar to a rainbow – a weather phenomenon that happens when sunshine strikes fog rather than rain, creating a red and blue glow. So you can understand the light-bringing-clarity symbolism going on here. The group’s motto: Falsehoods unchallenged only fester and grow.

On the site, you can find a list of birther claims and the Fogbow’s detailed response.

They debunk claims of Obama’s Kenyan birth certificates, his adoption in Indonesia and the idea that any U.S. citizen must have two parents who are also citizens. They take potshots at well-known birthers, not just Donald Trump, who recently spoke in Greensboro and demanded that Obama release college records, but also Orly Taitz, the California lawyer, dentist and birther lawsuit filer.

“Your 7-year-old daughter is a better lawyer than Orly,” states The Fogbow. “Your dog might be a better lawyer than Orly.”

At any given time, more than a thousand topics are bubbling in the Fogbow forum, including this one, “Chuck Norris: Moonbat.”

Global reach from Raleigh base

Bryan plays referee, saying simply that he hasn’t gotten born with birthers yet.

They’re even welcome to join the Fogbow forum, he says. But they’re corralled in a special area of the site, off to themselves, in a room of their own.

For the record, before the emails start flying my way, I’m not taking sides here, nor do I have any dog what seems like a pretty ridiculous fight.

I’m just intrigued that my city is ground zero for an international effort aimed at skewering bad ideas that won’t go away.

jshaffer@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4818