This is an interesting analysis of the birther phenomena from a psychological perspectice:
It's not fair to call a large segment of today's electorate "1950s-style racists," he said. But some people are "unconsciously prejudiced in a way that predisposes them to not believing that a black man with a funny name could have really been legitimately elected president of the United States." ~ linkAnd that is most likely a part of it but (perhaps reflecting my own unconscious prejudice as a middle age white guy rooted in the most powerful segment of the culture) I'm also inclined to write a lot of this nonsense off to the fact that we're a society of flaky conspiracy theory nuts. We love the sensation of the speculation. It gives us a relatively easy outlet for all that frustrates us.
Racism and conspiracism are both just different expressions of denial. We're looking for escape from uncomfortable aspects of reality so we get sucked into this kind of endless speculation. Any attempts to derail the speculation are then seen as a part of the conspiracy. This is why the Kennedy assassination theories never get put to bed and why many Americans believe that George W Bush knew of the 9-11 terror attacks before they actually happened.
The thing which is different this time around is the rise of grassroots social media. And I find it interesting that Barrack Obama was so good at using social media to get elected. But then he didn't connect the dots early enough to see that the same phenomena could hinder his agenda. I suspect that people in power will in the future pay more attention to social media. And this will give rise to theories that they are trying to control all the content on Facebook. It never ends.