Politics and Panic

Jon Stewart last night:

People are going freaking nuts over one Ebola patient in Texas. Cause for concern, yes, but in first-world conditions it shouldn’t be that hard to keep the infection contained. The CDC says that Ebola is only contagious while an infected person has active symptoms. Where the disease is raging in Africa it has been impossible to quarantine infected people.

It doesn’t help that the CDC’s budget was cut, because Republicans, eroding its ability to deal with things like contagious disease. To be a Republican is to be too dim to connect cause and effect. How many times in the past few years have Republicans gone on a rampage about poor government response to some situation, and then we learn that the agency responsible for the poor response had had its budget cut by Republicans?

Some parts of news media (guess which!) seem to be going out of their way to spread panic. And guess who is being called out for particular blame for one Ebola patient? In the Republican imagination POTUS is something like Professor X in X-men, and he can sit in his Cerebro chamber controlling all things with his mind. Laura Ingraham, at least, seems to think this.

As Stewart points out, we put up with a lot of preventable death in this country without blinking an eye. We can quibble with how much of our out-of-control gun violence rates are preventable, but if we compare U.S. rates of gun deaths to that of other countries it’s obvious that tens of thousands of people die in the U.S. every year who would not have died if they had been somewhere else. Our infant mortality rates have been a disgrace for decades, and Republicans find no end of creative ways to explain this away — nothing to see here, folks, move along. In some cases there’s only so much public policy can do, but earlier this year the CDC released its findings of a study of what it called “preventable deaths,” nothing that rates of these preventable deaths tend to be higher in the southeast states.  Hmmm.

But these deaths are somehow tolerable. One Ebola patient and the country has a meltdown. You don’t need a degree in Freudian analysis to suspect that much of the panic is coming from the Id, from fear of the unknown awful ( and nonwhite) things that  scare us. We’re supposed to tolerate stranger-men with assault rifles in restaurants, but some communities have pushed themselves to the brink of riot at the thought of Guatemalan children being housed in their midst.

And, of course, political operatives are milking this for all its worth, because you know that all over America there are living rooms full of extremely stupid people watching their televisions and saying, yeah, we’re all going to die of Ebola and its Obama’s fault. And maybe those people will go to the polls in November to vote Republican.

13 thoughts on “Politics and Panic

  1. While conservatives continue to scream about “Benghazi! Benghazi!! Benghazi!!!,” not one of them acknowledges that fact that the Republicans were the ones who cut embassy consulate budgets, which led to the deaths of the Americans there.

    And the same states that won’t allow the expansion of Medicaid to their people, are the same ones who’ll be screaming the loudest when there’s an outbreak of Eboala, or some other infectious disease!

    Our faults lie not in the stars, or in our President, but in ourselves – too many of us are either stupid, ignorant, bigoted, or some combination thereof.

  2. Watching some CNN this morning, it was interesting to see the “presenter” asking lots of questions when she had no one there to answer them, and little capacity to do followup questions to the one guest she did have on remote. Our “news” business will manage to make quite a hash of this, I think.

  3. News reports are not mentioning that there was one laboratory confirmed case in Senegal during the summer which was brought in by a traveler from Guinea. They took the appropriate isolation and contact followup measures, and it has been more than a month since that case was reported, with no new cases since then. This outbreak was confined to that single case. Nigeria had 19 laboratory confirmed cases with 8 deaths, but no new cases since Sept. 5 (more than 21 days).

    Senegal managed to stop the outbreak with one case. If they can do it, we can do it. Not that the conservatives want to hear anything of the kind.

  4. “Why did Obama let the Ebola virus into the United States?” she asked.

    I know that some fella named Jim Hoft is the stupidest man on the internet, now it appears little Laura Ingram is the stupidest women on the radio!

    O.T. President Obama took the smaller version of Air-Force One out for a ride Wednesday night and landed at me home town’s little airport, pretty cool!


  5. Um. Technically, Air Force One is the call sign of any plane under AF control carrying the POTUS. So if they took him up in a gyrocopter, that would now be AF1. And when GWB was playing flyboy and the pilot let him take the controls for a few minutes, so he could pretend he was a Big Boy who might be a Pilot When He Grew Up – that was then Navy 1.

    (But yeah, that sweet-ride 747 decked out with everything – that *is* what we think of when we think of AF1. My mid-life crisis is that I’m not in the kind of job where I can imagine that someday I – yes, little old me! – is needed for some National Crisis and I have the run of that aircraft, right before the furious montage of saving the day.)

  6. Also, too – the same Republican morons who cut the CDC’s budget by $600 million since 2010, are now blaming President Obama and the Democrats, and panicking about an Ebola pandemic.

  7. Boy, that Laura Ingraham is so stupid, she blames Obama when it was actually Homeland Security who let the Ebola virus into the country. Maybe we need an investigation of the TSA.

  8. Ed – Kudos for an intelligent response. That’s how news should be presented. Instead, panic and dread draw viewers who will stay tuned for a body count – even if no tragedy results. And the fearmongers will claim that the lack if a disaster is proof that their propaganda works – because the lies were the mojo that scared away evil.

  9. When the kids come to the door on Halloween, instead of yelling Boo!, I’ll scream EBOOOLAAAA!!!

  10. Do read Charles Pierce:

    …This reminds me of the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when undertakers refused to bury the dead, and emergency workers were afraid to treat people after automobile accidents and commonplace domestic catastrophes. Which is to say this isn’t surprising at all. One of the other things that marked the early days of the AIDS epidemic was the truly wicked role played by various satraps of the Christian Right and by the nascent conservative media bubble machine. There was talk of God’s vengeance upon gay people, and more talk of curses than we’d heard in this country since the Mather family closed up shop in Massachusetts Bay. Then, of course, transfusion patients and hemophiliacs began to die, and the gay community rallied itself heroically, and the disease finally got itself treated as a disease, and not some creature out of the subtext of Leviticus. This is where the historical parallel ends. Unfortunately.

    What we had in the AIDS epidemic was political opportunism married to what became obvious ignorance. What we are seeing now, promulgated by a conservative bubble machine that has built a self-sustaining universe around itself, is political opportunism married to an active campaign of disinformation. This is a terrible thing. The people making a profit out of it are people who are too lazy to mug old ladies or swindle the blind. The people making a profit out of it are people without consciences, people who are as free of patriotism as they are free of the inconveniences of having a soul. These are dangerous people, and it’s far past time for the honorable people in my profession to stop treating them like the worthless hacks they are. They are no longer cute. They are no longer funny. They are no longer the respectable “other side” of some fanciful imaginary political debate. They are dangerous propagandists. They are peddling poisonous lies and putting people’s lives at risk. Every journalist who treats them as anything else, and every politician who treats them as anything else, are actively abetting evil.

    Take, for example, Laura Ingraham, who cashes a very nice check from ABC News in addition to her day job as a radio flamethrower….

  11. and more talk of curses than we’d heard in this country since the Mather family closed up shop in Massachusetts Bay.

    Old Cotton with his dog eared copy of Malleus Maleficarum on his night stand.

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