When I was a kid in the Bronx during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s I remember being told that there were certain parks and playgrounds we couldn’t go to because we might catch whooping cough or polio. This was particularly so during the summer months when it was thought that these highly contagious diseases spread quickly and without warning. There was great fear and those who could escape the hot congested cities for the less crowded and less disease-ridden countryside did so. These diseases created an ongoing national crisis, severely afflicting young children, often leaving them with lifelong health challenges. We all knew of kids who became ill during those years and seeing children with leg braces or crutches resulting from a battle with polio wasn’t out of the ordinary. The fear was fact-based and rational, yet there was not a national hysteria nor any kind of politicization of this widespread health crisis. Now let’s fast forward to today. America is certainly not the same country it was in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Now instead of taking responsibility for the health and safety of our own families without looking for someone to blame, we have become lazy, ignorant and irresponsible. Welcome to the enlightened third millennium.
The Ebola hysteria of the past several weeks has exposed the worst that America has to offer. The fear-mongering so evident on cable TV and among those whom we elect to lead with knowledge-based solutions is astounding. The GOP has seen this as an opportunity to cast aspersions on the Obama Administration as if he is responsible for the introduction of an Ebola case into this country. They are calling for a virtual end to air travel into this country from nations within West Africa. They are adding legitimacy to all of the non-science-based theories that are bandied around on TV and in public pronouncements. This group who has had nothing but disdain for science is suddenly respectful of the science of virology. However, at the same time they misstated it. Rand Paul has pronounced on several occasions in the past few days that Ebola is highly contagious and spreads easily. Rep. Joe Wilson stated that Hamas could bring Ebola across our southern border. According to an article in the Washington Times by Jessica Chasmar on October 2nd, Rev. Louis Farrakhan argued in a blog post that the Ebola virus is a race-targeted bioweapon created by white people. Not surprisingly Fox News has been the greatest perpetrator of Ebola hysteria. Elizabeth Hasselback of FOX News demanded that we put the country on lockdown, banning travel in and out; Fox Host, Steve Doocey suggested that the CDC is lying about Ebola because they are part of the administration. Despite a major effort by public officials to explain that this virus can only be spread by exposure to bodily fluids after a patient shows signs of illness, a Harris Poll published last week indicated that three out of four of those polled said that they are concerned that people carrying Ebola will infect others before showing symptoms themselves. This is obviously a result of the misinformation that is being perpetuated by both the media and the GOP.
Why would they do such a thing? What is in it for them? Unfortunately, the answer is much too transparent. The simple reality is money and power. Casting aspersions on the Obama Administration just weeks before the midterm enhances the GOP narrative of an administration incapable of taking charge and not able to protect America. This they hope will translate into votes for GOP candidates on November 4th. The money issue is quite simple as well. TV is all about money and entertainment, not information. Fox is doing everything it can to create a compelling narrative about Ebola so that it can increase its viewership and therefore increase its advertising revenues. In both cases they depend on the willingness of people to listen to what is being told to them rather than reading and investigating on their own. Unfortunately that is what has been happening. There couldn’t be a more cynical way of handling the Ebola scare than what we are witnessing. When those in charge of media and political policy begin to play on fear and ignorance they need to be called out on it, but that’s not happening. The GOP wants you to be afraid, very afraid. Show them that you’re not, vote Democratic on November 4th!