The Widdershins

BREAKING NEWS!

Posted on: October 28, 2014

There is a contagion sweeping across America. It seems to be an opportunistic infection that cares little about age, gender, ethnicity, or Fearpolitical affiliation. Make no mistake about it, insidious is what it is. More insidious than the Bilderbergers, the Trilateralists, or even the cigarette-smoking man from the X-Files.

This affliction seeks to break down the good order of the body politic. Its transmission is most assuredly airborne. It has sprung itself upon us after a mere 40-years of knowing what a killer it can be. As evidence of its lethality, last Friday it laid flat the twin towers of wannabe presidential posturing, Governators Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo with their policy of imprisoning otherwise asymptomatic healthcare workers — call it the Guantanamo Way.

The pox visited upon us: Fear.

The continual set-your-hair-on-fire cable news coverage of Ebola has turned our televisions into a phalanx of C-EBOL stations. Of course, talk radio is not immune. The ever helpful bumptious buffoons Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham have explained to their noseless audience, ergo, mouth-breathing listeners, that President Obama has sent aid to Africa, risking American lives, because of his aching guilt over slavery and colonialism.

We also had that paragon of policy, Darrel Issa, calling a hearing and pronouncing Ebola’s outbreak in Guyana. For Issa he was as close to being right as he usually is — that is if you consider close being the wrong continent, across a three-thousand mile ocean, and Guyana not being Guinea.

Not to be left wanting, CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield went for a twofer doing a mash-up of ISIS and Ebola with this trippy observation, “All ISIS would need to do is send a few of its suicide killers into an Ebola affected zone and then get them onto mass transit.” Given that Ebola transmission is only through bodily fluids and fecal matter, Ashleigh must have been literally thinking about “dirty bombs.”

Paper bag on fireOver on Fox‘s morning show Fulminating Friends, everything expert and perpetually angry middle-blond Elisabeth Hasselbeck (for an hour before the show they must pay someone to poke her with a stick that has a picture of Rosie O’Donnell taped to it because she is fire-breathing, cross-eye livid at 6:00 a.m. on the dot) cajoled an expert, “Why are we still letting people into the country who could have possibly been exposed? Why not just shut down the flights and secure the borders? A closing of our borders of travel?” The expert politely replied, “Because that doesn’t work.” Of course that won’t nudge Fox toward curtailing the crazy, at least not until someone admits the Benghazi attack was plotted during Barack and Michelle pillow talk.

The most outrageous feeble-mindedness I personally witnessed was on the MSNBC show whose quite appropriate trademark is a coffee stain. The offensive theory wasn’t even Joe Scarborough with his missing medical degree declaring, “I don’t know how Ebola is transmitted and if I don’t know, no one can be for sure.”

The most offensive, heinously infernal proclamation came from Nicole Wallace, Sarah Palin’s leash-holder from 2008 and come lately of The View where she is holding down the Elisabeth Hasselbeck high chair of pundit-idiocy. Lowering herself to speak to a lifelong public health expert, Ms. Wallace was incredulous when she said, “I could have foreseen this whole Ebola thing because I watched Outbreak starring Dustin Hoffman.” Nicole forgot that the movie’s curative “protocol” centered around the bombing incineration of a bucolic American city. Details!

Why does this fear mongering work? It could have something to do with the Iraq War or Katrina’s “heckuva job Brownie” moment or the overnight collapse of the financial sector or the IRS or Benghazi or any other bonfire of conspiracy lit from a kernel of truth.

Without getting all sciencey and stuff, there is a tested and validated theory. Dave Barry’s satire isn’t that far off from the theory. To Ink Blotparaphrase:

Republicans think of Democrats as godless, unpatriotic, Volvo-driving, France-loving, elitist latte guzzlers. Democrats dismiss Republicans as ignorant, NASCAR-obsessed, gun-fondling religious fanatics.

Truth is when confronted with the same stimuli, conservatives and liberals use different portions of their brain to process threats and answer questions. Conservative use the right amygdala, the gland associated with fight or flight reflex, when making risk decisions. Liberals use the left insula, an area of the brain associated with self and social awareness.

Study after study has confirmed conservatives seek stability, structure, and clear, simple answers to complicated questions while liberals are more open, intellectually curious, tolerant, and novelty-seeking. One is not better than the other, it is just a difference in the values we use to sort out our behavioral reactions. The predictive validity of these studies is over 85% and even to all the politicians who proclaim themselves not to be scientists when it comes to climate change, 85% predictability is pretty friggin’ predictive in the world of science.

For whatever reason, the political opportunism of turning Kaci Hickox, a nurse hero just back from fighting Ebola, into a politicized gimmick is a damnable sin. Trying to turn Dr. Craig Spencer into some ambulatory poison when he ran three miles, visited the High Line, and went bowling (I guess that makes him an E-bowler) is not only medically foolish magical thinking, but it belies a mean-spiritedness unsuited outside the pits of hell.

Fear is a prisonEarly in my career I learned the first commandment of public health, “Do not make people afraid of the truth.” To imbue people with fear is to invite surreptitious behavior resulting in catastrophe. So the truth is this: A few cases of Ebola trickling through our airports is not the true danger. The danger lies in allowing the outbreak to continue unabated in West Africa without a concerted world-wide effort dedicated to its eradication. Only when that happens will the world be safe from its ravages. Simply put, to save ourselves, we must first save the “them” as they are so often politically characterized.

Not exactly breaking news, but more of a life lesson — self-preservation oftentimes begins with the well-being of others. Ultimately if we allow fear to overtake the science and politics to dictate the policies, we should be mind-jarringly aware that the walls of protection we have built for ourselves are those of a prison.

Enjoy your Tuesday and take this conversation wherever you like as long as it is outside the prison walls of fear.

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4 Responses to "BREAKING NEWS!"

Well said prolix. This is appreciated from someone who “looks for the simple answers.”

Apologies to Prolix and MB for being absent the last two days. Have just had some minor tummy problems.

As I have told chat, I’m not that concerned personally about the Ebola virus. I just don’t see any circumstances right now where I would be around anyone to catch it from them.

Nicole Wallace. I am amazed at times at what comes out of her mouth.

Hello Widderfriends,

I have been busy working while there is still work, so I’m catching up on posts here.

Prolix, thank you for your clear analysis. I have been thinking about the fear epidemic and I think it is the meltdown which has finally occurred in our society, when both conservatives and liberals lose trust in government. This is a kind of emotional “last straw” for those of us, nearly everybody, who have been emotionally battered by recession, crumbling institutions, and what Michelle Obama so accurately called the increasing meanness of society.

Now, to lighter matters. Nicole Wallace, hmm? I didn’t know. I will have to watch on my next day off. It should be the best humor of the week.

hey Mary Luke! I had been wondering where you were and glad it was nothing bad with your absence. We are “chat” less until chat gets her new computer set up so things have been quiet around here.

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