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Ellison’s Must Read of the Day

Ellison must read
• October 17, 2014 11:03 am

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My must read of the day is "Republicans Want You to Be Terrified of Ebola—So You'll Vote for Them," by Brian Beutler in the New Republic:

The first transmission of Ebola within the United States, from Liberian visitor Thomas Eric Duncan to a Dallas nurse, marked a turning point in the political dialogue surrounding the virus toward an unbridled opportunism. The subsequent diagnosis of a second nurse and other revelations—that she took a flight shortly before she began showing symptoms, apparently with Centers for Disease Control's approval—have only accelerated it. Obviously a degree of paranoia and sensationalism has colored the Ebola story since long before this week. But this week’s developments provided conservatives the psychological ammunition they needed to justify using the specter of a major Ebola outbreak as an election-year base-mobilization strategy.

Republican candidates like Scott Brown are now in on the game, and so is House Speaker John Boehner. Fox News, with the exception of Shepard Smith, is ginning up more Ebola terror than CNN, which had been the vanguard of Ebola hysteria until this week. Matt Drudge’s call to panic was not only deranged— but unintentionally self-defeating, as one cannot vote if one is self-quarantined.

I actually agree with the premise of Beutler’s argument. There is a bit too much hysteria surrounding Ebola, and I similarly see that politicians and news outlets are elevating concern and enabling panic. However, their concerns and criticisms are hardly unfounded.

There was an immensely negligent response in Texas, despite months of promises that the United States would not have any problems keeping it contained if there was a case in the country. They failed in Texas, and both local and national officials are to blame—a point Beutler makes towards the end of his piece.

We know how Ebola spreads. The disease was first discovered in the late 1970’s when there were outbreaks in two different African countries. One in the Democratic Republic of Congo occurred along the Ebola River, hence where the disease gets its name. Health officials have nearly three decades of studying and dealing with the disease. It’s transferred through bodily fluids—it is not airborne.

Ebola is an important news topic. It’s one of the worst outbreaks to date, and the public should be informed of everything happening with it, especially in the United States—but yes, some of the discussions around it are teetering on the edge of hysteria if not falling into it. I don’t take issue with Beutler’s assertions in that regard. What I take great issue with is that Republicans and Fox News are not the only ones doing this.

Beutler points out that Republican Senate hopeful Scott Brown is using Ebola as a campaign issue. Guess what? Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor is too, but Beutler doesn’t even mention that. He actually does not mention a single Democrat. The only person he cites in this piece that is not a Republican or from Fox News is NBC’s Chuck Todd.

Perhaps Beutler does not have access to Google, because if he’d done even a little research he would have realized that not every Republican is calling for a travel ban, but former-Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney has said it might be a good idea and some Democrats in the Senate and House have called for one as well.

If he’d Googled a little bit, Beutler would have seen that incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pyror (Ark.) had an ad blaming cuts supported Rep. Tom Cotton (R.) for the outbreak or that there are similar ads out from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other liberal groups. He would have also seen MSNBC’s report that the idea of a travel ban is racist (even though over 30 countries have travel bans from Ebola stricken countries) or Jon Stewart’s montage of news stations—ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox, MSNBC—giving dramatic reports on Ebola.

If you want to criticize some of the Ebola coverage, that’s fine—but don’t act like it’s solely a Republican or Fox News phenomenon. That’s grossly inaccurate and intellectually dishonest. Beutler’s criticism is singularly focused on Republicans and Fox News because it’s the story he wanted to find—not because it’s the one that exists. Isn’t that behavior similar to what he’s attacking Republicans for?

Published under: Ebola