Archive for October, 2014

Crazy Train – 2014

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

We are witnessing the inevitable consequences of making science optional.

Exhibit 1 – Ebola

Ebola is a virus that was originally identified in 1976. Fruit bats may be the carrier. They aren’t affected.

Humans are.

There have been approximately 10 outbreaks of the disease, all in Africa, over the last 40 years.

The most recent outbreak has been by far the most serious.

Like many other diseases caused by a virus, there is no cure.

This virus, however, is relatively difficult to transmit. You have to actually consume some body fluid from an infected person during the period of time that they are exhibiting symptoms in order to contract the virus. Because the symptoms are so debilitating, those most likely to contract the disease are those providing care to those who already have the disease.

The common flu, which infects and kills WAY more people every year than Ebola, mutates regularly and is airborne. You only have to breathe the same air that was recently sneezed into by a flu victim in order to catch their flu.

Ebola, while exhibiting dreadful symptoms, is relatively easy to contain. Just wash your hands.

The reason that it spreads in Africa is because living conditions are primitive, cities are crowded, hygiene is difficult to maintain, there is little health care infrastructure, a shortage of clean water, and burial customs involve families touching the corpse.

The reason it won’t spread in any more advanced country is because people DO wash their hands, there is clean water, there are fully staffed hospitals, governments are able to isolate the infected, quarantine those that have been exposed, and people generally refrain from touching a corpse if they suspect it may be diseased.

Unfortunately conservative Republicans cannot refrain from dragging this “corpse” through the public square with a big sign that says “be afraid of foreigners”.

Exhibit 2 – Beheadings

The Islamic State has figured out how to manipulate the west again.

They kill a handful of people in a gruesome barbaric way and the US fires up the engine of war again and sends it chugging back into the Middle East to the tune of $22M a day.

Over 33K people die on our roads every year. Many of these deaths are just as gruesome. The only difference is that they are not broadcast on YouTube and they are mostly accidents, not homicides.

There are almost as many gun deaths in this country every year too. Many of these deaths are just as gruesome as the ISIL videos. Few of the gun deaths are posted to YouTube, but most of them are intentional homicides.

The bottom line is that you are 33K times more likely to get killed by a car or a gun than you are to be beheaded by a terrorist. Yet we aren’t spending $22M a day to make our roads safer. We certainly aren’t spending $22M a day to reduce gun violence.

The reason we are terrified of ISIL is the same reason we are terrified of Ebola.

Fox News tells us we should be afraid of them because there is a Democrat in the White House and an election in two months.

It is boogyman politics at its worst.

You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning or bitten by a shark than you have contracting Ebola or being beheaded by a jihadist.

This is exactly the reaction ISIL was hoping for because their lifeblood is new recruits. The best way to get recruits is to pick a fight with the west. And we are happy to accommodate because Republicans have a chance to take over the Senate.

David Brooks calls it contagious hysteria.

He blames it on our polarized segmented society. People are choosing to live near those who share their political beliefs. They only talk with those who share their beliefs. They only listen to news sources that echo their beliefs.

People who feel alienated from the leadership class distrust the institutions of those leaders, whether it is political, cultural, or scientific. As a result we see a dramatic increase in parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids because they fear autism. We see junk science and conspiracy theories carry as much weight as sound peer-reviewed academic research. We see a general erosion in the confidence in government regardless of who is in charge, and the ability for the democratic process to effect any substantive change.

Add to this already toxic mix, a partisan broadcast media pursuing a business model that feeds on crisis, dissension, and demonization. Fox and MSNBC are the modern day Savonarola leading the mob in pursuit of those responsible for the plague.

The true weakness is not in our institutions. It is in us.