The politics of fear is not a new idea. Google that phrase and you’ll see what I mean. As I wrote about in my last post, Dallas has the dubious distinction of having the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States. I also mentioned in that post that I stay away from TV media most of the time. I find it tiresome, not very informative and in many cases nothing but propaganda. Curiosity has gotten the better of me and I’ve taken a peek at the coverage of the Ebola case here in Dallas. The level of near hysteria over this so far ONE case of Ebola would be laughable if it weren’t so disgusting. And it is disgusting, on so many levels. The media coverage of Ebola in Dallas is fear mongering at it’s worst. Everything, from the hosts and pundits overwrought demeanor, to the headlines, the graphics and the news crawls are carefully crafted to let everyone who watches know that this is not just a serious story but that they are in serious danger. While the news shows bring on experts to explain Ebola and the (almost non-existent) risks of anyone here catching it, I’ve watched anchors and pundits actually question them repeatedly, challenge them on the science and hint through their facial expressions, body language and words that the experts are not to be trusted. Giant headlines flash across the screen EBOLA IN AMERICA, with ambulances and hospitals in the background, while ominous music plays. Today, the CDC sent in cleaners to clean the apartment where the victim stayed and to remove any biological hazard. There have been three news helicopters circling the area all day. Three. To catch a hazmat team clean one apartment and get more footage of rooftops and parking lots. I tried to show in a humorous way in my last post the fear that many people have over this. But the truth is, there are a lot of people who are truly terrified that they are at risk of getting Ebola. There are a lot of people who truly believe the government is lying to them about the risks or the number of cases. They don’t hear the dry and boring reassurances of doctors and other experts on infectious disease. But the headlines, flashing lights, ambulances, red, red, red graphics and the near frantic skepticism of their favorite news anchors is branded into their consciousness.
Why do most of the media behave in this way? Why terrify so many people in this way? Why make people believe they are at high risk of dying from a disease that actually poses almost no risk, but rarely even mention the real threats to American’s health? It’s not just Ebola. Terrorists are practically at our doorsteps, ready to kill as many of us as possible! Except you are more likely to be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. Why does the media do it? One word. Propaganda. It’s so much easier to keep the populace frightened by real and terrifying but actually low risk threats, when you don’t want their attention on the status quo that you have a vested interest in maintaining. Six corporations control 90% of the media. And who owns those six mega-corporations? The very wealthy. And why would the very wealthy want everyday Americans worried about Ebola and terrorists and every other crisis of the week rather than the very real problems this country faces? Because they don’t want them to wake up to the looting of income from the bottom 99% of the population to the top 1%. Income inequality is monster in the closet they’re trying to distract us from. And scaring the living daylights out of everyone isn’t the only trick up their sleeves. The media is guilty of propagating a false equivalence in everything from politics to science. If just as much attention is given to both sides, a whole lot of people are going to believe both sides are valid. If politicians are allowed to go on air and lie with impunity all while getting nothing more than a serious nod or maybe once in a while a mild “are you sure?”, a whole lot of people are going to believe those lies. And the the other trick up the media’s sleeve is to keep the populace divided. A divided populace is way less likely to unite for major change. The media is a master at the us vs. them game. The media uses politics, racial tension and moral issues, among others, to keep us angry at each other instead of at their masters.
How do we fight back against propaganda? Never take information at face value. I’ve always been very curious and very eager to learn new things. If someone tells me something I didn’t know, my reaction is to say, “that’s interesting” and then do as much research as I can to figure it out for myself. Sometimes I find out what was said is true, sometimes bogus and sometimes incomplete. But I then know the truth for myself. I also know that so many, many people take whatever is said to them at face value. And if it is from someone they trust, whether a relative or religious leader or news anchor, it is taken as gospel to be defended to their last breath. I don’t get that at all and I never will. We are so lucky in this country to have the right to learn things for ourselves and to dissent if we don’t agree, which of course is a right the media is working to demonize. I’m not sure what it will take to wake up the average American to the fact that our democracy and our rights are being eroded away by a very wealthy few and their politician and media puppets, while we fight amongst ourselves, fearing everything except the truth of what’s happening. Knowledge is power. Don’t give up yours.