the politics of stupid fear

History will remember those who bullied and those who had the political courage to open our doors.

No, it won’t. Sorry.

The Modesto Bee published an excellent editorial yesterday. It’s a solid analytical piece, carefully sourced, full of links to supporting material, compassionate and intelligent. But their last line claiming history will remember the names of those who opposed helping Syrian refugees was, sadly, delusional.

I’d love to believe it was true, but it’s not. History — specifically political history, and even more specifically, political history in the United States — has the memory of an epileptic gnat. The Bene Gesserit were right (are right?); fear is the mind killer. Fear drives away reason and logic, and any sense of history disappears with it.

Does anybody remember last year? No? No, of course not. Thirteen months ago all those Republicans now running for president claimed Americans were all going to die from Ebola. Remember? They wanted to stop all flights from Africa. They wanted to prevent anybody who’d recently been IN Africa from returning to the United States. They talked about building camps to quarantine anybody who’d passed through Africa. Governors (mostly Republican) began issuing mandatory quarantine policies. It was the end of the world, remember?

ebola fears

How many cases of Ebola were there in the United States? Eleven. How many of those died? Two. Remember?

Here’s a true thing: Republicans have based their politics on fear for so long, they’re no longer able to distinguish between real threats, potential threats, and imagined threats. Could an Islamic terrorist group use the refugee program to infiltrate a terrorist into the United States? Sure, but why would they? The refugee process is long and slow and full of obstacles. There are easier and quicker ways for a terrorist to get into the U.S.

Remember, refugees are applying for resettlement. They’re not asking to visit; they’re asking to live in the United States. That’s a complicated process. They first have to submit an application at a U.S. embassy. If that application is considered viable, the applicants are screened by the nearest State Department outpost. We take their photographs and their fingerprints, and while those are being examined and compared against terrorist watch lists by the FBI, State Department operatives are checking their backgrounds. If they pass those investigations, their applications are turned over for further investigation by the National Counter-Terrorism Center. After that they have to go through in-person interviews with folks in Homeland Security. If they haven’t been excluded (or given up hope) by that point, there are medical and psychiatric examinations. The whole process takes two or three years.

It would be easier and probably more successful for a terrorist organization to obtain a false passport and a visitor’s visa, and let their terrorist fly in like a tourist from Bermuda. Or hell, just sneak across the border in Canada or Mexico.


No, this fear of Syrian refugees isn’t grounded in any sort of reality. It’s just plain, stupid fear and the politics of stupid fear. The fact is, you’re more likely to die from Ebola than you are to be killed by a terrorist posing as a Syrian refugee.

Next year there’ll be a different apocalyptic crisis, and Republicans (along with timid Democrats) will once again piss their pants and advocate radical policies, and we’ll have forgotten about the Syrian terrorist-refugees. Hell, we’ll probably forget about them by the end of the year. It’s convenient to forget about refugees. Unless you are one.

3 thoughts on “the politics of stupid fear

  1. « Republicans have based their politics on fear for so long »
    it is an addiction, isn’t? it worked great under Cheney, that the easy potion is always the easiest to reach and swallow — “lose all the weight, eat all you want, with one pill” kind of mentality.

    the shock therapy may be only through a Goldwater-type election result, which Carson/Trump can facilitate, but the party machine will make it be Rubio (at the moment) so cognitive dissonance will allow the fear mongering to go on.

    can’t shake my head enough.

    ps. thanks for the link to the editorial.


    • I think you’re right about Rubio. He’s just as bad as the others, but looks less threatening.

      The thing about fear mongering is that you have to keep escalating the fear. There has to be some theoretical fear saturation point, don’t you think? A point at which people just say “Fuck it, it’s too much work, let the terrorists win.” We’ve already reached that saturation point with gun violence in the US.


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