Manufactured hysteria is killing us all

May 14, 2017

On March 4, 1933 with America in the throes of the Great Depression, newly inaugurated President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed an anxious nation: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

And while the speech is 84 years old, today’s political hypocrisy, media hyperbole, and general social hysteria in which we now live shows that while the Depression may have ended, the fear never left.

Let’s start with the House of Representatives American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed a couple weeks back. The bill, not law, is anything but perfect but with Obamacare collapsing a start is better than nothing.

First there was Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) tweeting “129M people with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage and insurers could charge sick people more money.” A claim that the Washington Post fact checker column gave its worst rating of four Pinocchio’s and followed up with:  “Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper to respond to this fact check, Harris did not defend the message in the tweet. Instead, she changed the subject.”

A tweet from far left activist group ultraviolet claiming that being a rape survivor would be a pre-existing condition under the AHCA was also debunked by the same column.

Two days after that Chris Cillizza, formerly author of the Washington Post’s “The Fix” and now Editor at Large at CNN took the phenomenon head on with his “Donald Trump is turning liberals into conspiracy theorists” piece highlighting how the truth doesn’t stand a chance against the power of the internet.

He leads with how the Tweet “Cases upon cases of beer just rolled into the Capitol on a cart covered in a sheet. Spotted Bud Light peeking out from the sheet “ by Alexandra Jaffe of Vice News turned into online outlet Mic picking it up and posting a “Republicans celebrated taking away Americans’ health insurance with cases of beer.” story.

Cillizza notes that within a half hour, Jaffe had clarified that the beer was NOT going to the GOP but by then the damage was done.   The clarification tweet getting barely a sixth of the 3,400 retweets the misleading original got.  “Hands up, Don’t shoot” on internet steroids.

Then there was the false meme that the FCC was “targeting” Stephen Colbert for his crude monologue against President Trump and the outrage from a false story as to why President Trump had fired the first female chief usher Angella Reid.  So false was the Reid rumor that Axios reported: “When her departure was announced to the residence staff yesterday morning, workers burst into applause,”

This week it was hysteria over the firing of FBI director James Comey.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews called it “A little whiff of fascism tonight”.  David Frum, Senior Editor at The Atlantic tweeted “it’s a coup”. CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin lectured that the firing would “disgrace his memory for as long as this Presidency is remembered.” Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski led the Morning Joe crowd in a perpetual “end of the Republic, Constitutional crisis, worse than Nixon, a dictator in the Oval” fantasy fest that would have made any village idiot a genius.

While only that same village idiot could defend the White House communications failure that followed the firing, the political hypocrisy of the Democrats and the manufactured hysteria spread by the majority of media outlets did far more to feed an already closed information loop than inform the public.

Ben Shapiro, founder of The Daily Wire put it best: “A few things we’ve learned tonight: 1. Everybody’s a hypocrite on Comey; 2. This WH is run like Lucy and Ethel wrapping chocolates.”

Oh how I wish it was just a Lucy and Ethel issue.

The truth is, FDR’s fear is roaring with a vengeance across our social media; embedding itself into our national psyche.  Only this time, it’s our own politicians and media spreading it.

And it’s paralyzing us from within; keeping even the smallest of advances at bay.

With millions of Americans now getting their news strictly from social media, it’s not the Russians we need to fear, it’s ourselves.

And if we don’t realize that and realize it soon, it will destroy us all.

Publisher Note:  A version of this column first appeared in the May 14, 2017 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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