The New York Times' Paul Krugman called out right-wing media's baseless anxiety about Syrian refugees and "exaggerated" panic over the threat of a terrorist attack as the latest example of the "apocalyptic mind-set that has developed among Republicans during the Obama years."
In a November 20 column, Krugman observed that Fox News contributor Erick Erickson's "bizarre" threat not to "see the new 'Star Wars' movie on opening day, because 'there are no metal detectors at American theaters'" is "part of a larger pattern" of right-wing panic.
Right-wing media reacted to the November 13 ISIS-led attacks on Paris and elsewhere with sweeping and unfounded claims that President Obama's anti-terror response is endangering U.S national security, with some on Fox even claiming that he has "Islamic sympathies." Others vilified Syrian refugees and defended calls for religious litmus tests, only accepting Christian refugees, on the basis that "Muslims might blow us up."
Krugman noted that among conservatives "[t]hese days, panic attacks after something bad happens are the rule rather than the exception." He attributed this epidemic to the "apocalyptic mind-set that has developed among Republicans during the Obama years": "Think about it. From the day Mr. Obama took office, his political foes have warned about imminent catastrophe. Fiscal crisis! Hyperinflation! Economic collapse, brought on by the scourge of health insurance!" Krugman recalled right-wing media's "great Ebola scare of 2014," which featured assertions that President Obama would expose American troops to Ebola to "atone for colonialism." While the "threat of pandemic, like the threat of a terrorist attack, was real," he wrote, "it was greatly exaggerated, thanks in large part to hype from the same people now hyping the terrorist danger." All of this overblown fearmongering is, Krugman concludes, "what the right is all about:
Erick Erickson, the editor in chief of the website RedState.com, is a serious power in right-wing circles. Speechifying at RedState's annual gathering is a rite of passage for aspiring Republican politicians, and Mr. Erickson made headlines this year when he disinvited Donald Trump from the festivities.
So it's worth paying attention to what Mr. Erickson says. And as you might guess, he doesn't think highly of President Obama's antiterrorism policies.
Still, his response to the attack in Paris was a bit startling. The French themselves are making a point of staying calm, indeed of going out to cafesto show that they refuse to be intimidated. But Mr. Erickson declared on his website that he won't be going to see the new "Star Wars" movie on opening day, because "there are no metal detectors at American theaters."
It's a bizarre reaction -- but when you think about it, it's part of a larger pattern. These days, panic attacks after something bad happens are the rule rather than the exception, at least on one side of the political divide.
But we shouldn't really be surprised, because we've seen this movie before (unless we were too scared to go to the theater). Remember the great Ebola scare of 2014? The threat of a pandemic, like the threat of a terrorist attack, was real. But it was greatly exaggerated, thanks in large part to hype from the same people now hyping the terrorist danger.
What's more, the supposed "solutions" were similar, too, in their combination of cruelty and stupidity. Does anyone remember Mr. Trump declaring that "the plague will start and spread" in America unless we immediately stopped all plane flights from infected countries? Or the fact that Mitt Romney took a similar position? As it turned out, public health officials knew what they were doing, and Ebola quickly came under control -- but it's unlikely that anyone on the right learned from the experience.
What explains the modern right's propensity for panic? Part of it, no doubt, is the familiar point that many bullies are also cowards. But I think it's also linked to the apocalyptic mind-set that has developed among Republicans during the Obama years.
Think about it. From the day Mr. Obama took office, his political foes have warned about imminent catastrophe. Fiscal crisis! Hyperinflation! Economic collapse, brought on by the scourge of health insurance! And nobody on the right dares point out the failure of the promised disasters to materialize, or suggest a more nuanced approach.
The context also explains why Beltway insiders were so foolish when they imagined that the Paris attacks would deflate Donald Trump's candidacy, that Republican voters would turn to establishment candidates who are serious about national security. Who, exactly, are these serious candidates? And why would the establishment, which has spent years encouraging the base to indulge its fears and reject nuance, now expect that base to understand the difference between tough talk and actual effectiveness?
Leon Wolf, a contributor to Erick Erickson's RedState blog, wrote that the University of Missouri football players and students protesting racially charged incidents on campus are "cowardly liberal lazy douchebags" protesting for reasons he claims are "completely unrelated to racism," but are aimed at avoiding "practicing for a bad football team."
University of Missouri football players announced that they would stop participating in football activities "until the president of the university system [was] fired or [resigned]," following weeks of student demonstrations reacting to reported on-campus incidents including "racial slurs hurled at black students and feces smeared into the shape of a swastika on a wall in a residence hall." Student groups maintain that the university administration's response to these and other events have been inadequate and "sluggish," and the president resigned November 9, "urging everyone involved to 'use my resignation to heal and start talking again.'"
In a November 9 article, Wolf dismissed the protesters' claims of racist incidents on campus, alleging that the players "invented facially unbelievable accusations of widespread racism on campus" to "skip the last three weeks of pointless practices" for "a bad football team." He derided the students' demands as "laughably absurd," and called the protesting students "cowardly liberal lazy douchebags" and "willing suckers" engaging in a "lazy strike":
The sports media - who are uniformly worse at their jobs and more sickeningly liberal than their news media counterparts - have been breathlessly reporting on the fact that thirty black Mizzou football players are allegedly going on strike over racism on campus. This is being presented as an act of courage likely to foster social change, rather than as the act of lazy cowardice that it is.
Here are a few key points to illustrate why the story is not as the sports media would have you believe - these are not brave change agents, but lazy cowards.
At the end of the day, this isn't a courageous strike against racism. It's a lazy strike against practicing for a bad football team. The fact that the media isn't reporting it this way is evidence of the media's own laziness.
Upon news of university president Tim Wolfe's resignation, Leon Wolf updated the original post to say "Mizzou's President has apparently resigned, proving that some people think negotiating with terrorists is a good idea, even when those terrorists are 1-5 in the SEC." RedState editor Erick Erickson also wrote that "University of Missouri makes me laugh. The inmates have taken over the asylum."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson praised the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance on Tuesday, calling transgender Americans "perverts, the mentally ill, [and] liars."
The vote on the equal rights ordinance was expected to be close, but it failed with 62 percent of voters opposing it at the time the results were called by the Associated Press. The ordinance was initially adopted by the Houston City Council in May 2014, however a lawsuit ended with the ordinance placed on Houston's November 3 ballot.
The fight over HERO has been plagued by the widely-debunked myth that HERO would allow sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender -- a bogus talking point championed by HERO's opponents, including Erickson earlier on Tuesday. Experts across the country and officials from Texas cities with similar non-discrimination ordinances have thoroughly rejected the "bathroom predator" myth, calling it "beyond specious."
Erickson lauded the unsuccessful ordinance measure claiming "the people of Houston fought back and rejected the attempt to allow perverts" to get in opposite sex bathrooms. From Erickson's November 3 post on Red State:
Tonight, the people of Houston fought back and rejected the attempt to allow perverts, the mentally ill, liars, and others who want to get in to opposite sex bathrooms.
Christians and common sense won. Perverts, the mentally ill, and the gay rights mob lost.
It remains unscientific that men can be women and women can be men. But it has become an article of faith to the supposedly pro-science left -- an article of faith rejected by the people of Texas.
Conservative media rallied to dismiss the gender pay gap after actress Jennifer Lawrence published an essay discussing making less than her male peers while working on the film American Hustle.
Right-wing media are championing a government shutdown, ignoring that it would cause millions of Americans to lose access to food assistance, health care, and their paychecks while costing the government billions of dollars.
Right-wing media are seizing on deceptively edited videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood profits from the illegal sale of fetal tissue to justify comparing the organization to Nazis, invoking the deadly human experimentation of notorious Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele. In reality, the full, unedited versions of the videos debunk the allegations. Many groups, including Planned Parenthood, donate fetal tissue to support medical research such as the development of treatments for diseases, and such donations are legal with consent from the donor. It's also legal for providers to accept payment "for reasonable expenses" with "informed consent," but Planned Parenthood does not profit from tissue donations -- Legal reimbursement helps offset the costs associated with donations.
Conservative media lashed out at President Obama for mentioning the Crusades and Inquisition at the National Prayer Breakfast after condemning the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) as a "death cult" that distorts Islam.
Conservative media attacked House Republicans for dropping plans to vote on a bill that included a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and attacked the female members, led by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), who objected to the bill.
Charles and David Koch, brothers and the oil barons who are already shaping the 2014 midterm elections according to recently leaked audio recordings, are often portrayed as environmentally responsible advocates of the free-market that are unfairly targeted by Democrats. However, their political influence, which benefits the fossil fuel industry and their own bottom line, is unparalleled.
House Republicans pulled a bill which would increase funding for security at the southern border after conservative media and their allies voiced opposition to it.
The bill, pushed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was tabled after he and House Republican leadership faced "a rebellion among their most conservative ranks," according to the New York Times, who also reported that the failure to pass the bill "ensures that no legislation to address what both Democrats and Republicans call an urgent humanitarian crisis will reach President Obama's desk before the August break." After the measure failed, Republicans met to discuss whether they would bring up another bill before Congress goes into recess or to scrap the legislation entirely. Roll Call reported that "chaos reigned" as it became unclear what Republican leaders would decide to do.
Conservative media darling Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was reportedly whipping votes in order to stop the bill the night before its introduction, according to a Washington Post report. Cruz appeared on Fox's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren that same night and attacked what he described as "President Obama's amnesty."
Weekly Standard founder and ABC News contributor Bill Kristol wrote a July 31 blog post demanding that the House "kill the bill." He described the bill as "dubious legislation" and argued that passing it would "take the focus off what President Obama has done about immigration."
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt agreed with Kristol, writing that the House should "kill the fake border security bill and go home until the House leadership gets serious about passing a real border security bill."
The Drudge Report highlighted opposition to the bill at the top of the site with the headline "Hill Phones Melt As Boehner Pushes Border."
The Drudge headline linked to Breitbart.com, which has repeatedly opposed immigration reform efforts. The story by Matthew Boyle noted that "The American people have overloaded the Congressional phone lines yet again on Thursday, pressuring their members of Congress to vote against the House and Senate immigration bills."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson argued at his site, RedState, that the bill was flawed because it failed to repeal the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which conservatives incorrectly blame for generating the surge in child migrants from Central America.
Erickson added, "The House GOP should be starting with closing DACA, not telling conservatives they first have to fund the President and then they'll get table scraps" and directed his readers to RedState's "action center" where they could call Congress and demand that "the House GOP must close DACA."
Daily Caller columnist Mickey Kaus promoted a campaign from the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) which urged readers to call the U.S. Capitol switchboard in order to speak to their member of Congress and demand "No New Laws" on immigration. Kaus also linked to a list of members and their direct office phone numbers.
Laura Ingraham, a talk radio host and Fox News/ABC News contributor, who has been an anti-immigration reform crusader for years, wrote on Twitter that Boehner had made a "supreme accomplishment" by pushing a bill that "manages to enrage both the political left and conservatives." She later celebrated its defeat.
Right-wing media greeted news of the release of the only U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan with claims that his freedom was timed to distract from the controversy plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson launched his latest personal attack on Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, whom he proudly labeled "Abortion Barbie," by absurdly suggesting that a 1996 lawsuit in which Davis made a routine legal claim in a defamation lawsuit disqualified her to hold public office.
In a post on his conservative website RedState, Erickson highlighted a 1996 lawsuit in which Davis sued the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for defamation. Erickson seized on language from the suit, in which Davis claimed the editorial had caused "damages to her mental health," a required element of her alternate Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) claim, to argue Democrats would regret supporting her campaign for governor:
Back in 1996, Wendy Davis lost an election for the Fort Worth, TX City Council. After the election, she sued the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the local newspaper, for defamation. In short, Davis did not like being criticized by the media (something she won't have to worry about this go round), so she sued for those criticisms claiming they defamed her.
The Texas Court of Appeals and then the Texas Supreme Court both threw out her case. But it is worth noting that Davis, in making her case, claimed that the nasty newspaper, by virtue of criticizing her, damaged her "mental health."
More worrisome regarding her mental stability, Davis sued the newspaper months after losing her city council and claimed that she "ha[d] suffered and [was] continuing to suffer damages to her mental health."
Think about that. The best candidate the Texas Democrats could find to run is a lady who admits in open court that a newspaper editorial caused her mental health to be damaged.
As explained by the Digital Media Law Project of Harvard University's Berman Center for Internet & Society, "Plaintiffs who file defamation lawsuits often add an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim as an alternative theory of liability." Within these IIED claims, a plaintiff must prove the emotional distress, or "damages to her mental health." In other words, Erickson wants his subscribers to "think about" the routine legal boilerplate of Wendy Davis' lawyers from 1996.
Erickson's suggestion that Davis is unfit for public office because of a defamation lawsuit is only the latest in his string of absurd or vicious personal attacks against her. In August, Erickson labeled Davis "Abortion Barbie" after she declined to comment on the case of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell:
Following Republican Ken Cuccinelli's defeat in the Virginia gubernatorial race, conservative media blamed the Republican Party establishment for not supporting Cuccinelli's right-wing agenda.
Right-wing media figures celebrated the House Republicans' plan to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act by a year, ignoring the consequences that the move would have on the uninsured.
A recent incident in which 7,500 songbirds died after flying over a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant has been ignored by the same conservative media outlets that often exaggerate the danger posed to birds by wind turbines, including hyping an incident in which a single bird was killed in Scotland.
The birds killed by the LNG facility, which may have included some endangered species, were headed south for the winter when a routine "flare" release at the Canaport LNG facility in Canada, used to burn off excess natural gas, drew them in. Though company officials apologized for the episode and said they are modifying equipment to reduce flaring, one manager at the plant admitted "At the moment there's not a whole lot I can do to resolve it in the short term." The dead reportedly included "a large number of red-eyed vireos" (see photo above).
Three months prior, another migrating bird, the white-throated needletail, died after flying into a wind turbine off Scotland. The needletail is not endangered or threatened, but it is sighted only rarely in the United Kingdom.
Can you guess how conservative media covered these two cases?
Searches of Nexis, Google and an internal video database indicate that the thousands of birds that died after flying into a Canadian gas flare have not been mentioned by any U.S. conservative outlet to date (or any major U.S. outlet other than the environmental sites Treehugger and National Geographic).
Conversely, the single bird that flew into a wind turbine became a big story in the conservative media bubble. Right-wing outlets used the episode to smear green energy, sometimes betraying sheer glee, as when National Review Online blogger Greg Pollowitz wrote "Your [sic] laughing as you read this, aren't you?" or Rush Limbaugh remarked "[a] bunch of environmentalist whackos watched a precious windmill kill a rare bird."
Conservative media's fixation on a single bird death -- albeit regrettable -- while completely ignoring thousands more seems to let slip that feigning an interest in conservation is simply a convenient way for these outlets to attack wind power, which they have depicted as an agent of "mass slaughter " or an "open-ended aviary holocaust," while overlooking far more elementary, existential threats to wildlife, including climate change. Lest we forget, conservative media figures have regularly mocked those who are concerned about the impact that humans are having on animals -- one Fox News contributor declared "lots of species may be about to leave the planet, and I don't care" -- and attacked conservation efforts for endangered species from lizards to polar bears.