A safety checklist for America during the ebola panic. #1: Look for cowardice.

Summary: The ebola panic should remind us about one of the great questions of our time. When did Americans become cowards? Previous generations of Americans faced threats far greater than anything we face today, yet did so without the hysteria that sweeps America each year about a new doom (worse, they’re coming more quickly). What does this reveal about our future? Can we recapture the courage of our past?

This is a follow-up to An epidemic afflicts America: fear about Ebola. Avoid the carriers. Facts are the antidote.

“I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who overcomes his enemies.”
— Attributed to Aristotle.

“Nothing is terrible except fear itself.”
— Francis Bacon, De Augmentis Scientiarum, Book II, Fortitudo (1623).

Take the politics of fear: the constant reference to risks, from hoodies on the street corner to international terrorism. Whatever the truth of these risks and the best ways of dealing with them, the politics of fear plays on an assumption that people cannot bear the uncertainties associated with them. Politics then becomes a question of who can better deliver an illusion of control.
— Ex-vicar Mark Vernon; quoted in “God. Who knows?”. BBC News, 4 December 2006.

White feather of cowardice
Our new national symbol?


Selections from the news

Here are some of the threats that have have reduced Americans to bed-wetting children (list your favorites in the comments).  So many of the major public policy debates have been sold to us by fear. Note how they have increased in frequently. Why do our elites speak so often seek to influence us by making us fearful of threats — often fictional oness?

How many of these threats terrified you during, in their day?

  1. The Bomber Gap and The Missile Gap! (both fiction)
  2. Satanic cults preying on our children!
  3. Iran will have the bomb in two years! (as we have been told since 1984)
  4. Electromagnetic pulse weapons will devastate us! (Nope; details here)
  5. Y2K
  6. Saddam threatens us with WMDs while Libyan hit teams roam America (gated TIME article; open version)
  7. Attacks by Al Qaeda (nope) … ISIS will devastate America!
  8. The coming bankruptcy of the Federal government, real soon! (Nope; nor was it a serious danger)
  9. Earth might become as hot as Venus (Al Gore, 28 January 2013)! Debunked here.
  10. The coming methane apocalypse! (The IPCC disagrees; details here)
  11. ObamaCare will create “death panels”! (Here’s the origin of the myth)
  12. The coming super monster El Nino! (Not this year)
  13. The {insert disease name here} will kill us all! (Posts about swine flu hysteria here)
  14. The great extinction at work, as “Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years.” (Probably not, as described in this Boston Globe article)

First, the bad news

No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.
— Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756)


We the Sheeple

We are a nation of three hundred million, collectively the richest in the world. Largely well-educated, with an adaptive and entrepreneurial society residing in a land richly blessed with natural resources. There should be no obstacles to us governing America in peace and prosperity, confronting and overcoming the threats that inevitably arise to challenge each new generation.

Unfortunately something changed during the past few decades, from mysterious and perhaps unknowable causes. We became a weak and gullible people, easily manipulated by propaganda, and easily led by our fears. This makes us a gift to our ruling elites, whose activists see and exploit our weakness.

The news media helps both sides, trumpeting the threats on the front pages (experts who downplay or even disprove threats find themselves on the back pages).

As time passes these threats evaporate, and new ones emerge to replace them. Only the fear remains constant.

Next the worse news

“Quite an experience, to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.”
— replicant Roy Batty in “Blade Runner” (1982)

Sheep panic easily and have poor judgement. But they’re easily led, and so ranches are run by the shepherds. Perhaps that’s how our elites see America. That we’re so fearful, so easily manipulated, shows that we’re unfit to rule ourselves. They have the wealth and power, and so logically see themselves as the natural rulers for the New America. So the Koch brothers, and their fellow plutocrats, are buying our elections while whining about their mistreatment.

This is the opposite of a conspiracy, as this happens in the daylight — the great circle of life at work. If we don’t like the New America they’re building for us, the machinery the Founders created remains waiting for us to use (for now, at least). It’s manually powered, requiring teamwork by millions of citizens. Anyone reading this might start this process. It might be you; there is nothing special about the pebble that starts an avalanche.

Repudiating the fear-mongers is a first and easy step. Let’s rebuke them with the laughter and derision they deserve, so that we can move on to cope with the many dangers that make up so much of life.

“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.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address, 4 March 1933

For More Information

(a)  Are we cowards?

  1. Are Americans easily panicked cowards? I think not, but many experts disagree., 24 April 2009
  2. Today’s fear-mongering (they think we’re cowards, but I’m sure they’re wrong), 4 May 2010
  3. Why are we so fearful? Have we become cowards?, 16 September 2014
  4. An epidemic afflicting America: fear about Ebola. Avoid the carriers. Facts are the antidote., 11 October 2014

(b)  Cowards are made, not born. How our leaders make fearful citizens:

  1. Who lies to us the most? Left or Right?, 25 February 2013
  2. Compare our New America to the America-that-once-was (a great nation), 12 June 2013
  3. A vision of a perilous future for us all, and recommendations to avoid it, 6 August 2013
  4. Today’s crop of fear-mongering. Watch and enjoy, but don’t succumb., 17 September 2014

(c)  Posts about examples of the Left’s appeals to fear:

  1. Propaganda: the eco-fable of Easter Island, 4 February 2010
  2. The North Pole is now a lake! Are you afraid yet?, 3 August 2013
  3. The IPCC rebukes the climate doomsters. Will we listen?, 15 October 2013
  4. Apocalyptic thinking on the Left about climate change risks burning their credibility, 4 February 2014
  5. A warning about the end of the world (doomster scenario #137), 23 March 2014
  6. About the warnings of a monster super El Nino coming to you this year, 2 May 2014

(d)  Posts about the Right’s appears to fear:

  1. Today’s conservative doomster warning (ludicrous but fun), 1 August 2010
  2. Hatred and fear of Islam – of Moslems – is understandable. But are there hidden forces at work?, 3 August 2010
  3. About the mystery missile launch (America the fearful, chapter XX), 10 November 2011
  4. Inciting fear of inflation in our minds for political gain (we are easily led), 28 February 2011
  5. Danger, America! Wet your pants in fear of China!, 4 June 2013
  6. The NRA feeds our fears, the fast track to political power in America, 29 April 2014



8 thoughts on “A safety checklist for America during the ebola panic. #1: Look for cowardice.”

    1. SRL,

      The most important question is, imo, “why”? Our ancestors were not like this. What happened to us?

      Side note: other than watching a few shows on DVD (Walker – Texas Ranger, Miami Vice, Monk) , I didn’t have a TV from 1973-2012. Now we stream a few shows (NCIS and NCIS-LA, Castle, Forever). Perhaps that’s why I’m not infected with the FEAR virus?

    2. Here’s a theory:

      1. Despite our national mythology, Americans generally gravitate to authoritarianism. In the past, our leaders told us “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” We were courageous. Now they say, “Be afraid.” We are afraid.

      2. Americans have isolated themselves, both physically and mentally. The greater world becomes an unknown. The unknown is scary.

      3. Vested interests exploit the above.

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