Dawg informs us the U.S. right wing's possibly inevitable interpretation of the current swine flu crisis as (get this): an Islamic terrorist plot to destroy America by seeding the virus among Dirty Mexicans with the expectation that they will illegally cross the border and spread the disease by, I don't know, spitting on our strawberries or something.
This is, of course, a perfectly reasonable conclusion for the racists, nativists and Birchers who have always inhabited the far right fringe of America. Since the days of the Know-Nothings and the Copperheads, there have been those who have sought to preserve American 'purity' by excluding and demonizing the dirty 'other', whether that 'other' was black, Irish, Jewish, Catholic, Communist, Muslim, Mexican, gay - even their own youth have been condemned at some points in history as a threat.
The problem now is, the lunatic fringe finally has its own TV network.
It's too simplistic to see all this as merely racism, although that is a frequent theme. It's really more of a toxic brew of xenophobia, paranoia, anti-government sentiment and, inevitably, violence. It has manifested itself in deadly fashion at Ruby Ridge and Oklahoma City, but it can also be found in its more benign form among the so-called 'Minutemen' along the Mexican border and, most recently, those earnest, angry 'tea-baggers'.
The pattern is fairly consistent. While those in power are busily maintaining the status quo for 'average Americans' and shutting out everyone else, the lunatic fringe is quiet and content. But every time America moves to open a door, these people crawl out from under their respective rocks to try to slam it shut again. Happily, such people have traditionally been hindered and marginalized by the simple fact that they are... well, crazy.
Actually, to call them crazy is an insult to crazy people. The mentally ill don't typically have an agenda.
Typically, people with irrational ideas are either forced to recognize their irrationality, or at least keep quiet about it, when they are confronted by the fact that everybody they know thinks they're nuts. If they do manage to find others who share their beliefs, they will often cling to each other in a mutually reinforcing closed system such as a religious cult or an isolated compound. But while such groups are often extremely dangerous and violent, the ideas they espouse have always remained safely on the fringe.
All that began to change with the advent of the Internet. No longer were crackpot notions relegated to privately published tomes and badly photocopied tracts. Now they were up there, on equal footing with their academic superiors, distinguishable from legitimate ideas only by their shoddy grammar and the garish colour schemes of their web sites.
Then came FOX News, and the lunatics came out of the closet. Way out.
Not right away, of course. As long as Dubya was safely ensconced in the White House, the pundits and personalities at FOX were content to sing his praises and mock his political rivals. It was only when they suddenly found themselves in the minority that any semblance of sanity was dropped and... well, we've all seen the results.
Yes, yes, yes, it's all terribly funny until someone blows up a federal building.
What I'm finding increasingly frightening about all this is that FOX News is no longer merely the apologist organ of the Republican Party. It is now, apparently, the voice of every racist, paranoid, gun-totin', tax-hatin' nutjob in America. There still aren't that many of them, but now they've been legitimized merely by virtue of having their hate-filled message disseminated on something that looks vaguely like a legitimate national television news show.
And it's spreading. Republican politicians are apparently no longer bound by inconveniences like facts or logic. Thanks to FOX News, they now feel free to let loose with gems like "Matthew Shepard's murder was a robbery, not a hate crime", and "FDR caused the Great Depression (with the 'Hoot-Smalley' Act, apparently), and (from the same source) that "the last Swine Flu scare happened under the Carter administration. Just sayin'...".
All bets are off. It's a mad mad world.