As long as political partisans have viewed themselves as Good and the other side as Evil, there has been a debate as to what techniques of electoral combat are appropriate. If we use the dishonest, corrupt, immoral techniques of our enemies, are we truly better than they? On the other hand, if those techniques are working and we are losing, how is it helpful to remain pure while getting crushed?
The world's current startling conjunction between unintended consequences and chaotic coincidence has thrown up a fascinating example of this conundrum, in the form of a recent Breitbart article. This article combines reporting on the Obama-produced total collapse of our southern border and the sudden epidemic of Ebola in Africa - which is not Mr. Obama's fault, and wonder of wonders, not Mr. Bush's fault either. Quoth Breitbart:
...individuals from nations currently suffering from the world’s largest Ebola outbreak have been caught attempting to sneak across the porous U.S. border into the interior of the United States. At least 71 individuals from the three nations affected by the current Ebola outbreak have either turned themselves in or been caught attempting to illegally enter the U.S. by U.S. authorities between January 2014 and July 2014.
Breitbart is using standard techniques of the left, which reek of dishonesty, as a powerful weapon against the Left itself. Let's examine the nature of this methodology and consider whether it's a system conservatism in general ought to adopt.
First - as far as we can determine, every word in Breitbart's article is technically true. The Border Patrol tries to record the nationalities of illegal aliens it apprehends, and according to the documents Breitbart cites, there have been 71 illegals hailing from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Any number of news outlets have reported the Ebola crisis in those countries, so no deceit there.
Of course, there are occasions when leftists do actually lie - there are innumerable examples of pictures of "dead Gazan children" which came from other nations and wars or were faked entirely. Normally, though, this isn't necessary - there are, indeed, enough genuinely dead children in Gaza to populate countless web sites and You Tube segments.
We don't have to go overseas to look for examples. Right here at home, in a nation of 300 million people, you can find almost anything if you look hard enough. Whenever a Republican is president and it's wintertime, hardly a week goes by without yet another national report of homeless person who froze to death on the mean streets of [fill in the name of a city which is almost certainly run by Democrats, which of course isn't mentioned.] Is the report a lie? No - it's a genuine dead bum being photographed, not an intern in makeup.
If the Breitbart report is true, how is it dishonest? Because it's presented in such a way as to lead you to a false conclusion.
As Scragged has written many times before, America is under a dire and existential threat from illegal immigration. It has also been widely reported that the current flood of illegals are carrying many dangerous diseases. We've asserted for years that illegal crossings of our border need to be stopped immediately by whatever force is required, and those who're already illicitly across should be deported wholesale forthwith.
In this case, though, the specific disease of Ebola has nothing whatsoever to do with our southern border. Why? Because Ebola kills people too fast.
You can catch Ebola in Africa, leave on a jet plane, and die somewhere else while infecting countless hundreds along the way. That happened over the weekend at London's Gatwick Airport; the victim collapsed on the jetway while getting off the plane. Her exposed fellow passengers are now spread the length and breadth of Europe if not the world. Notice, though, that the victim herself barely made it to British soil much less American, even at jet speed.
It is not possible to catch Ebola in Africa, travel across the Atlantic in some jury-rigged fishing vessel to Central America, make your way up the length of Mexico aboard "The Beast," swim the Rio Grande into the waiting arms of the Border Patrol, and then expire. Ebola victims simply do not last that long. They'll keel over somewhere around Guatemala where it will be their problem not ours, if not mid-Atlantic where the sharks can clean up the mess.
As far as we know, Ebola hasn't broken out in Central America. Depending on the route those 71 illegals took, the governments of Central America might want to be concerned about the security of their borders, and we'd do well to keep a keen eye on our international airports far away from the Rio Grande, but the combination of Ebola and our southern border specifically is irrelevant.
Similarly, the way the media spin their "poor frozen homeless person" stories, you're supposed to believe that those sensitive, caring Democrats would have been able to afford to care for the bum had it not been for all the military spending by those heartless, warmongering Republicans.
Never mind the underlying reality - that the bum was almost certainly hopped up to his eyeballs on dope of some kind, and most likely had a cripping mental illness. Previous generations would have institutionalized these unfortunates in the state mental hospital to at least keep them warm and off the street, but your betters in the Democratic party decided to shut down most government asylums back in the 1970s, with the predictable result that their home is now your local gutter. The conclusion the leftist reporters want you to reach is entirely unrelated to the real world.
Why, then, are unwarranted scare tactics so useful? Because frightened people make stupid decisions, and are prone to follow anyone who sounds like they have a plan no matter how dangerous or irrelevant that plan might actually be.
We need only remember the genuine, all-too-real horror of 9-11 and what turned out to be the completely useless, counterproductive, grossly expensive, and liberty-destroying response: the TSA. The TSA has caught not one single genuine terrorist but it has accustomed Americans to the policies and mores of a true police state. Our liberal brethren might also consider the Iraq War as another example of bad things that happen when frightened people are herded into decisions without really thinking it through, and we know many conservatives who tend to agree that they have a point.
In this particular case, the response of frightened people might actually be useful: Send the army to the border with land mines, machine guns, and shoot-to-kill orders! That would solve a great many problems, and we assume that is what Breitbart is trying to ignite.
On the other hand, when people are scared they don't always do what you expect and you can't count on them to follow you. It's just as likely that Americans, petrified of a medical emergency, will be railroaded into an apparently medical solution: free healthcare for all comers!
The Left has far more practice at making crises work for them than we do. Given the vast electoral success leftist politicians have enjoyed by packing voting rolls after admitting illegal voters, the latter solution is far more likely than the correct one.
Now we arrive at the last key element to a popular panic, which provides the answer as to why conservatives shouldn't try this technique: government grows bigger.
Think about it. When the public is scared, they demand that Someone Do Something. Who is that "someone"?
It's not Bill Gates or Amazon. It's not God Almighty, not anymore. It certainly isn't themselves; one of the hallmarks of most people when panicking and liberal Americans even more of the time, is that they expect anybody and everybody to take action other than their own personal self.
Which means, by default, regardless of the proposed "solution," each new crisis always involves Bigger Government. There has never been a problem presented for which the answer didn't involve more government spending, more government minions, more rules for the proles to obey under threat of law... and less freedom for everyone save those in power.
Therefore, much as we admire the good intent of Breitbart, and while still enjoying the edifying spectacle of the Left being clobbered by its own favorite techniques, we fundamentally disagree with this tactic. Conservatives don't benefit when people run around in fear of their lives, ever.
Conservatism only makes progress when people actually sit down and think things through - a hard task at the best of times and insanely difficult today, but it's the only way forward. As tempting as it is to use the corpses of unfortunates for our own good political ends, let's leave that practice to the Democrats.
Over the past five years, the editors have been secretly working on a book that summarizes the fundamental viewpoints of Scragged.