Ebola is the latest viral scare, but Glenn Beck seems intent on making it a viral video. On his show this week, Beck told viewers to use common sense with the current disease crisis and to avoid political correctness when it comes to such a serious problem, but the conservative talk show host seems to be ignoring his own advice and is going for the cheap tricks. Right Wing Watch reported that Beck was telling his audience to ignore any directions given by the government over the crisis. Basically, if a government official says that there is help and medical assistance in a certain place, do not go there. In some of his comments and his coverage of the ebola crisis, Glenn Beck seems to not be using common sense, though he did manage to give it a very catchy theme song.
In order to understand just how nonsensical Beck’s claims are, one has to look at what he has said. On his program, he offered some sage advice to people about what to do in the crisis. “This may actually save your life someday. I want you to remember this: whatever the government says to do, don’t.” The right wing host did not offer much rational for this advice other than his own opinion. In fact, his justification for it was that he had predicted the Katrina catastrophe correctly. That seemed to be enough for him to ignore the advice of experts in the field.
For most people using their common sense, this seems like a bad argument. Most people when they are sick listen to a doctor about the treatment for their illness, especially if it is a serious disease. Ebola should be no different. If an expert affiliated with the government were to give directions to go to a certain place for treatment, then common sense would dictate that it is a good idea to do so. Glenn Beck wants people to use common sense, but not listen to experts who know more than they do? Something does not add up about that equation.
But Beck does not seem to be as interested in true common sense as he is in making a few political points. Does he have a reason for being suspicious of the government other than the fact the president is a Democrat? He does not offer any. This makes his shrill denunciations of political correctness and partisanship seem hypocritical. He has repeatedly blamed the Obama administration for the problems of funding the Center for Disease Control (CDC), but has offered no criticism of the Republicans who cut its funding. Once again instead of listening to the experts, in this case the CDC officials who have talked about the Republican role in its funding problems, Glenn Beck has prioritized his opinion and partisan affiliation over their knowledge, a move which does not display any common sense at all.
Instead, he wants to lay the responsibility on people affected by ebola and blame them for the problem. In a catchy little music video, Beck gives sound advice about not touching human excrement, avoiding the infected, and not licking vomit as good ways to stay ebola free. Yes, it is a nice little tune and well illustrated by fanciful cartoon characters, but it infers that people with ebola were simply too stupid to avoid it. If only they had used their common sense and “put down that glass of diarrhea” everything would be fine.
On the other hand, he is promoting panic by talking about viral mutations which could make ebola more deadly. He characterizes all evolutions of the virus as a progression in lethality, when scientists have shown that is simply not the case. Politifact took the time to look at Beck’s claim and concluded that he was only partially right. Yes, the virus mutates, but some of them actually weaken the virus or do not affect how it works at all, effectively becoming dead ends. Yet instead of offering what could be potentially comforting information, Beck used a half-truth to create more panic. In this he ignored the most effect piece of common sense any parent ever gave to their child: in a crisis, panicking does not help.
Stay calm, listen to experts, and seek treatment are all common sense measures in combating ebola. They are also all measures that Glenn Beck, in his infinite wisdom, has ignored. On his show he has insulted the intelligence of anyone suffering from ebola, some of whom are medical professionals caring for the sick at much personal risk. He has fanned the flames of panic by spreading misinformation about viral mutations. He has also possibly led people to ignore the advice of professionals and avoid seeking treatment because of his animosity towards the Democrat-run government, exposing those people to more danger than they otherwise would be in. All in all, Glenn Beck has not used any common sense in addressing the ebola crisis, but maybe he has gotten a few more hits on his Youtube videos.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury