Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The dangerously stupid response to Ebola

Once upon a time, there was a mandatory quarantine order if you entered New York or New Jersey after visiting west Africa.

Then there wasn't.

Talking Points Memo has the sorry details in a piece entitled, appropriately enough, "The Blundering Rise And Epic Fall Of The Christie-Cuomo Ebola Quarantine".

The crux of the epic failure here seems to have been the politically motivated decision, taken without consultation with one another (so far as I can tell) by Govs. Cuomo and Christie, to enact the mandatory quarantine. The decision also was taken without consultation with, well, seemingly anyone. In particular, local officials, the ones who would be responsible for doing the dirty work, knew nothing until the governors' official announcements. The poor conditions in which the first victim of the policy was held were, in other words, the result of a last-minute scramble to accommodate an order no one knew was coming.

But what we have here is more than a failure to communicate. What we have here are a couple of prominent elected officials playing to the fears of their most ignorant constituents. The governors defied the best scientific evidence and, at least in Christie's case, proudly stigmatized the health care workers who are our best hope for containing and eventually suppressing the outbreak in west Africa.

A popular meme on the right these days is, "I am not a scientist". The problem is, that's never where the proud know-nothings stop: they always add a "but ..." and proceed to say, and in this case do, stupid things because they're playing to stupid, uninformed people.

Hey, guess what? If you're not a scientist (or a doctor, or somebody else who knows something), you don't know more than them about what they do. So stop pretending you do, Governors. Stop saying and doing stupid shit! Stop playing to the dumbest in the crowd and do your goddamned jobs. Do the things that will objectively make things better, not what your most ignorant constituents bleat.

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