Via Forbes.com: What The U.S. Refugee Panic Shares With The Ebola Panic. The report and then a comment:
America has once again gone off the deep end. In many places, politicians are giving in to, or actively exploiting, fears that allowing Syrian refugees into the United States will facilitate terrorist plots. If this seems oddly familiar, there’s a reason. The panic closely tracks what happened during the 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa.
As with that unfortunate period, a terrifying and poorly-understood risk has stirred up apocalyptic fantasies and brought out the worst in the political system.
The Ebola outbreak was largely confined to Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. But international flights could – and did – bring infected individuals to other countries, including the United States. And there was a lot to be concerned about: there was no Ebola vaccine, it was unclear how effective treatments could be for the infected, or, after nurses became ill, if U.S. hospitals had sufficient protocols in place to prevent transmission.
Yet medical authorities weighed those issues and still predicted that our public health systems – in contrast to those of impoverished African villages – would effectively stop the disease from spreading. And they were right.
Yet politicians, the media, and to some extent the public, didn’t listen to those medical authorities. They seized on the doubts, and the terrifying Ebola symptoms. It seems like a long time ago, because the panic was quickly forgotten as the outbreak came under control.
But for a while, it was pretty crazy. Merely having traveled to Africa became a presumptive cause for ostracism in some communities. Some speculated that “Obama’s Katrina” was in the offing. We got an Ebola czar, who ultimately had to do very little.
Today, the “virus” is jihadist terrorism. People fear that terrorists will ride the huge flow of Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS and civil war into their towns. The Paris attacks made that risk seem concrete (though so far only French and Belgian citizens, not refugees, have been identified among the attackers). As with Ebola, these risks are genuine. Surely there are a lot of aspiring ISIS jihadis who would love to come to the United States and blow themselves up.
But – as with Ebola – the experts say the risks of terrorist infiltration via the refugee route are quite small. Unlike Europe, the United States does not have huge numbers of refugees on its doorstep. Those admitted go through a screening process that is, compared with Europe’s, robust. Does this mean the risk is zero? No. But is it worthy of panic, or theatrically trashing the system we have in place in a race to ensure some notion of perfect safety?
It's striking how the land of the free and the home of the brave can succumb to these freakouts. It's like the shrieks of Alexander Pope's genteel London ladies, "when lap dogs, or when husbands, breathe their last."