Yeah, somebody forgot to invite me to the secret ceremony — or maybe The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy intercepted my invitation, hmmm? — but apparently I have joined the ranks of the secret elect. Yes, I’m in the Firmament of Evil alongside Peter “Capo di tutti capo” Shumlin, Mary “Whirling Blades” Powell, Paul “Carbon Tax” Burns, Shap “The Fixer” Smith, Crea “Moneybags” Linthilac, and whoever else.
I learned of my elevation in a curious way: via Twitter, from one of our staunchest conservatives.
— Scot Shumski (@ScotShumski) July 4, 2016
Oooooh, “Orwellian”. Me likey!
Some explanation is needed, I’m sure, for the casual reader.
A while back, right-wing media outlet Vermont Watchdog started blowing the “Brown People PANIC!!!” dog whistle with an article about how tuberculosis-ridden refugees are threatening public health as well as our security (terrorist plots!!!) and culture (heebie-jabbies!!!).
I don’t usually bother with Watchdog, which is all bark and no bite, but that article prompted me to write because I saw a narrative developing that, I’m sure, will feed into the current debate over settling Syrian refugees in Rutland. In the process of writing my post, I contacted Ben Truman, the spokesperson for the Health Department, and asked him for the official word on this “crisis.”
We spoke for a few minutes, and he emailed me some information — the same information he had provided to Vermont Watchdog.
And this, in Scot Shumski’s fevered imagination (has he been checked for TB?), constituted Orwellian collusion between the Shumlin administration and Yours Truly, paid for by the overburdened Vermont taxpayer.
Well, gee, Scot, I’m flattered. But here’s the problem.
First, it’s Ben Truman’s JOB to communicate with the media. If he hadn’t spent a few minutes with me, he would have been doing other media-related work.
Second, he supplied me with the EXACT SAME information he had previously prepared and given to Vermont Watchdog. So if there was any waste of taxpayer-funded resources, it was Watchdog’s fault, not mine.
The only collusion or conspiracy in this case, it’s coming from the far-flung conservative media trying to stoke anti-immigrant fears. If you do a Google News search for something like “refugee TB,” you get a series of matches to Watchdog or to the notorious Breitbart.com. There are stories from several states quoting official statistics about the number of immigrants or refugees who have tested positive for TB. All follow the same narrative: disease-ridden brown people are threatening America’s health and safety.
Which. Is. Not. True. See, TB is very common in many parts of the world, meaning that most residents will test positive. That doesn’t mean they are sick or will get sick. Refugees get much more thorough health screening and follow-up than, say, tourists or students or guest workers who get little or no screening. If there’s going to be a TB outbreak, it’s far more likely to come from them, than from a refugee.
But fear is the stock in trade for the likes of Breitbart and Watchdog. Indeed, VTWatchdog is at it again with an article alarmingly entitled
Refugees undergoing treatment for contagious TB in Vermont
You have to read pretty far down the article before you realize that the number of “refugees undergoing treatment” is TWO.
An honest news outlet would have included the number in the headline, instead of burying it deep in the story. But nope, they just want you to see the headline and take away a vaguely ominous impression.
A few facts, obtainable only through a deep and careful reading of the piece:
— The cases are susceptible to standard TB treatment.
— These people are not actually sick. The article states that one of them is getting regular treatments around his work schedule. He’s not lying in an iron lung; he’s living a normal life and getting the treatment he needs.
— A handful of relatives of the TWO patients have tested positive for TB, which brings us to a point you won’t read in Watchdog:
— TB is transmitted through close, persistent contact with a person, not casual contact or breathing the same air. If you live with a TB-positive refugee, you’d best get tested. Otherwise, there’s more risk from crossing the street than from living in a state with a small number of TB-positive furriners.
Sorry, Watchdog; no need for panic. Sorry, Mr. Shumski; no collusion between our public servants and Yours Truly. But hey, if you want to live your lives in unreasonable fear of disease or government plot, and you want to use whatever bit of influence you may possess to try to convince other people to live in unreasonable fear, then go ahead. Keep on feeding me soft tosses and I’ll keep hitting them out of the park.
And then I’ll report to my secret masters at the next meeting of The Brotherhood of the Bell.