The Paris attacks brought renewed interest in ISIS and the ongoing crisis in Syria, and unsurprisingly, that means that we've all had to endure right-wingers rolling out the usual chest-thumping bravado from Republicans who have no personal worries about ever seeing combat. But never fear! Slobbering enthusiasm for war is far from the only right-wing neurosis that is being trotted out in response to the ISIS situation. Our friends on the right are also responding with usual mix of the Bible-thumping, anti-science rhetoric, and gross sexism they manage to work into nearly every conversation.
The right's growing hostility to scientific evidence is on full display when it comes to the issue of how to deal with the millions of Syrians displaced by the civil war who are seeking some place safer to live. Hysteria over the refugees is reaching a fever pitch as right-wingers claim to be afraid that ISIS is smuggling terrorists with the refugees who will come kill us all.
Even on its surface, these claims of fear should provoke skepticism, and not just because ISIS is too busy begging Muslims to move to Syria to start smuggling people out. As the Paris attacks show, if ISIS wants to bomb something, they're going to go after iconic cities that can be held out as modern Sodoms. In other words, they'd go after New York, not Birmingham. So why was Alabama the first state out of the gate to deny the refugees welcome?
But if you dig into the actual scientific evidence, it really shows how completely disconnected from reality the right is on this issue. As Michael Halpern, writing for the Union of Concerned Scientists, explains, the overwhelming scientific evidence shows that allowing people refuge from war is not only safe itself, it actually decreases the chance of future terrorism. In fact, looking over the evidence, it suggests that the best way to keep people safe is to bring in as many refugees as you can.
This isn't just because none of the two million refugees accepted into our country since 1990 have committed terrorism, which can be compared that to the almost routine terrorism committed by native born right wingers. Research also shows that a refugee's chance of embracing radical views is much reduced if he moves to some place like the United States or Western Europe. Relocating to a country that is closer often means being closer to the conflict and more likely to pick up on radical views that lead to terrorism. If you want a young man who is just beginning to form his views to turn away from radicalism, your best bet is moving him here.
But, as usual, Republicans don't think they need science because they have religion. The Bible-thumping has gotten completely out of control in the past week, with Ted Cruz proposing a religious test for Syrian refugees---if you're Christian, you're in, if you're Muslim, you're not---and Mike Huckabee pretending that Muslims are the only people that commit terrorism.
Compared to this unvarnished hatred, John Kasich might look like a gentle soul, but his idea on how to deal with ISIS is the same thing in a prettier package. "We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have a Western ethic, to be a part of a Christian-Judeo society," he told NBC News, adding that he wanted to start an agency "to promote core Judeo-Christian, Western values that we and our friends and allies share.”
So he wants to broadcast targeted messages at Muslim populations that argue that Jews and Christians are better and more moral than Muslims. What could possibly go wrong?
Kasich may pretend he's a moderate, but he's playing buying into the same narrative as Cruz and Huckabee that this is somehow some grand conflict between religions. Luckily, that happens to be ISIS's message, too! I have no doubt that ISIS would love nothing more than the U.S. sending a bunch of messages out about how we think Christians (and, as an afterthought, Jews) are better than Muslims, because ISIS thrives on the idea that the differences between Muslims and Christians are irreconcilable and that war is the only answer.
Of course, not all responses from the right to the situation in Syria have been about Bible-thumping. The frat daddy contingent of the right that is mostly motivated by the ever-present fear that you might forget they have penises has to have their say, as well. For that set, of course, you have the Daily Caller, which ran a piece aimed at those men titled, "13 Syrian Refugees We’d Take Immediately." (As it is a naked attempt to get traffic, I will not link. Rest assured my description will be enough.)
What follows is a bunch of photos from the Instagram account Syrian Girls Got Beauty, which is just what it seems to be, a fashion and beauty photo blog, presumably from Syria. There's no evidence that any of the women are refugees or even know that their photos are being repurposed to make mock of the crisis in their country. The blog hasn't been updated in over three months. Indeed, the photos aren't even of 13 separate women---as a colleague of mine pointed out over email to those of us who were too appalled to look further, one of the women in the list is pictured twice.
But you have to give credit to the Daily Caller for really distilling the right-wing mentality down to the basics: Who cares about human rights, international relations, scientific evidence, thoughtful analysis, or even giving two minutes thought about something before forming some idiotic, knee-jerk opinion about it? It's all about them: Their bigotries, their need to be told their religion is the best, their need to remind you every five seconds that they are heterosexual.
It's a shame that we have to thank our lucky stars, in this environment, that at least we have a grown-up in the White House. Let's hope it stays that way come November.