How overblown is the ISIS hype?

If you listened to nothing but certain news outlets and certain elected officials, you probably think you’re going to die soon.

On Sunday morning talk shows, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R, I’m tough, really I am), made some pretty frightening statements about the threat of terrorists from the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or whatever). We may “all get killed” by ISIS, he said on (where else?) Fox News. President Obama “needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”

For this ridiculous, Chicken Little-type fear-mongering, he has been — rightly — severely mocked on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and many other media outlets. Salon.com referred to Graham as “America’s most terrified senator.”

When President Obama addressed the nation about his plans to contain ISIS, he switched the way he usually described the approach to ISIS — “defeat and degrade” — to “defeat and destroy.” Of course, Obama knows full well that terrorism isn’t something that can be destroyed. You can’t defeat an idea. That’s what terrorism is, of course: the use of violence and intimidation to pursue political aims.

And boy, has ISIS ever intimidated the U.S. Those terrorist thugs have us shaking in our very boots.

The right-wing noise machine is willing to broadcast any report of any supposed ISIS threat, no matter how ridiculous it may sound, no matter that there is not one scintilla of evidence of these claims. There are reports that ISIS terrorists are lining up at the border, ready to cross illegally into the U.S. to do us harm. Fox even interviewed a sheriff wearing a cowboy hat (in case you had any doubt he was a “real” Texan) who claimed he had “heard reports” that “them Quran books” and “Muslim clothing” had been found on smuggling routes or dropped off at the border.

(Just to clarify: The LAST thing a real Muslim would do would be to discard the Quran, which he or she would consider sacred. Just sayin’.)

This reminds me of the threats repeated by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R, Idiocy) that pregnant Muslim women are slipping over the border to give birth to “terrorist border babies” so that those children will have U.S. passports, but then are whisked back to grow up in the shadow of terrorist training just so they can return to the U.S. someday and — I don’t know, set off a bomb or something. He obviously hasn’t thought through his “terrorist border babies” theory.

In a story in The New York Times, Michael Schmidt reported about some of this overblown hype and the response from the U.S. government. “There is no credible intelligence to suggest that there is an active plot by ISIL to attempt to cross the southern border,” Homeland Security officials said in a written statement.

On a recent edition of CNN’s Red News/Blue News, host Brian Stelter looked at the question of overblown ISIS hype, and specifically about the threat of ISIS coming over the border. “The evidence is not there,” Stelter said. “And yet the people who say this stuff don’t seem to be held accountable.”

Of course they’re not held accountable. It’s too good a story for the right-wing base. The right-wing Judicial Watch, citing an  “anonymous, high-level official,” claimed that ISIS was operating in a Mexican community and “planning car-bomb attacks.” Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D, Texas), whose district includes the border area of El Paso, called the Dept. of Homeland Security and the FBI to check the veracity of that so-called report and found it had no validity. Ever since, he has tried to dispute the report, but the right-wingers already had their minds made up.

“There’s a longstanding history in this country of projecting whatever fears we have onto the border,” O’Rourke was quoted as saying in the Times story. “In the absence of understanding the border, they insert their fears. Before it was Iran and Al Qaeda. Now it’s ISIS. They just reach the conclusion that invasion is imminent, and it never is.”

Look, I get it. It’s an election year, and Republicans, whose shrinking voter base excludes growing sections of the population such as younger people, Latinos, African-Americans, and women, need to rev up their voters and puff out their chests to say that only they are the ones who can protect you, America.

But ISIS beheads people! Well, so does Saudi Arabia. So do multiple rebel groups in Syria, including those supposedly “vetted” by Sen. John McCain (R, I never met a war I didn’t like). And let’s not forget that McCain’s judgment was so poor that he met with and wanted to arm ISIS before it was ISIS — there are multiple photos of him meeting with ISIS leaders in March 2013 on a trip to Syria.

Thomas Friedman asks an excellent question in his column in The New York Times:

“What concerns me most about President Obama’s decision to re-engage in Iraq is that it feels as if it’s being done in response to some deliberately exaggerated fears — fear engendered by YouTube videos of the beheadings of two U.S. journalists — and fear that ISIS, a.k.a., the Islamic State, is coming to a mall near you. How did we start getting so afraid again so fast?”

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