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Here’s Gretchen Carlson of Fox News yesterday, trying to justify her ongoing efforts to convince viewers that they’re all going to die of Ebola because…well, Benghazi:

“So, should we trust the government to keep us all safe from Ebola?

“With the government’s recent track record not being so hot, well, we learned we couldn’t trust the IRS after the targeting of conservative groups, the Secret Service after an armed man made his way into the White House, the VA after reports men and women who served this country died waiting to get health care. We couldn’t trust the promise that Obamacare that we could keep our doctors that we wanted. And do we trust that we know all the answers yet about Benghazi?

“What more and more people seem to be asking about Ebola now isn’t that they are necessarily scared about actually getting the disease, but that they’re scared the government agencies responsible with helping us if we do get sick might not be up to the task. So if Ebola becomes a bigger issue, the question still remains: Will we be safe?”

Hmmm. In other words, it’s about credibility. People should take into account an entity’s prior record of truth-telling when assessing whether its current statements should be given credence. That’s a novel thought, but I think I see how this works. Let me give it a try:

So, when Fox News tells you that the experts on Ebola and pandemics aren’t to be trusted, should you believe them?

I mean, despite what they’ve told you over the years, there never was a whitey tape, the 2012 polls weren’t skewed, Mitt Romney didn’t win in a landslide, Obama’s trip to India didn’t cost $200 million a day, he never did a terrorist fist bump, no military assets could have conceivably intervened at Benghazi, there never was a standdown order, there really is a difference between Sunni and Shi’ite, Obama wasn’t born in Kenya, nor is he Muslim, there were no death panels, there is no war on Christmas, there was no WMD in Iraq, Saddam and bin Laden weren’t allies, Obama is not a racist, Obamacare is not as bad as slavery, and Cliven Bundy was not a true American hero, he was an armed crank and a leech on government.

So when Fox tries to get you worked up into another lather of outrage, this time over Ebola, the question that a lot of people should be asking themselves is whether they enjoy being played for fools by a “news channel” that shows no respect for the truth or for intelligence and decency of its audience. Unless of course you enjoy being whipped up into a lather of outrage and don’t really care much whether it’s justified, in which case, proceed…

The problem, of course, is that there is a significant number of people in that latter category, people who are addicted to the emotional jolt that outrage provides and who seek it out without caring whether it is justified by actual facts.

Exposure of one supposed scandal as false doesn’t raise doubts about credibility; it merely becomes the signal for the next supposed outrage to be introduced and hyped. And the problem is, that right-wing outrage assembly system — ranging from Fox and Limbaugh down to those crazy emails — has become powerful enough to distort national politics and pretty much capture an entire major political party.

Jay Bookman writes for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Readers may send him email at jbookman@ajc.com.

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