Day Four, E-B-O-L-A in the U.S.A.: We’re all gonna die! Ah, nothing sets the news world on fire like an African plague, eh? In a kind of Rambo IV situation, starry-eyed US missionaries walked face-first into the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone. One of them came back to Nebraska in a plastic bag, and the next thing you know, it’s the downfall of the West.
The TV went crazy as three more people contracted the disease, and news networks trotted out a series of doomsayers. Extinction-level events are nothing new on the news: killer bees, Y2K, and SARS are just three recent “disasters” that were heavily advertised but didn’t deliver. I always thought the news was about reporting things that happened, not guessing what might happen, but that didn’t stop our intrepid free press from broadcasting their biblical predictions, and generally scaring the hell out of everyone.
And so it went with Ebola in the US. Flights were canceled, death tolls were projected, and fingers were pointed. Where did this Ebola thing come from? Why didn’t we stop it? Why didn’t the nurses cover their necks? That cute little dog isn’t going to die, is it?! This is all Obama’s fault!
The ignorance quickly spread to social media, that bastion of truth and accuracy, and disinformation flourished. People were convinced you could get Ebola by inhaling it, and that it made you bleed from the eyes — it actually can make you bleed from the ass, which is just as bad in my opinion. They also presumed (and the news didn’t help to ease this) that Ebola was certain death. Maybe so in West Africa, where it’s a battle to get a drink of clean water, let alone competent medical care. Here in the States, you have a bit more of a fighting chance. Ironically, the one voice of reason shouting against the winds of fear-mongering came from Fox News. Shep Smith, who gained my respect by apologizing for an accidentally broadcast suicide, boosted his credibility even further with this famous diatribe against idiocy:
A man on television urging calm? Maybe it really is the end of the world.
A few weeks later, it became clear that the disease was pretty much contained, and although one of the infected didn’t make it, the other three got magic hugs from the president and turned out fine. The American public breathed an Ebola-free sigh of relief before returning its attention to the topics that REALLY matter: the personal lives of athletes.