As Ebola remains practically non-existent in the United States, but fear of Ebola spreads across the nation like wildfire, right wing conspiracy theory sites continue to fan the flames.
Today at Pakalert Press, one of the featured articles makes a very specific doomsday prediction: “America will soon be put on lockdown as Ebola runs rampant across the country as cold weather arrives”. The article cites that staple of conspiracy theories, the anonymous inside military source, as saying that Ebola is airborne, but only in cold weather. So, as soon as the frost comes, which should be any day now, we should see a large number of new Ebola cases in the United States…
…if the conspiracy theory is not a load of horse shit
It is impossible, of course to know for certain that this predicted disaster will not take place. There is a slight chance that an Ebola epidemic could sweep across the United States.
All we can do now is wait to see if this extreme prediction comes true. The track record of Pakalert Press leads us to believe that we don’t have much to worry about. The right wing rag predicts that martial law is imminent about once every week.
Yesterday, the front page of the Wall Street Journal featured an alarming headline: Ebola Response Strains Hospitals. Under that headline, the paper told readers, “As the Ebola epidemic in west Africa expands, more cases could require treatment at US hospitals far from the specialized centers that have handled patients so far.
The mismatch between these words and the headline represents the Ebola panic quite well. How could a future possibility of an epidemic’s expansion on another continent be straining hospitals in the United States right now? The answer is that it couldn’t, that it isn’t, that time just doesn’t work that way.
The only strain that we are dealing with is the extra effort that so called journalists are going through to convince people that a public health crisis in the United States exists.
An organization with a name like the American Chemistry Council sounds harmless enough, as if it’s a scientific group with the mission of supporting high school teachers with lesson plans about the Period Table, and ionic bonds, and that sort of thing. The mission of the American Chemistry Council certainly sounds bland: “The American Chemistry Council’s (ACC’s) mission is to deliver business value through exceptional advocacy using best-in-class member performance, political engagement, communications and scientific research.”
The activities of the American Chemistry Council aren’t so harmless, however. The Council’s work actually involves fighting against environmental safety and sustainability, sacrificing scientific integrity in public policy for the sake of corporate profits for chemical manufacturers.
This year saw the first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, but the American Chemistry Council has been fighting for a long time to prevent such laws from being enacted. The reason is sadly simple: Many of the companies that support the American Chemistry Council sell the materials from which plastic bags are made. They don’t particularly care how many of these bags end up in landfills, or clogging up storm drains, floating out in the ocean, or hanging snagged in the branches of trees. For them, business is business, and the more plastic bags we use, the better.
The corporations that back American Chemistry Council make a lot of money, so the council didn’t have much trouble finding over a million and a half dollars to pay for television advertisements promoting five Republican candidates in U.S. Senate elections.
All five of the candidates that the American Chemistry Council spent money on yesterday oppose congressional action to deal with climate change, despite the fact that last month was the hottest September on record. They include Iowa Republican Joni Ernst, who seeks to completely dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, and opposes implementation of the Clean Water Act. Ernst admits that she doesn’t understand the science of climate change, but opposes action on climate change anyway, because of the economic interests of her political allies.
Far from promoting scientific literacy, the American Chemistry Council seems to be devoted to advancing the cause of ignorance.
With 139 Americans dying of Ebola in just one day, can our nation possibly sustain this death toll in the future?
… oh, wait. No, no, never mind. Those are the daily deaths in the United States from influenza and pneumonia, not Ebola.
Oops. My bad. I mixed up the rows when I was taking notes from the CDC’s latest release of mortality data. I meant to write down “50,636 flu and pneumonia deaths a year / 1 Ebola death a year,” but I wrote down “1 flu or pneumonia death a year / 50,636 Ebola deaths a year.”
Sorry. It’s a natural mistake to make — I got distracted watching cable news. Back to you, Anderson.
I have often remarked, with surprise and dismay, how quickly the American people have been to forget about oil spill disasters like the Exxon Valdez and the Deepwater Horizon. I noted how, just months after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, Barack Obama began efforts to expand offshore drilling in risky deep waters, rather than placing a moratorium on new wells.
The modern mythological dimensions of the phenomenon of oil spill amnesia are explored by professors Ashlee Humphreys and Craig J. Thompson in a new article to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, titled Branding Disaster: Reestablishing Trust through the Ideological Containment of Systemic Risk Anxieties. Humphreys and Thompson conclude that media coverage of oil spills tends to follow a pattern that helps to minimize citizen activism against oil drilling, helping to reconcile the public to the status quo.
“While news coverage of an environmental disaster may negatively impact the bottom line of the company responsible for the disaster for some time, it also diverts the general public’s attention away from the risks involved in fossil fuel extraction,” they write. “A macrolevel analysis reveals that media coverage of such events ultimately contains the anxieties that are sparked by initial news coverage. The brandcentric disaster myths generated by media coverage frame public discourse in ways that help to reestablish consumers’ trust in expert systems while also insulating corporations and governmental institutions from more systematic critiques.”
Standard narratives emerge to dampen outrage: No one could have predicted or prevented the disaster; Oil reserves are human property separate from the ecosystems in which they are contained; The clean up is taking care of business; The individual company pays a fine in compensation for the isolated incident without dealing with the underlying problems. These narratives don’t match the reality of years of continuing environmental damage and ongoing risk of additional disasters, but the media mythology of containment wins out over scientific facts that are not incorporated into a system of meaning that the public can intuitively grasp.
“What Global Warming?” This is the question that conservative media pundits continue to ask. By asking the question rhetorically, conservatives invite you to think of the cool days of autumn and to forget the more general global trends. While the pundits play political games, the reality of global warming is all around us.
By now you know (or at least should know, if you’re paying attention) that even the winter of 2013-2014 that was so cold for the United States was very, very warm for the world overall — according to NASA’s temperature records, it was the sixth hottest on record, as a matter of fact. Cold U.S. temperatures were strongly overbalanced by very warm temperatures elsewhere around the world, making it in general a hot winter.
A day or two ago, global temperature data for September was released by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In its entire 135 year record of temperature readings taken from around the globe, over land and sea alike, there has never been a September as warm as September 2014 was. September 2014 was the hottest on record for the globe.
This wasn’t a fluke. Every single one of the 10 hottest Septembers in NASA’s record have happened in the 21st century. In fact, all 10 of the hottest 10 Septembers on record occurred within the last 12 years. (2011 and 2010 didn’t make the 10 hottest list; they were #11 and #14.) Every single September in the 21st Century has been one of the 20 hottest Septembers in the NASA record.
That is, very literally, a record of global warming. And just in case you think I’m cherry-picking NASA’s global temperature record, here’s the entire set of September readings, from September 1880 to September 2014:
What global warming? THIS global warming.
As of this morning, there has been only one case in the entire United States of America of transmission of the Ebola virus. There is no public health emergency. Yet, on the TV, on the radio, and on the Internet, people are acting as if there is a crisis in full swing, and that our lives are all in danger. Why is there such a discrepancy between fear and reality?
Sadly, the answer is quite simple. The 2014 congressional elections are about to take place, and the Republicans need to turn out their political base. The political base of the Republican Party hates Barack Obama, not really because of anything that he is done, but because of who he is. Specifically, they hate Barack Obama because he has some African ancestry.
We have seen this hatred in the form of conspiracy theories stating that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. We have seen this hatred in the form of conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s wedding ring, supposedly showing a Muslim secret code, and even in conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s middle name.
The Ebola panic is only the newest incarnation of this Republican racist picture. Fear of Ebola has become a code for fear of African people, and people who have African descent. To express extreme, out of proportion fear of Ebola has become a way for Republicans to surreptitiously talk about the dangers of African people, including Barack Obama.
Know the code: Fear of Ebola = fear of African people = fear of Barack Obama = fear of Democrats = Republican victory in the congressional elections in 2014. Paranoia about Ebola goes hand-in-hand with paranoia about Barack Obama, and by association is a tool for opposition of the reelection of congressional Democrats.
Many Democrats have been slow to pick up on this connection, and so are getting swept up in the anti-Ebola panic. Even though the United States of America is quite safe from any bola outbreak, they repeat the stories of Ebola terror, and in doing so they help the Republicans turn out their voter base.
Will Democratic activists wise to the anti-African Ebola panic code? Is it already too late to undo the damage from this virulent strain of hatred?
The school district for the town where I live spent a huge amount of money to construct a new football field and set of bleachers at the high school. Today came the test. Was the spending worth it? The Homecoming game is taking place right now – traditionally the most popular game of the season.
As you can see in this photograph, the new seating isn’t even one-third full.
Who did we build the new football facilities for?
Seen at a local farmer’s market this weekend.
Take one. Try one.
There has yet to be even one case of human transmission of the Ebola virus in the United States. People within the borders of the United States are already extremely safe, very well-protected from the spread of Ebola. Screening for Ebola is already taking place at ports of entry to our country, and medical teams are prepared to take action, if eventually disease transmission in the United States does take place.
In short, there is no Ebola emergency in the United States. There isn’t even the reasonable threat of an Ebola emergency here.
Yet, Americans are freaking out. People are using the Ebola outbreak in west Africa as an excuse to engage in racist smears against African people in general, even if they haven’t been anywhere near the few places on the continent where Ebola is spreading quickly. Right wing Christians are exploiting the Ebola story to spread conspiracy theories about the government stockpiling coffin liners for American victims of Ebola. The U.S. military is encouraging fears of Ebola-provoked stampedes of people from Central America across the border with Mexico, even though no such problem actually exists, because Ebola isn’t present in Central America. Health care quacks are encouraging fear in order to sell their anti-Ebola snake oil.
Even in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, only three out of every thousand people are infected with Ebola, and these Ebola victims tend to be among the most impoverished citizens of these countries, and therefore the least likely to get on an airplane heading to the United States. Yet, right wing media networks are demanding that all travel from west African countries to the United States be stopped.
It’s sad, if predictable, that such political extremists would indulge in this kind of overreaction. What has been less expected is that members of the United States Congress would join in this kind of overreaction. Yet that’s just what has happened.
This week, a bipartisan group of members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to, “quarantine for any individual who has traveled to or from affected countries in West Africa within the dormancy period, aside from responsible health and military personnel sent there to fight the disease, to ensure that they have not contracted Ebola and are not contagious. Lastly, we ask the State Department to impose a travel ban and restrict travel visas issued to citizens of the West African countries experiencing this epidemic, until such countries have defeated the epidemic. Such a ban should be instituted by suspending earlier-issued visas until further notice, halting the issuance of such visas, and denying entry to the nationals of such counties upon presentation of a passport from those countries at our ports of entry.”
The current policy already protects Americans, but these members of Congress want to make it illegal for citizens of west African countries to travel to the United States, even if those citizens have been living outside of west Africa for years. These kinds of restrictions are not only unnecessary, they help to promote a culture of irrational fear for the sake of political gain. It’s telling that none of these members of Congress have actually drafted any legislation to accomplish what they are demanding that Barack Obama do. They’re too busy running for re-election to do anything but strike a pose, and help to spread an unreasonable panic
The following are the members of Congress who have participated in this irresponsible posture to encourage public panic about Ebola: Steve Stivers, Alan Grayson, Ted Yoho, Robert Pittenger, Dennis Ross, Kyrsten Sinema, Kenny Marchant, Stephen Fincher, Michael Grimm, Tom Cole, Adrian Smith, Steve Stockman, Dave Joyce, Bill Posey, Mike Kelly, Tom Marino, Roger Williams, Steve Daines, Matt Salmon, Greg Harper, Andy Barr, Steven Palazzo, Mike Coffman, Dave Loebsack, Bob Gibbs, and Paul Gosar.
Over the last few days, panic over Ebola in the United States has reached ridiculous levels, as people with the common cold have begun to visit hospital emergency rooms, convinced that they are dying of the disease, despite the fact that no case of transmission of Ebola within U.S. borders has ever been recorded. As part of the panic, right wingers have begun demanding that American borders be closed to all people traveling from west African countries.
Others have been insisting that Ebola is part of an End Times that will result in the rapture for Christians, that the Ebola outbreak was created on purpose by Barack Obama, and that FEMA is stockpiling huge numbers of coffin liners in which to dispose of the corpses of American Ebola victims.
None of these conspiracy theories are supported by the facts, but then, they don’t even sound plausible. There is one rumor about Ebola making the rounds, however, that at least seems like it could be true: The rumor that, although Ebola experts say that the disease doesn’t spread through the air, in secret, they know that airborne transmission of Ebola does, or at least could, take place.
This is a difficult conspiracy theory to disprove. How could anyone definitively say that Ebola will never ever ever be transmitted through the air when people with Ebola cough? It’s like trying to prove that there are not little fairies that live in refrigerators, but magically turn invisible whenever the door is opened. Proving that something does not exist is logically impossible.
That’s why the reasonable standard in cases like this is that people who propose outlandish theories are the ones who have to prove that their theories are correct. If you propose that there are fairies living in the refrigerator, then it’s up to you to prove it.
Likewise, it is up to those people who claim that Ebola is now spread by through the air to prove that what they say is true. If they can produce evidence, then the rest of us need to consider the quality of that evidence, and accept the claims if the quality of evidence is clear.
Unfortunately, many of the people who have been making claims that Ebola is spread through the air haven’t been very credible. One such source that we at Irregular Times have been referred to is Dr. Rima E. Laibow. In addition to spreading the idea that Ebola can be contracted by breathing tainted air, Laibow joins in the End Timers’ claims of U.S. government stockpiles of coffin liners for Ebola victims. As proof of her claim, she brings out the very same old photograph of burial vaults that was debunked five years ago.
Laibow hasn’t restricted her wild claims to the standard, religiously-tinged conspiracy theories of the far right, however. Laibow also has made herself known for making scientifically-unsupported claims of medical benefits for the products that she sells, including cannabis oil and something she calls nano-silver. Cannabis oil is one of the more common snake oils of our time, often promised to work as a cancer cure, although no evidence supports that use. The FDA recently found that Laibow has not adequately provided scientific evidence that nano-silver actually has the health benefits that she claims, and that Laibow has failed even to provide adequate instructions to her customers about what is supposed to be the proper way to use her nano-silver products.
Still, it is possible that Laibow is just one very bad representative for an important discovery: That Ebola is transmitted through the air. It is possible that somewhere, good scientific studies have been done proving that Ebola has mutated into a airborne disease, and I simply haven’t been able to find these studies.
If this is the case, I want to know. So, I’m issuing a challenge to our readers: Show me a peer-reviewed scientific study that’s been published somewhere other than on YouTube, or on someone’s medical products online store, proving that Ebola is actually transmitted from human to human in the air. If you provide such a study, I promise to give it a thorough and unbiased a review as I can.