B efore American mainstream media outlets move on to whatever the next piece of news they can create more hysteria with, I have something to say about their fear-mongering coverage of the Ebola epidemic.
This isn’t the first time American media has tried to spread fear and panic to the public when the threat of a deadly disease makes its way into the world. Does “swine flu” ring a bell with anyone?
Except the thing with swine flu is that it actually killed more than 12,000 Americans in 2009 , while Ebola has killed only one. One. Not 1,000, not 100, but one. As of Tuesday, the virus was completely eradicated in the United States as the only remaining Ebola patient in the country was cured.
Statistically speaking, you’re probably more likely to die by walking on campus and getting run over by Sparty on a golf cart than to die from the Ebola virus in the United States.
In fact, more students actually have died on campus this year than have died from Ebola in the United States. I don’t see any national news coverage for that.
Yet the media has been giving endless amounts of coverage to a disease that seems to pose little threat to any developed nation with a modernized healthcare system.
Essentially what the media has been telling us with their coverage of Ebola is that there is one very specific way in which we might die in the near future, that specific way being contracting the Ebola virus.
That same Ebola virus which, according to the CDC, can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, objects contaminated with the virus or infected fruit bats and primates. The disease can’t be transmitted through the air.
So it sounds like as long as you’re not a health care professional who is treating the virus, it would be pretty tough to catch it.
Not to detract from the seriousness of the disease itself, or the fact that Ebola has in fact become an epidemic in West Africa, but when the media coverage is excessive and disingenuous, we have a problem.
Influenza kills thousands every year. Why doesn’t that get round-the-clock media coverage?
Because it’s normal and expected that people are going to catch the flu during the winter months. The word “flu” doesn’t create a stir quite like the word “Ebola” does. The word “Ebola” sounds foreign and scary, so it’s easy to see how a person can get wrapped up into the media’s coverage of it. I even found myself watching for the sheer entertainment of it.
From Newsweek putting a monkey on the cover o f their magazine titled “A Backdoor To Ebola: Smuggled Bushmeat Could Spark A U.S. Epidemic,” to Dr. Sanjay Gupta pouring chocolate sauce on himself live on CNN to show “how easy” it is to contract the disease , mainstream news outlets have truly demonstrated that their only purpose is to gain viewers, rather than report real news.
I’ve had enough of these hacks on what should be our most credible national news sources sweeping important issues under the rug just to create a panic amongst the public.
The only “disease” we need to worry about catching around here is the one you catch from watching cable news channels. Symptoms include fear, panic, delusional thinking and irrational behavior. The main cause of this extremely contagious disease is incorrect information being spread to people on a daily basis from mass media outlets.
Ian Martin is a reporter at The State News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.