Cracked already covered how Ebola isn't going to send society spiraling into a 28 Days Later-style apocalypse, and we're not the only ones: real news websites like NBC News, The Washington Post, and The Guardian have all told us to calm the hell down. Hell, National Geographic mentioned that we'd be fine back in July, before the virus even got here. But somehow people are still panicking -- so what's the deal?
Basically, Ebola is something of a perfect storm of panic. It appeals to weird bullshit buried in society, exploiting a lot of fears that we should've outgrown decades ago. Which is why all the Ebola coverage you're seeing makes the same assumptions. For example ...
#4. Our Coverage Is Making Africa Seem Like a Plague-Infested Wasteland
Anup Shah/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Ebola is so fucking scary that if I were to describe the symptoms right now, I'd completely ruin the article. The phrase "shit your own guts out" should be used only in comedy as a metaphor, and even then it should appear sparingly, because, dude, gross. So it's sorta expected for the media to make Ebola into their new supervillain, even if they're being pretty irresponsible about it. What's weird is that they insist on making all of Africa into Ebola's Skull Island, and every African a member of the Nefarious Ebola Army.
Don't know what I'm talking about? Check out this cover story that ran in Newsweek:
As awesome as "undercover abortion wars" sounds, I'm going to ask you to focus on Ebola for me.
It's all about how smuggled "bushmeat" (that is, meat from animals you hunted, versus from domesticated animals) could bring an Ebola infection into America. The problem is that every single aspect of that is bullshit. First, there's no chance whatsoever that smuggled meat could bring the disease into America, and second, pretty much no one in the so-called "Ebola zone" regularly eats chimpanzees. So what's the deal with the monkey on the cover?
Also: fucking "bushmeat"? Why not just say "game"? That's what we call it when Americans kill and eat wild animals. Is it because, maybe, saying "bushmeat" sounds more weird and primitive, making Africa out to be a scary, dangerous, foreign place -- something I've already pointed out is a weirdly common form of modern bullshit?
Pictured: Africa. I'll give you a second to pick your brains up off the floor.
If it sounds like I'm over-analyzing this one story, then think about how many "Ebola is scary!" stories focus on how dirty and gross Africa is -- while stories about Nigeria quickly and efficiently controlling the disease are treated as a mysterious anomaly that must be thoroughly investigated so that we can glean Nigeria's strange, foreign secrets.
But when you read the article, you find out the answer is pretty simple: "What Nigeria did is routine, regular -- but vigorous and rigorous -- public health practice," according to the expert interviewed for the article. So that solves that mystery. We're talking about Africa with the same misguided condescension normally reserved for the disabled: "Wow! you managed to put your pants on all by yourself! Good job understanding the basics of society, entire continent of Africa!"
But it goes beyond run-of-the-mill condescension and gets pretty freaky, because ...
#3. We're Reacting to Ebola Fear by Being Racist Dicks
"But those horrifying pictures of poor Africans are meant to invoke sympathy!" some people are saying. Sure, that might be the intention, but when it's absorbed as part of a huge story told through the entire media, it just motivates us to be fucking terrified and defensively angry at anyone we assume might be associated with Ebola. And by "be associated with Ebola" we mean "look even a little foreign."
There was the black high school kid getting taunted during a football game by students chanting "Ebola," because his parents are originally from Guinea and high school kids are fucking dicks. There's also a college near Dallas that has started outright rejecting any international student from any country with a confirmed ebola case (excluding the U.S., I assume) -- even Nigeria, which as I just mentioned, is so good at Ebola that the American CDC sent experts there to learn the ancient Nigerian anti-Ebola-fu. And all around the country, anyone of West African descent is getting funny looks any time they cough, sneeze, or insidiously try to shake your hand. Finally, any minorities who lived in the same neighborhood as the so-called "patient zero" are being asked not to come to work and turned away from restaurants, because one of the first symptoms of Ebola is darker skin and kinky hair, right? Right? I feel like I read that somewhere.
"Sir, I'm afraid you are Ebola.
But does this really seem that much crazier than the psycho on Fox News who thinks that Obama doesn't actually want to protect America from Ebola because he's secretly an African leader who's holding us hostage with fear (seriously, read that article, it's fucking hilarious)? Both of these things are just people saying, "I'm afraid of black people and I desperately want an excuse, any excuse, seriously I'm up for anything right now, how strong are these gin and tonics." And then Ebola pops up, licks its lips, and is all, "Hey there tiger, how about I make you a gin and tonic you'll never forget?" And the crazy racist is like, "Oh yeah, baby, where have you been all my life. Quick, let's make a beautiful hashtag together, right here, while no one is looking."
That's not fake! A person made that! A real person!
So far this is all modern stuff, and it's actually fairly run-of-the-mill when it comes to documenting reactionary racism in America. But once you start digging into the history of how we've reacted to Ebola and compare it with how we've reacted to other diseases, things get way weirder, and way more dangerous ...