Remember the Ebola hysteria. What did we learn from it?

Summary: Sierra Leone has discharged it last known Ebola patient, bringing this Ebola epidemic almost to its end. We should learn from this episode. Not just about the need for vigilance and well-funded defenses against plagues, but also what it reveals about America. About us.

Ebola & the New World Order
Don your tin foil hat and click here to watch!

In April 2009 I wrote Are Americans easily panicked cowards? I think not, but many experts disagree. How we’ve responded to Ebola during the last year suggests my optimism was wrong.

I recommend reading this first post after Ebola arrived in America: An epidemic afflicting America: fear about Ebola. Avoid the carriers. Facts are the antidote. It describes the first wave of hysteria that swept America, which grew worse as more cases were discovered. Our top medical experts were ignored as tens of millions listened instead to alarmists exploiting people’s fear for their own purposes (mostly political).

Remembering is the fist step to learning. We can do better. But only if we try.

Other posts about Ebola

  1. An epidemic afflicting America: fear about Ebola. Avoid the carriers. Facts are the antidote.
  2. What you need to know about Ebola. Debunking the myths.
  3. While Americans panic at shadows, Ebola strikes hard at Africa.
  4. Lessons from Ebola. Let’s hope we learn.
  5. DoD shows its strength, mobilizing to protect us from Ebola (a sad story about America).
  6. Good news about Ebola and its terrifying mortality rate.
  7. We awake from fears of an Ebola pandemic in America. Now let’s ask who’s responsible….
Alone In Fear
Alone In Fear. By fre-lanz on DeviantArt.

21 thoughts on “Remember the Ebola hysteria. What did we learn from it?”

  1. More people married Kim Kardashian than died of Ebola in the U.S. as a result of the so-called “epidemic.” Yet Americans continue to fall for these ridiculous panic scenarios. Perhaps the combined shocks of 9/11 + the 2009 financial crash have rendered Americans hypersensitive to any kind of potential shock or loss for a generation or more.

  2. We have become a nation of cowards since 9/11. News broadcasts have evolved into ratting based entertainment, Theerfore the Ebola Crisi, the scapegoating of immigrants, and the outlandish pants wetting fear of a ragtag gang called ISIS with 30,000 or so members and yet we fear them.

    However the explosion of gun violence since 1968 resulting in more deaths than all of our wars combined is treated as somehow unavoidable.

    As a people we are like the cat chasing the Lazer. From Ebola to Bengazi to Email stupidity, to scapegoating immigrants while ignoring the disastrous consequences of shifting hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs overseas. All in the name of lower cost T shirts and very profitable Corporations and the 1% who run them. We live in a Fuedal Society and lack the knowledge to recognize it.

  3. I disagree that it’s a matter of education. Like Marx I think it’s purely a matter of economics. In the current situation only the Federal Government has the potential to deal with this. So it’d DOA till things become unbearable or the baby boomers and their spoiled children are dead.

  4. Well, I didn’t learn it from the Ebola scare, but the Ebola scare did provide a very clean example of how politicians are ready to exploit fear and foment distrust in government, scientists, and researchers for the sake of political expediency.

    1. Joshua,

      OK, it was a reminder lesson. But I wonder if it is the most useful lesson. That politicians will exploit fear is a constant in history, back to Athens. But people’s (we’re a people, in this context) susceptibility to fear and fear-mongers is not. And we have become both fearful and easily led by fear-mongerers. Perhaps that is the lesson to be learned here.

  5. ==> ” But people’s (we’re a people, in this context) susceptibility to fear and fear-mongers is not. ”

    Please explain. As near as I can tell, susceptibility to fear and fear-mongering is about as much of a constant as ever existed, has existed as a constant in this country among this people, etc. Certainly we can both think of many, many examples.

    ==> “And we have become both fearful and easily led by fear-mongerers.”

    Again, please explain. You are identifying some kind of trend over time. What is your longitudinal evidence that describes that trend? Near as I can tell, you’re using cross-sectional data (well, actually, anecdotes) to describe a longitudinal trend. That’s problematic, IMO.

    And Fabius, I asked you a question over at Judith’s – I’d appreciate an answer…

    1. Joshua,

      Longitudinal studies are rare in history because few have the necessary funding. However, I’m not the only one pointing our that our fearfullness has grown. It’s been observed by many, both lay and social scientists. The earliest I’ve found is writer Peter Moore‘s “The Crisis Crisis” (Playboy, March 1987). I haven’t found an online copy. Here’s the LAT summary:

      … Peter Moore delivers serious criticism while making fun of the media’s propensity to shock with doomsday scenarios, killer trends and national crises that often prove to be more hyperbolic than apocalyptic.

      In their intense competition for the eye of the public and the wallet of the advertiser, media feast frenziedly on one crisis, then abandon it for a newer one, Moore complains. There’s profit in crisis-mongering, such as “crack mania,” which he says boosted magazine sales and drove up ratings. Though Moore is concerned about the public swallowing all the hysteria, he’s more worried about lawmakers reacting too quickly with half-baked legislation and about politicians who take advantage of crises for their own gain.

      “I’d appreciate an answer”

      I did answer it. It was a good question!

  6. Fabius –

    I’ll read your link, but as I said, we can certainly find many, many, many examples of fearfulness throughout history, in the history of this country, etc. In fact, in someways, I’d say it is one of the defining characteristics of social organization. And certainly, people have used that tendency to advantage throughout history.

    ==> “Longitudinal studies are rare in history because few have the necessary funding. ”

    That doesn’t address the problem, IMO. You are drawing longitudinal conclusions, with certainty, from cross-sectional evidence. I see that happening a lot. It is fallacious reasoning. If you don’t have the longitudinal data, I suggest you don’t draw certain longitudinal conclusions.

    Of course, that’s only a basic observation. I would actually go further to say that you should resist speculating (let along drawing certain conclusions) about longitudinal trends absent longitudinal data. The draw towards fallaciously draw longitudinal trends from cross-sectional data is very strong. So for me, the very occurrence is reason to be skeptical. My guess is that even if sometimes such speculation is borne out, more often than not it suggests the bias of “motivated reasoning” (for example, confirmation bias).

    1. ==> ” It’s quite the minority opinion, ”

      Lol! So you use cross-sectional data to determine, with certainty, a longitudinal trend – something which is incompatible with the scientific process.

      To back it up, you link to an article that provides absolutely no evidence of any longitudinal trends.

      And to back that up, you engage the an ad populum fallacy.


      Make an argument, Fabius. What evidence do you use to conclude, with your certainty, that there is some trend over time?

      As one example, let’s consider the trend over time in how society treats sex and gender identity. What has the trend been? Towards more exploitation of fear and fear-mongering, or less?

      How about race identity? Mental illness? The list is endless of examples of a trend towards less fear and exploitation of fear/fear-mongering.

      1. Joshua,

        Only a tiny fraction of politically-interesting issues have longitudinal studies. That you don’t see this is typical, which is why your comments are such a waste of time.

        “Towards more exploitation of fear and fear-mongering, or less?”

        Typically for you, that NPR interview says nothing remotely like that. It does not even contain the word fear. The subtitle describes it subject: “How the legal system has addressed sex in the last century”.

        A longitudinal study here similar to what you propose — about politics of fear — would be a longitudinal study of attitudes to homosexuality in America. Which there might be, since this is such a hot button issue. But these are relatively rare in political science. For example, there is no equivalent to the General Social Survey for political science.

  7. ==> “It does not even contain the word fear. ”

    My god man, they did actually use the term “The Lavender Scare.”

    If you read the transcript you will see that is definitely covers fear in may places. For example:

    “but the earliest threads that we could find had to do with laws barring sex with women during their periods. That was considered a very volatile thing that might create atmospheric disturbances and, you know, the wrath of God. “

    There are many similar discussions of policies that were enacted and or changed because of changes in “fear” related to various social phenomena. Obviously, doing a search for “fear” is far from sufficient.

    In the next paragraph:

    “So I think of the idea that prostitutes, at the beginning of the century, were not only considered sinners. They were considered to be feebleminded – congenitally promiscuous. Therefore, lots of prostitutes were sterilized. They were seen as a one-way flow of venereal disease toward men and then onward, upward the social scale, to wealthy men. Therefore, we had to not only control them, but also cut them out of the gene pool.”

    Again, fear of how prostitutes would harm men, harm society – and the kinds of actions deemed viable to address those fears. Fears that are significantly diminished in today’s society (if not nearly completely non-existent). Fears about how “feeblemindedness and promisuousness was congenital. Fears of homosexuals being people who were evolving in the wrong direction.

    All variety of fears about sexual matters.

    Fears about the harm to society from interracial marriages (miscegenation), weakening the gene pool.

    Yes, it is a very small slice, and only tangentially focused, but nonetheless it contains a lot of evidence of many things where our society, if anything, has trended towards being less fearful. No doubt, a more comprehensive examination would come up with much more along those lines.

    But I’m not suggesting that this is enough evidence to actually make a claim. I am merely saying that it’s easy to come up with tons ‘o counterexamples to your assertion based on a cherry-pick of cross-sectional evidence.

    My main point stands. If you don’t have longitudinal data, you should avoid making certain statements about longitudinal trends.

    Fabious, don’t try to determine longitudinal trends from) cross-sectional evidence (particularly anecdotal cross-sectional evidence). It’s just a basic function of the scientific method,

    1. Joshua,

      Wow, that is just sad. Prostitutes spreading VD before antibiotics (and even afterwards) was a reality. Etc, etc.

      However I really doubt that are dumb enough to consider this a longitude study of fear about forms of sex.

      Your are just playing the troll.

  8. BTW –

    ==> “Only a tiny fraction of politically-interesting issues have longitudinal studies. That you don’t see this is typical, …”

    Since that opinion of yours about what I “see” justifies your reason for not wasting time with my comments: :-)

    Why do you think that I don’t “see” that it is typical for politically interesting issues to lack longitudinal data? Where have I said anything to support you drawing that conclusion?

    Of course many (most) politically interesting issues lack longitudinal evidence. But that has nothing to do, per se, with whether it is advisable to draw certain conclusions about those issues when such evidence is lacking.

    Part of the reason why so many of those issues are interesting is precisely because they aren’t particularly conducive to drawing solid longitudinal conclusions (because of the lack in longitudinal evidence). At least to some degree, if there were more evidence on at least some of those issues, they would be less controversial and hence less interesting.

    Perhaps you should rethink the habit of drawing conclusions, and even more certain conclusions such as those you state in this thread, when you lack supporting evidence, doncha think?

  9. ==> “Wow, that is just sad. Prostitutes spreading VD before antibiotics (and even afterwards) was a reality. Etc, etc.”

    If they sterilized them to prevent the spread of VD, did they similarly sterilized their partners because of their rational concerns based on solid evidence, in contrast to the trend that we see now with the increase in fear?
    And you’re cherry picking again, bro’. Look at what he said about the fears that led to the sterilization. Even if the fear that you refer to was one factor, if that was a fear, did you simply miss the point about feeblemindedness and congenital promiscuity?

    And yes, part of the reason why our society may be less fearful now than it was in the past is because of technological and medical advances…along with scientific advances. We’re no longer afraid of being eaten by monsters if we sail off the edge of the ocean, or as afraid of the wrath of angry gods who create bad whether because we did something they didn’t like. Those were all fears that were exploited and mongered.

    This really is easy, Fabious.

    You identified a certain trend.

    Provide some supporting evidence. You can’t draw a longitudinal trend from cross-sectional data.

    Science really isn’t that complicated.

  10. ==> “However I really doubt that are dumb enough to consider this a longitude study of fear about forms of sex.”


    Straw man much?

    I was providing cross-sectional evidence that would: (1) illustrate how you were cherry-picking and, (2) illustrate why cross-sectional data are insufficient for drawing longitudinal trends. The fact that so much other cross-sectional data exists should help to illustrate that point.

    BTW, Fabious, take a look back through this thread, and note the repeated, personally insulting rhetoric on your part. What’s up with that?

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