We’re all going to die someday. According to our popular forms of media, whenever a disease or medical controversy, of any sort arises, we’re going out a lot sooner than we think.
Over the past several months, the only thing all news channels seem to be able to talk about is Ebola. The fatal disease was first identified in the late 1970s in Africa, and until 2013 there were less than 2000 reported cases. The largest epidemic has been ongoing in 2014 in Western African countries. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Oct. 29 situation report, the death toll is slightly less than 5000. United States media only began serious coverage when two doctors were brought back for treatment in August after contracting it while working at the center of the outbreak.
Since then, television, the internet and newspapers have exploded. Every front page imaginable strikes fear into the hearts of passersby when they see a headline with the word “ebola” in it. CNN and Fox News run segments multiple times a day with “EBOLA IN AMERICA” as a headline. The virus has been seen as one of the top trending topics on Facebook. These stories have everyone in a tizzy, running to the internet to buy an Ebola prevention kit despite the insistence of doctors and health care professionals that Ebola is not easily transmitted from one person to another.
This media-created hysteria (while it does provide endless amounts of material for Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and the rest of America’s comedians) is inciting all manner of dangerous behaviors. It’s spreading inaccurate health information, causing people to think this disease that is spread through bodily fluids could possibly be airborne.
And just when we think issues like these couldn’t get any worse in America, it breeds racism and xenophobia. A shocking example of the xenophobia sprouting from this ridiculous coverage of Ebola is the abuse suffered by two young Senegalese boys in the Bronx on Oct. 24. Because of the media’s hysteria over a disease that has only been contracted by a handful of people in the United States, middle school bullies targeted these two boys solely because of where they’re from. However, something the media has neglected to report on are specifics of WHERE in West Africa this disease has hit. Had they, the bullies who beat these two boys to the point they needed hospitalization would have know that there was only one reported case of Ebola in Senegal; since then it’s been declared “Ebola free” by the WHO.
In theory, it’s the media’s job to keep us informed. All they’re doing with this issue of Ebola though is causing people to panic and think they’re about to contract a deadly disease that will liquify their organs. They’re in no way doing their jobs. When the people who are supposed to be giving us our news fail to do so, we’re forced to turn to alternative sources for the truth. I strive to follow credible news sources. But if “credible” news these days insists upon causing mass hysteria solely for ratings, then I’ll stick to Jon Stewart.