Did This Post Just Give You Ebola?

fearbolaNo, it’s not that I’ve given up on this ‘posting every day’ thing after only a week. I’ve decided taking weekends off is a good idea and yesterday I was sick and figured you didn’t want to hear all about my body doing all the things that bodies do when they’re sick.

For the record, it wasn’t Ebola. Of course it wasn’t Ebola. Ebola has killed exactly one person in the United States. That was in Texas. I’m in Washington State. There is virtually zero chance for me to get Ebola any time soon. The same is true for you.

And yet, if we go by media coverage, Ebola is EVERYWHERE and we’re all in constant danger of getting Ebola. A recent poll shows that nearly 40% of Americans are ‘very concerned’ about a major Ebola outbreak in America. In Maine, a teacher who attended a seminar in Dallas, miles from the nearest of the three infected patients has been placed on leave out of fear of Ebola. Again, there have been THREE cases in the entire country of 280 million people and only one death. To put this in perspective, there have been more Popes in the last three years than there have been deaths in America from Ebola.

Hunter S. Thompson’s final book of original material was called The Kingdom of Fear. The title refers to post-9/11 America. We are told over and over again what we need to fear whether it’s mass shooters, ISIS, or Ebola. Each of these things make for great television. They all pass the old ‘If it bleeds, it leads’ test. And they all have virtually zero chance of having a direct impact on your average American unless of course you include the fear of these things.

This isn’t to say that things like Ebola or ISIS or mass shootings aren’t bad. They are. And there are definitely things that we as a country should do about them. However, if you are not directly involved in these things, there is no reason for these things to occupy much headspace and you sure as hell have better things to spend your time worrying about.

The problem is that the news doesn’t really get anything out of telling you, “You are eight times more likely to get married to Larry King than you are to die of Ebola in America.”  At that point, any further talk of Ebola likely isn’t going to interest you all that much. Whereas going into detail on how death from Ebola happens and how there’s the faint possibility that someone on an airplane somewhere might have Ebola and they could be ANYWHERE is much more likely to make you keep watching.

So what’s to be done? A friend of mine recently asked people on Facebook where they might find an unbiased source of news that wasn’t part of some partisan agenda. No one had a good answer for them.  The solution I’ve found is simply to not allow fear to dictate your feelings on a given topic. If you find that there’s a lot of fear about something in the media, take a closer look. Do the numbers match up to the hysteria? Is this thing directly affecting you in any way right now? If not, what chance is there that they will? Rather than buying into headlines that end in question marks like “Does A Missing Passenger On A Plane Have Ebola?”  Ask questions of your own.

– Jack Cameron