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(Portrait of Ben Franklin by Joseph-Siffred Duplessis)
The fear of Ebola is routed in America's chronic isolationist stance. "If bad stuff ain't hurtin' Americans, it ain't news..." — which is how it played out in the media’s early response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa: not much, not soon enough...
“The warnings began days after the first Ebola case was confirmed in West Africa. As more bodies piled up, the alarms grew louder, clearer and more urgent. March 31: ‘We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen …’
Two weeks later: ‘(Our) teams are facing an unprecedented phenomenon …’
Another month passed. ‘The epidemic is out of control.’ This last warning came in late June, when Ebola had already infected more than 600 people in three of the world’s poorest countries.”
— Jennifer Yang, The Star
“Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan has criticised the international community for its response to the Ebola crisis, as a [UK] Royal Navy ship prepares to leave for Sierra Leone to help tackle the outbreak. Speaking on BBC Newsnight Mr Annan said he had been 'bitterly disappointed' that developed countries had not moved faster on the issue. 'If the crisis had hit some other region it probably would have been handled very differently,' he said. 'In fact when you look at the evolution of the crisis, the international community really woke up when the disease got to America and Europe. And yet we should have known that in this interconnected world it was only a matter of time.'”
— Western Daily Press
... but as soon as Ebola landed in Texas, it took centre stage, leapfrogging even the likes of Isis.
Now look at the other side of the isolationist coin: "If good stuff don't come out of America, it ain't news either." Take the news that Canada has sent 800 samples of their new Ebola vaccine to WHO for human trials, for example — not a peep out of CNN, or any other US news organization, as far as I can tell.
But this isolationism is about more than geography, even ego; it's a world view that fosters anti-intellectualism and paranoia.
“In the mind of conservative pundit George Will, climate change and Ebola have one very important thing in common: we shouldn’t believe anything the experts are telling us about either of them. […]
Will’s comments, in other words, were a complete misrepresentation of the researcher [Lisa Brosseau]s’ work.
But for the anti-science minded, his was a completely logical line of thought to follow. ‘Once you’ve decided that scientists routinely make shit up in order to advance a nefarious bureaucratic progressive agenda,’ notes Jonathan Chait, ‘there’s no end to the number of new conspiracies you’re going to discover.’
When confronted with the facts by Fox host Chris Wallace — yes, some have speculated about the ability of Ebola to become airborne, but there’s no reason to believe, at this point, that such a thing has happened — Will himself drew the comparison to climate science, the basic facts of which he also believes we should continue to 'debate.'”
— Lindsay Abrams, Salon