You know what they say about Ebola, right?
Yeah, me neither.
Probably because — despite way too much noise about it on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, TV news and the like — I’ve pretty much tuned out anything Ebola-related.
Somehow, I’m still alive.
At the end of the day, reading up on Ebola — or I guess anything for that matter — is a really quick cost-benefit analysis for me. We have only so many minutes in a day, right? So here’s my thought process: So far we’ve heard about just a few confirmed cases of the virus in the United States. Literally, a few. As in four. And a single death among those. Out of over 300 million people in the country.
So considering the odds that I or anyone I know will ever contract it, aren’t there more pressing things I could be devoting my attention to?
That’s a rhetorical question.
This column (except the following few paragraphs) first appeared in this week’s newspaper, which came out on Thursday — the day a New York City man was, I’m sure you’ve heard, found to have been diagnosed with Ebola. As I saw the headlines stream in, part of me thought, “Wow, I’m really going to look like a fool for writing that column.”
While it’s scary to think about what still can happen in a worst case scenario, the media’s response has pretty much still justified what I’ve written.
Yesterday, Friday, CNN asked: “Is Ebola the ISIS of biological agents?” And at one point, the network had more Ebola “analysts” on screen than actual people in the country who have been diagnosed with the virus — even with the fourth case in New York City.
Surely, though, they are not alone.
Also by Joseph Pinciaro:
I read a book in high school called “The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things.” It mentions road rage, plane crashes and, yes, even Ebola. These are scary things, sure. But not things to live in fear of.
“Valid fears have their place; they cue us to danger,” author Barry Glassner wrote. “False and overdrawn fears only cause hardship.”
I hate to make it sound like I’m downplaying the deaths that have occurred worldwide due to the Ebola virus, or the threat the virus poses if ignored. Close to 5,000 lives have been lost in West Africa, which really is sad. And if I lived in West Africa, I’m not so sure I’d be writing this column — or if I would be allowed to, but that’s another topic.
It really is an unfortunate reality that there are parts of the world where this is happening.
The United States, lucky for us, is not one of them.
But the way the media (and, yeah, I’m not that different from you — “the media” gets to me too, sometimes) is portraying this Ebola scare, you’d think 5,000 lives had been lost in the U.S. Or 50,000. The most popular story in The New Yorker this week? “The Ebola Wars.” Never mind that real war we’re in. Or maybe “wars” would be more accurate.
But no worries. It’s OK. Don’t worry, be happy because our politicians are coming to save us from Ebola! They’re calling for the closing of flight paths and the naming of czars — and, thankfully for all of us, we’re getting it all. Meanwhile, politicians can’t agree on who should be appointed to serve as Surgeon General, the federal government’s top medical expert.
Surely, hiring a political insider, I mean an Ebola czar, will stop you and me from contracting the virus, right? Sure, closing flights from some of the more dangerous areas could be a precautionary move for a while (never mind those people who might just take an indirect route from West Africa to America), but I figure keeping the virus in check would have more to do with training medical personnel properly than making a political appointment. They make nice headlines though, I suppose.
It’s like every time I hear “Ebola” now, the zombie apocalypse comes to mind, like a scene from “Dawn of the Dead.” It’s really just good old-fashioned scare tactics.
“Ebola Wars”? An Ebola czar? Seriously, try to think of something scarier than a czar fighting a war against an invisible virus.
Maybe I’m just resigned to the fact that living on the East End without a boat, I’m pretty much done if any kind of epidemic hits here. I’m trapped, and I accepted that the day I signed my mortgage. Despite those Coastal Evacuation Route signs, I’m not making it far.
So why write a column about it then, you ask? Sure, it would be great if you could stop clogging my feeds with horror-filled stories designed to scare us without the numbers to support such a threat. But honestly, I do hope you join me in ignoring the noise and worrying about things closer to home that do affect you — that affect us. In a shameless plug, I think our editorial is a pretty good place to start, but maybe it’s something else for you. More time with family and friends, as they say. The list goes on.
Just enough with the Ebola already.
Joseph Pinciaro is the managing editor of the Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at 354-8024 or[email protected].