Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

What did the Ebola panic teach us? Probably nothing

I want you to reach back deep, deep into your memory banks, way back into the shrouded mists of time.

Remember ... Ebola? Remember the Republican hysteria over Ebola, how we were all gonna DIE!!! because of the alleged incompetence of the Obama administration. Remember Fox News insisting that the coming Ebola outbreak right here in the United States was just further evidence that the government could do nothing right?

Remember the posturing of Gov. Chris Christie, forcibly quarantining Kaci Hickok in a tent in a hospital parking lot as her "reward" for having volunteered to go into the disease zone?

Remember Rush Limbaugh suggesting that Obama was purposefully exposing Americans to Ebola as vengeance for slavery? Remember how alleged "common sense" was supposed to be so superior to over things such as scientific training and decades of experience in containing outbreaks?


Just to jog your memory, here's a chart for the word "Ebola" from Google trends, documenting the hysteria. Please notice how it spiked right before the election, and then all but disappeared:

What changed? The disease is still spreading in parts of Africa, although progress has been made. Commercial air flights from the regions affected by the disease still continue. Health-care workers, including epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control here in Atlanta, still fly back and forth without being forced into 21-day isolation chambers.

Yet miracle of miracles, no new cases of the disease have been transmitted here.

I'd like to think that people will remember who was right and who was wrong in all that panic, who drove them into groundless hysteria and who calmly and accurately advised them that panic posed a much greater danger than the disease. I'd like to think that those in the media and in politics who behaved irresponsibly, either out of cynical opportunism or sheer ignorance, would pay a price for that irresponsibility, if for nothing else to discourage them the next time a crisis develops.

But I don't.



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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.