Rumors and Rumor-Mongering

Last week found me traveling back from Dallas with a head cold I had picked up somewhere along the trail. The news of where I’d been hadn’t been out of my mouth for three seconds when a well-meaning friend said, “I hope it’s not Ebola.”

Big sigh.

Fear. Fear-mongering. Fueled by rumors. Let’s take a look: I was nowhere near



Thomas Eric Duncan while I was in Dallas–I was in a hotel and at a client’s office. The incubation period is from two to 21 days, making Dallas unlikely as a source for my cold, let alone Ebola. You have to come into direct contact with bodily fluids to get Ebola, so all of this is just stirring the fear pot.

Sadly, I’ve seen this twice before. Once in the 1980s, when AIDS first was defined as an incurable, death-causing disease. There were nasty rumors about gays then, too. The other time was after 9/11, when all Muslims became painted as terrorists. I sat in on a class of a fellow instructor, a Muslim woman who wore a headscarf, and shook my head at the advice she was given: just take off the scarf. Interestingly enough, none of the terrorists had been women.

UUaJbEDMeanwhile, we are growing a fresh crop of panic over Ebola. I’m not saying it’s a harmless virus, it is not. But I am saying that we have serious problems in this country—heart disease is the number one killer of humans in the U.S. About 68 people die every hour in the U.S. of heart disease. In a year, it adds up to 600,000. Over half a million. Not a single person has ever asked me if I still eat bacon. Or if I exercise. Nope. Because Ebola is more dramatic.

The people who are fear-mongering over Ebola are not nearly as worried about heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. AIDS has claimed about 636,000 lives, but we don’t talk about it anymore.

Let’s not get hysterical about Ebola. Yes, it’s a serious disease. No, there is no cure for it. Yet. (And there is no cure for MS, diabetes, ALS, cancer or the common cold). Take a deep breath and realize that you have better things to worry about. And let’s not talk about shutting down air traffic between the U.S. and Africa. That would have been a brilliant strategy in 1619, but we’re about 400 years too late for that.

Fear leads to fear-mongering. Leads to rumors. To lies. To hatred. To victimizing. Let’s stop it early.

Quinn McDonald is feeling well enough to rant.


17 thoughts on “Rumors and Rumor-Mongering

  1. Thank you for the timely discussion. It is amazing the power that the media has to promote fear. And this fear also speaks to the fact that people don’t trust our government to tell the truth.

  2. I live in a small place where rumors and fear mongering are the order of the day – and also in apparently one of the top 10 areas for possible Ebola victims (we have the largest Liberian population in the US in Rhode Island, thus much travel to/from there) – I detest rumors, gossip, and all such things, and I’ve spent too much time trying to prove that “X” is an urban legend and “Y” just not factually correct. Unfortunately, it falls on deaf ears 90% of the time. Perhaps we are just hard-wired to believe the unbelievable. And to spread fear where none should exist.

  3. Would be more useful if one wishes to be frightened, to be scared of that numbered virus hitting kids and doing the totally unexpected (has killed one so far without any symptoms, and paralyzed a few others and no one knows if it is permanent or not). It’s behaving like polio, which I remember as one of the few things that scared my mother to death.

  4. Lets try that in all areas of our life, especially interpersonal relationships…
    Where our fear of the beauty of another makes us lie cheat and steal, creating a hate for another, which in all honesty…sits at our feet.

  5. Brilliant. You are a voice of reason in this society of Chicken Little’s. I will be sharing this everywhere. Thank you!

  6. I hate fear-mongering in any form. I personally choose to think the best rather than the worst. I cannot imagine living in a world where I fear everything I hear or read about. Yes, everyone is afraid at times but I would rather take a pro-active approach and feel strong and in control rather than sit and listen to the media/religious leaders/politicians, etc. and feel helpless and afraid.

    Glad you’re feeling better!

  7. My son (we live in the Dallas area and he works in the North Dallas area, where the Ebola case happened) who is a normally rational, educated 30 something, called me and said “I hope that I don’t have Ebola”. He did not, just had a very virulent 24 hour stomach virus. But since we have become so inundated of late with fear-mongering by all the media, it seems to be a valid response. And it is difficult to not be swept up in the fear. Hopefully, saner minds will prevail… and Quinn you are certainly one of them!

    • Here’s the huge difference in reaction. Your son is bound to be swept up in the fear mongering, because fear spreads much faster (and with a lot less contact) than Ebola. The big difference is that he did not spread his fear. He talked about it to his Mom, and remained calm. That’s the thing. We can have all the emotions we want, but how we react to the emotions controls the result.

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