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

From healthy-lifestyle.com

From healthy-lifestyle.com

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.

 

Fear and the Photograph

Check out your rights as a photographer: http://tinyurl.com/4neyed

Washington, D.C. in the summer. The humidity is a given. So are the tourists, camera clicking away. But times are changing. While the public is getting used to less privacy as video cameras watch them from street corners, parking lots and store security stations, the police and security guards and chasing photographers away, telling them that photographs taken in public places, while standing on public property, is illegal.

It isn’t, of course, but who wants to argue with an official with a gun? Jerome Vorus, a 19-year-old college student was detained by police after he took a photograph of a traffic stop in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C. Although he stood 20 feet away from the scene, the police accused him of photographing the inside of a cruiser, and claimed this was illegal. (It’s not, according to the police guidelines.)

The Washington Post recently ran an article citing a number of cases where ordinary citizens were prevented from taking photos in public places. Often, the photos were of federal buildings, and images of those buildings were posted on the governments website.

This is another case of fear. Once fear is set lose, the reaction is more fear. Tourists are seen as terrorists, citizens as threats. Non-citizens are seen as bigger threats. Courts have ruled that anyone standing in a public area have no expectation of privacy, but it’s hard to carry around a court ruling and reason with someone who has seized your camera and is deleting your photos.

Fear of strangers, fear of your neighbor, and fear of people and ideas we don’t understand have risen considerably since 9/11. We create our own reality—if we see harm and malice in every photographer, we become a nation that makes decisions out of fear, that reacts in fear. That leads us to a nation that abandons the First Amendment or allows security guards to define the law as they see fit, and enforce it in any way they choose. Let’s put down the fear and settle for a little thinking, instead.