Conspiracy theories serve to spread misinformation

Conspiracy theories serve to spread misinformation

Getty Images/iStockphoto

by Daniela Contreras, Staff Columnist

If you’re following the news lately, it seems as though the world’s population will cease to exist in a horrible manner all because of an Ebola outbreak.

Yes, we should be concerned that thousands of human beings in West Africa are dying at alarming rates. Yes, we should put our first-world technology and knowledge to good use to get this fatal epidemic under control. But no, this bacterial disease is not something intentionally designed by the United States Government in an effort to maintain issues of overpopulation and seize global control.

In general, I can be pretty skeptical of what’s on the news and coming out of the mouths of our infamous politicians. But the Ebola conspiracy theories that have gained national attention take this absurdity to a new level. These outlandish theories scandalize complex issues and only serve to scare the public, in turn discouraging critical thinking.

There have been several conspiracy theories concerning the outbreak and none that have any serious validity. If someone chose to research this topic in depth, he or she would come across many obscure sites with sensationalist headlines and frightening content. But the documentation of these ridiculous ideas in no way corroborates the theories.

Even though it’s unclear how Ebola spreads from animals to humans, it is believed to involve direct contact with infected fruit bats or primates.

In West Africa, bushmeat is available even though some countries prohibit it. From lemurs, apes and fruit bats, almost all animals are sources of nourishment and hunting for these civilizations, increasing the risk of an outbreak.

Under such cultural circumstances, it isn’t hard to believe hunting and consuming Ebola-prone animals would set off this highly-contagious outbreak killing thousands of people.

A pervasive rumor is that our own government has invented and patented Ebola in efforts to control overpopulation. Queue the theories about shady deals with pharmaceutical companies and population control. This conspiracy warrants no more credibility than the laundry-list of other illogical ideas people have suggested over the years,  such as the theory that the U.S. is hiding a cure to cancer away from the public.

According to Snopes, a site discussing an array of popular rumors, the 2014 Ebola outbreak is due to a strain of Ebola known as Ebola Zaire, not the EboBun strain for which the Center for Disease Control patent was obtained. The patent protecting the other strain of the virus is not related to the current outbreak.

Patents protecting viruses and any other life forms are difficult to understand, let alone explain to the general public in relatively simple terms. I’m not saying pharmaceuticals and agencies, such as the CDC, around the world are heaven-sent angels — in fact, they are very far from it. Although unethical practices, such as testing new drugs on subjects in the Third World, warrant serious questions regarding the organization’s motives, the answers revolve around economics not “1984” Big-Brother theories.

According to the German publication Der Speigel, popular destinations for testing are newly industrialized counties, specifically India, Russia, Brazil and China. International drug manufacturers find it easy to test participants because they are thankful for being cared for in any way.

With epidemics as dangerous as Ebola or AIDS, it only makes sense that politics are involved among the different actors. It’s a reality that money is and always will be an aspect of large-scale issues, but that doesn’t have to mean that the powers in charge are unfairly using their control for financial gain as opposed to helping people in need.

Rather than worrying about unfounded conspiracy theories, we should be more worried about how these crises are handled and sensationalized by the media. Many news organizations want to plant the seed of fear without thinking of repercussions.

For now, let’s shelve this latest absurdity right next to the constantly evolving 9/11 theories and take this outbreak for what it is: a tragic and fatal outbreak impacting the lives of thousands around the world, which desperately requires strict, meaningful and rational attention.

 

Read the opposing argument here

Print Friendly, PDF & Email