“It was impossible to predict the decline in the Ebola caseload last September, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested a worst-case scenario of 1.4 million victims in West Africa.” That from the Washington Post, January 18, in an article on Ebola treatment centers standing empty even as new ones are being built. Fewer than 22,000 cases have been reported and new cases are approaching zero.
“Impossible?” I predicted it and repeated it over and over, in multiple major publications. In August I predicted the forthcoming hysteria in one of America’s highest-circulation newspapers, the New York Post.
The next month, in the science and medical journal Inference, I explained in tremendous detail why the predictions were clearly false even when they first appeared. Weeks later Forbes ran my article “Despite World Panic, The Rate of New Ebola Infections Is Already Slowing Down.”
How could I do the “impossible?” Am I the incarnation of Nostradamus? Do voices speak to me a la Joan of Arc? No, I looked at the WHO’s own data as displayed in its weekly situation reports. Just like the Washington Post and anyone else could have done. But didn’t. Or anyway didn’t bother to relay it.
So even as the epidemic was peaking, the media obediently repeated such assertions as the outbreak was “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.” That from Ian Smith, the World Health Organization’s executive director. Yes, worse than the “Spanish flu” of 1918-19. Extrapolated to today’s world population, that would mean 60 million to 150 million deaths.
The next day, reporting on a separate WHO conference, a New York Times headline blared: “New Ebola Cases May Soon Reach 10,000 a Week, Officials Predict.” And of course neither the Gray Lady nor anybody else challenged that 1.4 million CDC prediction.
One “expert” routinely quoted and given magazine covers for every hysteria, Laurie Garrett, wrote “Wake up, fools…What’s going on in West Africa now [is the] movie ‘Contagion.’ In that film 26 million people died. She’s no fool. Garrett is the only writer ever awarded all three of the big “Ps” of journalism: the Pulitzer, the Polk and the Peabody. You’ve just seen why. Sensationalism has now completely usurped truth as the highest value in “reporting.”
Specific numbers aside, there were two ways to intuitively know that the CDC estimate, the WHO estimate, and those of everyone the media treated seriously would be grotesquely overstated.
For one, a disease that’s so poorly spread it only gave rise to a few cases outside of West Africa is not going to compete with something people contracted from a single cough before flu vaccines had been invented, or even antibiotics to treat secondary infections. For another, these are all the same people who lied to us about HIV/AIDS, SARS, avian flu, swine flu, MERS, and Ebola twice before. Almost all of which I also debunked, thank you very much. It wasn’t hard.
And we’ll be lied to again. Meanwhile, the damage is done. Just four weeks, Pres. Obama signed into law $5.4 billion in funding for what was already a phantom epidemic. That, even as less-glamorous diseases like malaria kill about 630,000 people annually and there’s not even a vaccine in the pipeline. Yes, hysteria and lying are more than entertainment. They kill.
But this pattern will never change, because after each hysteria the slate gets wiped clean. The WHOs, CDCs, New York Times, and Laurie Garretts are granted full pardons. Nobody is ever held accountable. Nobody ever will be.
Thus your only real defense? Knowing you’re being lied to.