Wag the Ebola Dog

Ebola Distraction

I realize that facts are anathema to most conspiracy theorists, but let’s inspect them anyway, just in case this meme is…you know…incredibly stupid.

First, Mr Contemplative Chimp: Ebola did not just “up and vanish”.  As of December 9, 2014, Ebola is an ongoing threat in West Africa.  To date, nearly 18,000 people have been infected and more than 6,600 have died in the most widespread Ebola outbreak in history.  I’m sure the people of Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia would be thrilled if Ebola “up and vanished”, but that hasn’t happened.

I suppose you mean that Ebola “up and vanished” in the United States, but that’s not accurate either.  Despite peoples’ concerns, Ebola was never a major threat in the United States.  There were four patients diagnosed with Ebola in the United States at the height of the US “outbreak”, one of whom passed away from the disease.  And Ebola didn’t vanish; healthcare officials aggressively attacked the virus and contained its spread; subsequently, the remaining three patients recovered.  Their cases have been well-documented; it’s not as if they were just swept under the rug, never to be heard from again.

Now I think the US public’s reaction to Ebola was vastly overblown.  There was no need for the 1980’s-AIDS-like panic that sprang up around a very small number of cases, and yes, the media did their part in fanning the flames of unease.  But just because we blew this all out of proportion, that doesn’t mean Ebola was a “Wag the Dog” distraction from some deeper evil.  Sometimes, bad things just happen, and they can happen without government assistance or complicity.

But just for the sake of examining this issue thoroughly – and I know I’ll regret asking this – prithee tell: from what was the Ebola scare meant to distract us?

Mike Shepard contends in an opinion piece written for DC Gazette that Ebola’s foray onto American soil was entirely manufactured.  What evidence does he present in support of this audacious claim, you may justifiably ask?  He claims that if Thomas Duncan had really been carrying Ebola when he boarded a plane in Liberia bound for Dallas, Texas, then all of his traveling companions should have been infected.  After all, Shepard says, airplane passengers breathe recycled air.  One person’s disease is everybody’s disease on an airliner.

Of course Shepard completely ignores the well-established fact that Ebola is not an airborne virus, nor is it possible for a patient to spread the virus until he becomes symptomatic.  Duncan was not yet symptomatic when he boarded the plane to Texas; therefore, it would be extremely unlikely for anybody to catch the virus from him at that time.  The fact that the passengers of Duncan’s flight did not contract Ebola does not diminish the reality of Duncan’s unfortunate demise from that disease.

But Shepard is not content to spew just one egregious piece of misinformation.  Later, he asserts – naturally, without a shred of evidence – that the pseudo-Ebola scare was cooked up by none other than…ominous chord, please…President Barack Obama himself.  In Shepard’s paranoid fever dream, President Obama is plotting a major jihadist war against America.  What was Ebola’s role in all of this?  It was meant to distract the public while Obama sent his lackey John Kerry to smuggle ISIS operatives across our border.

I would understand if you thought I was making this up.  Nobody can be that paranoid, can they?  Nobody can be that blinded by their irrational hatred of President Obama, can they?  Well, read Shepard’s piece and judge for yourself: he really seems to believe his paranoid claptrap.

Okay, Shepard is a nutjob.  Is there anybody more rational that can show how Ebola was a manufactured distraction?

Ingri Cassel, the Director of Vaccination Liberation, thinks she can.  According to a flyer written by Cassel, Ebola isn’t even a naturally-occurring disease.  Cassel believes that the United States invented Ebola, and she has a patent application as “proof”.  (In fact, the CDC holds patents for several microorganisms and viruses, as Snopes explains, but not because it invented them.  The patents are meant to prevent for-profit organizations from patenting the organisms and extorting money from governments for research rights.)  Cassel charges that the government’s intention was to cause an epidemic and then to profit enormously from vaccine sales.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that the director of an organization called Vaccine Liberation takes a dim (and hopelessly misguided) view of all things vaccine-related.  No wonder, then, that Cassel has fallen into the conspiracy-thinking trap.  Anything she doesn’t understand, she adopts as “evidence” for that which she already believes.

Cassel’s contemptible claims do not end there.  She thinks that the ersatz Ebola outbreak is actually a vaccine-implemented sickness being used as an excuse to move troops into West Africa.  And why should the United States or any other country want an excuse to move troops into West Africa?  Why, to steal the region’s newly discovered oil reserves, of course.  It all makes sense, as long as you don’t let pesky things like facts get in your way.

Cassel’s ill-informed paranoid conspiracy theory goes on for almost two pages and draws heavily from the work of other conspiracy theorists.  After reading her flyer, one is filled with sadness – not because we actually live in the bizarro conspiracy-ridden world she suggests, but because she feels compelled to grasp at nonsensical straws to support her dangerous ideology.

I found a few more pages attempting to explain why Ebola is a distraction from something far more sinister, but the opinions of their authors seemed to fall along similar lines.  I haven’t the energy to recap each one, so I’ll conclude by saying this:  The Truth is out there, conspiracy theorists, but you cannot see it unless you’re willing to suspend your pre-formed beliefs.  You think that everybody else is blinded by complacency; I submit that you are blinded by your inflexibility.

Black Friday Woes

Black Friday

You know, there are lots of good reasons to be offended by Black Friday, but this isn’t one of them.  I’m going to assume this meme was created as a joke – at least, I hope it was.  If I were pressed to wager, I’d bet that somebody made this as a “gotcha” for people that get offended without actually knowing the first thing about that which offends them.  As a public service, let’s do a good ol’ fashioned debunking.

While there were many local and national Thanksgiving proclamations made in America prior to 1863, it was in that year that President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as an official recurring celebration.  Recall that Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation earlier that year, “freeing” slaves in the rebelling states, and that the 13th Amendment would officially end slavery across the country less than two years later.  In other words, the period of legal slavery in America overlaps the existence of an official Thanksgiving by less than two years; therefore, if slave brokers truly did use the day after Thanksgiving as an opportunity to sell slaves at discount prices, it was not a long-standing tradition.

Not that it matters: the idea that “Black Friday” stems from black slavery is patently false anyway.  The phrase has no racial connotations at all.  One popular theory has it that “black” refers to an old accounting practice of using red ink to denote financial losses and black ink for financial gains.  Many businesses experience tremendous profits in the quarter leading up to Christmas, starting after Thanksgiving.  According to the theory, this bonanza causes them to soar “into the black”.  In fact, the financial gains during the Christmas shopping season may compensate for losses in other quarters, so many retailers rely on pre-Christmas traffic to stay afloat.

It sounds plausible, but this etymology may also be false.  The phrase “Black Friday” (meaning the first Christmas shopping day after Thanksgiving) seems to have originated with the police officers of Philadelphia in 1961, and it was intended to be negative.  Philadelphia’s Finest were being overwhelmed by traffic jams resulting from the post-Thanksgiving shopping orgy.  As the term spread in public usage, Philadelphia business owners pushed to rebrand Black Friday as “Big Friday”, but it didn’t stick.

Whatever the origin of the phrase, this meme is the excrement of a male bovine – the meme equivalent of an April Fools joke.  Laugh at it if you like, but please don’t pass it on as true.

Why The White House Won’t

white house honors god

In what way, one can’t help but wonder, must the White House honor God in order to make this meme’s author happy?  I conducted a Google-quest to find peoples’ opinions on what it means to honor God.  While there was some diversity in opinion, most people held that to honor God, you should live your life devoted to Him.  (One author claimed that “honoring God” entailed living a life of sexual purity.  If that’s the case, the White House lost it’s connection to God a long time ago.)

That’s all fine, but at this point I must voice a protest against the message of this meme: While I think it’s fine for a President to honor God, the White House definitely should not.  The President is a person, but the White House is an institution – a symbolic representation of the power of the leader of the executive branch.  As the sole seat of executive authority, the White House must be firmly secular.  And while the President abides there, s/he should keep his/her religious convictions, wherever they may lie, completely separate from his/her executive duties.

Despite conservatives’ numerous attempts to retcon the United States’ position regarding religion, our nation is – and was always meant to be – secular.  The First Amendment to the Constitution makes that clear.  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  The White House isn’t part of Congress, of course, but it is part of the same government, and as such, it should not honor the God of Abraham any more than it should honor Vishnu, or Ra, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  The White House should mean the same thing to the Muslim, to the Hindu, and to the atheist as it means to the Christian.  If it doesn’t, then the White House – in fact, the entire government – has lost its status as a symbol of all Americans.  The Founding Fathers recognized this danger, which is why they penned the Bill of Rights in the first place.

Tiny Brontosauruses

tiny brontosauruses

It took you a while to realize that?  Hmm, I determined pretty quickly that these were not “tiny Brontosauruses“, but then, I am a bit of a dinosaur nerd.

Here’s how you can tell that these aren’t “tiny Brontosauruses“.

  1. This is nitpicking, but they ought to be called Apatosauruses.  In 1877, fossil hunter extraordinaire Othniel Charles Marsh discovered the incomplete remains of an animal he named Apatosaurus, meaning “deceptive lizard”.  Two years later he discovered a more complete skeleton.  Believing the second skeleton to be from a different species, he named it Brontosaurus, or “thunder lizard”.  In 1903, paleontologist Elmer Riggs determined that Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus were actually the same animal.  Since Apatosaurus was named first, that name has priority; however, Brontosaurus was already established in the public lexicon.  The name Brontosaurus is commonly used as a synonym for Apatosaurus, so we can forgive the maker of this meme for the substitution.  Still, Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus are genus names, and ought to be capitalized and italicized.
  2. Apatosaurus’s neck did not have the S-curve shown in these animals; the dinosaur’s neck was held nearly parallel to the ground.  The upward incline of these animals’ “necks” is more reminiscent of Brachiosaurus.
  3. The upward projections on these animals are not necks anyway, but tails.  It didn’t take me long to realize that.  I’m not sure why the maker of the meme was stymied for so long.
  4. These are mammals.  Apatosaurus was not a mammal.
  5. All Apatosauruses (tiny or otherwise) went extinct about 150 million years ago.  The surroundings in this photograph (and the very human-looking legs just behind the “Brontosauruses”) suggest that it was taken much more recently than 150 million BC.  I mean, I don’t see a timestamp so I can’t be 100% certain.
  6. I’m pretty sure these animals are in fact coatis, a raccoon-like animal prevalent from the southwestern United States down to South America.

Now I know what you’re thinking: this meme was obviously intended as a joke, and I’m just being a curmudgeonly pedant for picking it apart.  Well, yeah…that’s what I do.  All things considered, this meme isn’t that terrible, but I can’t get past the opening line.  I know it didn’t take anybody that long to determine that these animals are not tiny Brontosauruses; why did the author think it would be funny to imply that it did?

Friend Zoned

The Friend Zone

Perhaps your female friends are put off by your grammar and spelling, Brandon.  Communication is key in a relationship; what you’re doing here barely qualifies.

Here’s what your misguided rant should have looked like, Brandon, if you felt the need to post it at all.  In addition to correcting numerous spelling and grammar errors, I’ve taken the liberty to revise some of your stylistic choices.

Why do women always put nice guys in the friend zone but still complain and whine about wanting a nice guy to be with?  When you had one in front of you, you friend zoned him.  That makes no sense at all.

When a guy is there for you through your exes, bad dates, money problems, etc, it’s because he really likes you and wants to be the one for you (unless he’s gay).  You don’t see that, but you should before he’s gone.  People can only be tortured for so long before they break.  You say there’s none left; it’s because you keep torturing them until they snap.

Men are not Twinkies.  We have expiration dates.  Before we go bad and throw ourselves out, realize we’re there waiting for our turn to make you happy.

There…that’s certainly easier to read, even if it’s still stupid.

Now that we’ve addressed Brandon’s grammatical foibles, let’s examine the content of the message.  Here, in a nutshell, is the message Brandon seems to be conveying.

Waaaah! I was nice to you and you owe me sex!  If you don’t have sex with me, I’ll stop being nice to you!

Whenever a man whines about being “friend zoned”, this is exactly what I hear.  “Friend zoned” guys try to portray themselves as gentle heroes, slighted by the damsel they’re trying to protect.  But that’s not it at all.  They’re really just guys who thought they had an angle, and who are disillusioned because their angle didn’t work.  They’re projecting the bitterness of their romantic failure onto the target of their affections.  Isn’t that unfair to the lady in question?  You’re putting pressure on her to do something she obviously doesn’t want to do; namely, to date Brandon.  You’re implying that you know better than she does what would be best for her, romantically speaking.

Men, we can be better than this.  Let’s abandon the concept of the “friend zone” and face reality: not everybody is going to be attracted to us.  Also, let’s agree that we can be friendly just for the sake of being friendly, without expecting romantic reciprocation.  The world isn’t so bad when people are nice to each other for no reason at all.

Blatant Racist is Blatant


Genocide, huh?  I don’t think so.

You commit genocide when you actively and intentionally exterminate a large group of people, usually of a particular ethnic group or nationality.  Hitler committed genocide against the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.  Stalin committed genocide against the Ukrainians, killing millions by man-made famine.  Pol Pot committed genocide against the Cambodian people.  If armed groups roamed our cities, dragging people into the streets and shooting them dead just for being white, that would definitely count as genocide.  But that’s not happening, at least not on a worldwide scale.

Don’t get me wrong: people with white skin have certainly been killed in genocides, but it was generally not the color of their skin that made them targets.  Most genocides that disproportionately affect white people are actually targeted at ethnic, religious, or political groups that also happen to be white.   What justification, then, is there for using the words white genocide?

Perhaps the maker of this meme adheres to the ideas advanced by the White Genocide Project.  The WGP believes that the movement of “non-White immigrants into traditionally White countries over a period of years” is just as destructive to white culture as if somebody were actively mowing us down in the streets.  And what is the agent of this destruction?  “Forced assimilation” (which is really a racist code word for “cultural diversity”), they say.  To introduce cultural and racial diversity into “traditionally White” countries is to dilute and effectively destroy white culture.  To “support” their claims, the WGP refers to Article II, part (C) of the United Nations resolution on genocide, in which genocide is partially defined as:

Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part

Yes, that’s right.  The WGP believes that having to tolerate people who are different from them is not only detrimental, but destructive to their way of life and to their race.  The only way to preserve the white race, they say, is to stop the free movement of people with different ideas, languages, and skin colors across national borders.  In other words, every national border, particularly the borders of “traditionally White countries”, should be an impermeable barrier, if I’m reading their message correctly.

Let’s be honest about what the WGP and its supporters are really afraid of.  It isn’t genocide – that’s patently ridiculous – it’s being marginalized.  I suspect these people fear that if white people become a minority-majority, we will be removed from our traditional place of power – forced to live the way others live now.  What ever can we do?

The meme doesn’t actually suggest how we might stop “white genocide”, it only tries to paint “multiracialism” in the most horrific light possible.  Here the author shows his true colors; he is blatantly racist but some deeply-repressed region in his brain realizes that his bigotry is not supported by reason.  To ease his uncertainty, he imagines the most horrible possible outcome – the extermination of white culture and the white race – and paints it as a statistical certainty.  He wants you to agree – not because your collective power will be able to turn the tide of demographic evolution – but because he needs to know that he is not afraid alone.

Do not grant him that luxury.  Bigots who use loaded words like “genocide” to sway public opinion do not deserve our support.  Even by posting this meme – if only to tear it apart – I feel that I am giving it more recognition than it deserves.  It’s time to leave these relics where they belong – alongside the fossils of yesterday’s attitudes – and move forward to a future of existing as a species, and not as fractured races.  That might be foolishly sanguine of me, but I feel that it beats living in fear.

A Pain In The Balls

Pain in the Balls

I’ve been fortunate enough not to have taken a direct kick to the jewels – a fact for which I am duly grateful – but rare is the man who doesn’t know that the slightest trauma to that region ushers in a disproportionate level of discomfort.  I have no doubt that a deliberate assault upon one’s danglies is excruciatingly unpleasant, but come on…let’s not exaggerate.  This meme would have us believe that:

  1. there is a scientific unit for measuring pain (there isn’t), and that
  2. the pain of giving birth or breaking a bone can be compared to the pain of blunt-force testicular trauma, and that
  3. a kick in the balls is many times more painful than either of those other events.

Sorry, I’m just not buying it.  First, there’s no such measurement as a del.  In the 1940’s a group of scientists at Cornell University carried out a series of horrible experiments in an effort to classify and measure human pain.  They proposed an objective pain unit called a dol – not a del – from dolor, the Latin word for pain.  Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the term never caught on in scientific circles.  Contrary to Internet folklore, there is no universally-accepted way to quantify pain.

One of the reasons for the dol‘s failure was that it did not account for the subjective nature of pain.  The Cornell pain scale assumed that pain adds up in an arithmetic fashion; in other words, that a painful event of 8 dols would be the same as four events of 2 dols each.  But anybody that has suffered pain – so basically, anybody alive - can tell you that having multiple small pains is not necessarily the same as having one big pain.  The dol scale’s inability to distinguish the intensity of pain from the type of pain consigned it to spend the rest of eternity as an interesting but not particularly important footnote in medical history.

For unfathomable reasons, the Cornell team does not seem to have assessed the painfulness of a foot-scrotum collision, and even if they had, it’s unlikely they’d have found many men willing to sit through the multiple abuses necessary to establish an average value.

Now it’s probably safe to assume that the meme was meant to be tongue-in-cheek.  Still, I find it interesting that a person who has never given birth to a single child, let alone 160 of them, nor broken 3200 bones simultaneously – declares, even in jest, that a single kick to the crotch is worse than any other pain, many times over.  To me, that’s just self-centered and short-sighted.  There’s a whole world of pain beyond your crotch, mister.