Ebolanati

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I would like to thank Twitter user @IbrahimKaher for suggesting this vomitous meme, and the website from which it came.  I would also like to apologize for taking so long to cover it.  Unfortunately, professional concerns have kept me from updating my blog as frequently as I would like to.  But enough excuses…on we go!

Let’s talk about The Illuminati.  I used to think that the Illuminati were sort of a joke, the go-to reference for people who wanted to goof about vague, shadowy conspiracy organizations.  To blame the Illuminati for anything is sort of like claiming that Earth is flat, or that the Moon landings were faked.  The rest of us look at you and laugh, because we know you can’t really be serious, right?  Nobody actually believes in the Illuminati, do they?

Well…

Apparently some people do believe, and they believe hard.  (And some people believe – or claim to believe – that Earth is flat, and that the Moon landings were faked…but those are memes for another day.)  So before we address the Ebola nonsense, it behooves us to take a close look at the Illuminati.  If this blog disappears forever shortly after this is posted, you’ll know it’s because they got me!

The original Illuminati were a secret fraternity founded in Bavaria in 1776…and shut down by the authorities nine years later.  During their brief run, they were populated by the intellectual elite of Bavarian society: doctors, lawyers, judges, and politicians.  Despite their limited membership (at the height of their power, the Illuminati claimed between 650 and 2,500 members, depending on how you count them), the Illuminati had their fingers in many aspects of upper society.  Ironically, it was their pervasive presence in politics that would lead to their ruination.  As their numbers swelled, loose talk among their ranks precipitated an unintended transition in their status as a “secret” society.  The existence of the group, and its perceived influence in the court and in the political arena, became common knowledge.  This sparked considerable unrest among the uninitiated.  In 1785, Charles Theodore, duke of Bavaria, issued an edict banning all secret societies, including the Illuminati.  Officials raided the homes of known Illuminati members and published their secret documents.  With their cover blown and their influence dissolved, the original Illuminati effectively ceased to exist.

Some modern fraternal organizations have assumed the name Illuminati; some of them even claim dubious links to the original Bavarian Illuminati.  There is no evidence that any modern Illuminati organizations enjoy the same power and influence allegedly wielded by their namesake, nor that the original Illuminati persist.

But what does evidence matter to a conspiracy theorist?

Ask a true believer, and you’ll learn that the Illuminati are still alive and well; that they are more pervasive and influential than ever before.  To a conspiracy theorist, the Illuminati are a worldwide group of politicians, bankers, celebrities, and other high-profile, high-power individuals who serve as society’s puppet masters.  (Check out this delightful Gawker article for a partial list of the more visible Illuminati members.)  Apparently, the Illuminati start and stop wars, manipulate currency, and rig elections.  Their ultimate goal: nothing less than the establishment of a New World Order, a worldwide authoritarian government.

Of course, the Illuminati know that a one-world government will never succeed without the complicity of the governed.  And what better way to generate compliance than through fear…particularly fear of a deadly virus?  Yes, that’s right, folks: Ebola is an Illuminati tactic to disrupt the natural flow of business and politics.  Presumably the world’s most elite movers and shakers will swoop in and assert their authority over the crumbled remains of society, and we’ll all be glad for them to do so.

Before we proceed, I would like to point out an interesting bit of irony: the meme’s author suggests that the Illuminati seek to instill fear and panic via their controlled release of Ebola, but what does this meme spread if not fear?  I mean, look at it!  Creepy faces, skinless humans, spatters of blood everywhere?  I know: this meme is the work of the Illuminati!  Those crafty bastards!

Moving along:  the major problem with this meme (other than the questionable design choices) is that Ebola was eventually brought under control.  Despite its frightening spread, including into the United States, it did not result in a worldwide closure of borders.  Governments did not collapse; on the contrary, they did what they could to ensure the health and safety of their people.  And they were eventually successful; in the past day, Sierra Leone has been officially declared Ebola-free, according to BBC News.  Only a handful of Ebola cases persist in neighboring Guinea; even so, the border between Sierra Leone and Guinea remains open, albeit with heightened health screening in place.

Ebola had an enormous impact on the lives and cultures of the people in the hardest-hit nations; that much is certain.  Yet despite the devastation wreaked by the virus, life marches on.  Governments, whatever their shortcomings, remain intact; there is no evidence that any shadowy organizations have seized control.  No evidence, the conspiracy theorist would argue, is exactly how the Illuminati want it.  But that’s the problem with arguing for the continued existence of the Illuminati as a worldwide governing body: you can’t use zero evidence…as evidence.

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.