Media outlets who peddle this kind of gutter journalism fill our minds with paranoid and substance-less debate. Debate which detracts utterly from informing the public and creating useful social discourse.
[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n this era of widespread and competitive global media you expect a certain amount of back on forth debate on powerful social issues. Its a fundamental part of having a robust democracy and preserving the egalitarian nature of society both on and off line. But there are times where the discourse of incredibly dangerous and deeply technical issues like Ebola and its potential to become a global pandemic can become adulterated by partisan media either trying to get sensationalism generated hits to create advertising income and or to drum up support for a pre-existing ideological agenda. On Robert Scott Bell.com via World Television Service a widely viewed online and TV syndication a recent article engendered my ire as a classic example of the disinformation and dangerously irresponsible media tactics so prevalent today.
So what expert is commenting on Ebola?
They invited an expert in to discuss the Ebola virus’s spread to US shores and its management. Did they invite an epidemiologist, disease pathologist or infectious disease specialist to discuss the presence of Ebola on the US mainland? Nope. They invited a homoeopath called Robert Scarpelli to discuss not only the nature and transmission of Ebola and its prevention, but also called upon him to comment on his conspiratorial ideas that Ebola is being hyped and used as a vehicle for social control and the dismantling of US democracy.
So before we tackle the deluge of supposition, outright inaccuracies, pseudo science and conspiracy that batted back and forth between the interviewer and Scarpelli, its imperative to ask why they asked a homoeopath to comment on a pandemic contagion as well as the political possibility of a false flag operation as he repeatedly suggested through out the interview. Lets be very clear that Scarpelli is not remotely qualified to comment with any professional or experiential authority on this matter even if he had a legitimate medical degree instead of a qualification in the utterly debunked practice of homoeopathy. Disease pathology is a highly specific medical branch with a high degree of specialist training and post graduate qualification. Nor does he have a political science degree or any similar qualification or even experience within former or serving governments that might lend him some real professional insight into the administrative handling of Ebola in the US.
A litany of error and fantasy, dressed as expert opinion.
So having established that Robert Scott bell could have chosen a far more reputable information source for their broadcast, lets look at the content they provided to millions of people. Scarpelli made some valid criticisms of the way that Texas Health Presbyterian hospital handled the original infected person, dubbed ‘patient 0’ who had come from Libera unknowingly carrying Ebola. Certainly the patients nationality had been noted but no quarantine measures were taken with sufficient alacrity and there was a general lack of initial urgency in the handling of this patient. And the subsequent contamination of a nurse treating the now deceased patient has understandably created ripples in the belief people previously had in modern western medical institutions capacity to handle such a contagion.
But to be fair Ebola is not SARS or Swine flu and presents its own unique challenges with its long incubation cycle and fluid base infection which contrary to popular perception has a better transmission rate “on exposure” than air borne virus’s. Lungs are not the best form of viral contagion percentage wise as they contain many evolved resistances to air borne pathogens. So though an airborne virus can spread very fast and cover a wider area its has a lower hit rate for infections per exposure. Also virus’s that develop airborne capacity in both nature and in labs lose significant virulence which is seen by pathology experts as part of the trade off for better transmission. Ebola is highly contagious due to its absorption via any mucus membrane or broken skin. This makes it far more likely to infect those its comes into contact with.
Scarpelli argues that intact mucus membranes and strong immune systems can prevent infection and if infected, can prevent viral replication in the body. In regards to mucus membranes Scarpelli is spreading absolute nonsense and disinformation. Ebola can spread through intact membranes as can any virus that is spread through fluids. Nor is an immune system a guarantee of remaining uninfected or surviving Ebola. Though having a weak or compromised immune system can certainly increase the chances of mortality once infected. Comprehensive and early treatment is a far better prognosticator of how likely a patient is to survive Ebola than simply innate immunity. Ebola being a Filoviral infection has a known ability to interfere with normal function of the innate immune system. Ebola virus has shown a clear ability to weaken the human immune system’s response to viral infections by inhibiting the production of the interferon-beta protein.
So even a healthy immune system without medical treatment faces a very strong likelihood of mortality. Yet Scarpelli argues the opposite ostensibly to peddle his conspiratorial agenda that involves governments potentially weaponising Ebola secretly and using it to destabilise society and hasten the end of Democracy. He also uses it to take pots shots at Big Pharma who he claims are profiteering by forwarding an Ebola vaccine when all people need to do is maintain hygiene, take minerals, silvers and botanical oils to stay Ebola free. No doubt similar claims were made during previous pandemics in history and with the same inevitable and tragic results should many people exposed to Ebola contagion take his spurious scientifically unsupported advice.
The FDA and CDC have repeatedly discredited the belief that botanical oils sprayed and ingested can prevent Ebola infection, as such claims are grossly exaggerating the mild anti viral capacities of some botanicals. So his argument that Ebola’s transmission is getting all the CDC and WHO’s priority while prevention via botanical oils, colloidal silvers and strengthening immune systems isn’t given any credence is played out as perhaps one of the only correct things he said. Very likely because the best science available has deemed such preventative measures as either useless or woefully inadequate to preventing the spread of a pathogen of Ebola’s deadliness.
He also claims Homoepathy has successfully treated previous pandemics saving countless people. Yet a recent study in April by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council shows that Homoeopathy is no better than placebo in treating any ailment and is of no medical value at all. The conclusions of the study stated that Homeopathic remedies are no better than a placebo, when molecules are diluted past the Avogadro limit. This limit is a point based on Avogadro’s number, 6.02 X 1023, which represents the number of molecules in a gram-molecule, at which a homeopathic remedy has been diluted/attenuated to where it is unlikely that any molecules of the remedy are present. The NHMRC review, conducted by a working committee of medical experts, concluded that homeopathy had no impact on a range of conditions and illnesses including asthma, arthritis, sleep disturbances, cold and flu, chronic fatigue syndrome, eczema, cholera, burns, malaria and heroin addiction.
For all of the 68 conditions studied the review either concluded definitively that homeopathy was not more effective than a placebo, or at the very least there was no reliable evidence to suggest it was. “No good-quality, well-designed studies with enough participants for a meaningful result reported either that homeopathy caused greater health improvements than a substance with no effect on the health condition (placebo), or that homeopathy caused health improvements equal to those of another treatment,” read the report’s summary.
Laughably he insists that this government sponsored fear campaign over Ebola is causing excessive fear response physiologically and peoples adrenal glands will become over stimulated lowering their immune systems – thus making them more vulnerable to an Ebola pathogen. Something that once again he presents no proof for and is refuted by medical authorities. Yet ironically his alternative is to combine an ostrich like faith in immune systems and botanical oils and colloidal slivers while ramping up his own fear campaign. One where he implies that Ebola could even be a government engineered virus and the government was either using its weaponised virus to create havoc – or at the least its an opportunistic power grab to erode civil liberties. A great way to create an even greater fear response which he says puts people in danger. A deadly government staging coup is a pretty big stress source even compared to Ebola for most people.
Disinformation by sensationalistic and poorly qualified ‘experts’, with clear political agenda’s like Scarpelli, representing witchdoctor like beliefs as science does terrible harm to the necessary faith people deserve to have in their institutions. Institutions we will need in order to bolster societies capacity to deal with such pandemics. Indeed Much of the Ebola epidemic’s spread in Africa has been fostered by not just poor management and facilities but in many cases political and sectarian disenfranchisement, and a general distrust of the establishment and authorities, with some justification if one considers the war torn, strife ridden nature of this region. But the lack of public faith in institutions is a major factor in seriously sabotaging many genuine governmental and NGO quarantine measures and treatment programs which may have been able to shut down Ebola before its spread so widely.
For Robert Scott Bells show to criticise US national institutions efficacy is part of the media’s role and a legitimate one. But to use unqualified ‘experts’ to unreasonably sabotage public faith of millions in the overall efficacy of their institutions, on the basis on of only one hospitals initial dealings with Ebola, is highly irresponsible and a specious attempt by the RSB show to garner ratings and generate website hits keeping their advertisers happy. All the while derailing effective and scientifically valid public discourse on this pandemic.
The nature of the media as much as the pseudo science of this article is at issue here when facts and measured analysis of events like the Ebola epidemic is directed by profit motive and the deliberate polarisation of the viewing audience. A polarisation designed to create further waves of online site hits as comment boards on the media outlets who peddle this kind of gutter journalism fill with paranoid and substance-less debate. Debate which detracts utterly from informing the public and creating useful social discourse. Thanks to articles and videos like this millions have had their fear, paranoia and understanding of what is actually happening concerning Ebola and its spread completely skewed.
This kind of journalism the world can certainly do without.