An Open Letter from the Unwashed Masses to the Intellectual Elite, Regarding Ebola

An Open Letter from the Unwashed Masses to the Intellectual Elite, Regarding Ebola October 29, 2014

Dear Intellectual Elite,

When I read the news these days, I am afraid. Not so much of Ebola exactly, but of the way our country is drawing lines in the sand so carelessly — lines that are becoming fault lines, fracturing and splitting apart any sense of fealty we might have had left.

It’s true that most of the country is terrified of Ebola, though not entirely without reason. It’s also true that those fears are being magnified by sensationalistic journalism and are rapidly approaching group hysteria.

In an effort to calm people, you (our doctors, politicians, journalists, scientists, and everyday asshats) have begun to sound like a broken record — “Trust the science. Trust the science. Trust the science.”

The problem is, the “science” behind Ebola has been shifting almost as fast as the virus itself is spreading in Africa. First it was extremely unlikely that we would see Ebola in America, then it wasn’t. First it was very difficult to transmit from person to person, then it wasn’t. First any hospital in the country could safely handle Ebola, then they couldn’t. First it couldn’t be spread through droplets, then it could. Is it any wonder that the unwashed masses are having a hard time believing that it can’t be spread without symptoms? What if next week, it can?

I know that as a matter of prudence we should trust those who know more than us. That’s why we choose to vaccinate (and advise others to do the same) — because you, our doctors, scientists, journalists, and politicians, with your degrees and publications and varieties of accolades, are more knowledgeable than us. The problem is that in this situation, your next collaborative book is likely to be titled, How Not to Calm Anyone Down, Ever.

If it wasn’t such a serious situation, it would almost be funny. But it’s not.

Meanwhile, any of us who express fear about Ebola are treated like slack-jawed (racist!) yokels who still haven’t figured out that the earth revolves around the sun. Our society has split in half between the intellectual elites, who believe in Science Almighty, and the rest of us, who think Ebola is magical death cooties. You can’t reason with someone who believes in magical death cooties, amiright? Just pat us on our stupid heads and remind us that the flu kills more people every year than Ebola, which is a fact so simple that even our reptile brains might comprehend it.

Yes, it’s true that it does. But here’s what the flu does not do: the flu does not liquify your insides until they are bleeding out of every orifice of your body. The flu is not so contagious that families are terrified to touch each other because the risk is too great. The flu is not such a horrifying illness that families are being broken apart by the fear of it, and orphaned children are facing death twice over because everyone is too afraid to help them.

Most people don’t believe anything you’re saying to us about Ebola anymore. Further, there are plenty of doctors who have publicly admitted that our fears are not unfounded, because the “science” of Ebola is far from settled. You cannot regain our trust and avert public hysteria by mocking our fear from your Science towers. Here’s what you can do:

  • Stop comparing Ebola to the flu. It’s a ludicrous comparison, and we’re not so stupid that we don’t realize that.
  • Stop insisting that closing the borders won’t help stem the tide of infection when clearly they already have.
  • Stop telling us that medical professionals with Ebola exposure will do the right thing and avoid public places when they patently haven’t, and are willing to sue to ensure they don’t have to.
  • For the love of God, stop saying “trust the science” and admonishing us not to “react out of fear.” There was a point in time when that was a reasonable thing to say, and a reasonable request to make. But continuing to repeat it has done nothing but increase fear and decrease trust.
  • Be honest. You lost our trust because Ebola keeps proving you liars, so tell the truth — even when you don’t know what it is.
  • Establish mandatory quarantines. If stopping flights really would hinder efforts to help the people in West Africa, then we shouldn’t do it. But quarantine people  — yes, against their will if necessary. Keep them comfortable and safe, but keep them for 21 days. We cannot help stop the epidemic in Africa if we allow a new one to bloom in the US. It’s common sense — first defense, then offense. The other way around is doomed to fail.

The truth is, no matter what happens with Ebola, there are other crises looming. You can’t face them if you’ve lost the support of the people. You need us, at least as much as we need you. Stop sneering at the hand that feeds you.


The Unwashed Masses


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