Mocking our (manufactured) nightmares
But there's another response, more "underground" and non-political, which some people have found disturbing (though I think they're missing the point). It's basically mockery, though that word doesn't totally capture it -- it's also treating Ebola as though the disease itself were something like a celebrity, with all the triviality and triteness that entails. I've already mentioned the Ebola-virus plush toy:
sold out almost at once suggests another impulse at work among buyers. Then there are the inevitable "memes" playing off the elaborate precautions required by Ebola's presence:
(Parenthetically, I find it interesting that the word "love" comes up so often in reference to Ebola-Chan, who despite being cute is obviously a rather nasty monster. The Abrahamic religions which infect our cultures tell us we are "loved" by, and should love in return, a God which their own scriptures depict as endlessly tormenting and killing us. Perhaps there's a bit of mockery of that here, too.)
I'm old enough to remember when AIDS first burst on the scene, and the campaign of fear-mongering which soon followed. As we now know, AIDS is a blood-borne (not venereal) disease and is one of the most difficult-to-transmit infections ever discovered -- it can be spread by a few activities such as anal sex or re-use of contaminated hypodermic needles, but hardly at all by vaginal or oral sex (unless existing open sores due to venereal disease allow access to the bloodstream) and certainly not by casual contact. In the advanced countries, after more than 30 years, AIDS remains mostly confined to small "risk groups" of people who have such specific vulnerabilities to it. But that's not how it was presented at the time. The media and popular culture were full of lurid fears that AIDS would soon engulf the whole country unless everyone took elaborate, lifestyle-altering precautions. In my opinion, a lot of this was motivated by an opportunistic impulse to sabotage the sexual revolution, which had been rolling along quite nicely until suddenly all these nasty busybodyish people popped up brandishing condoms at everyone. But at the time, I was rather worried. What if they were right?
Eventually, of course, I looked into what was known about AIDS even then, and realized that they were not right. And I still remember how angry I felt, realizing that I had been unnecessarily frightened over something that actually posed no significant threat to me -- by a campaign of misinformation that had been specifically designed to have that effect.
The Ebola hype is only the latest recurrence of this kind of phenomenon, but it's surely the most overblown, relative to the actual threat. There are, after all, about a million HIV-positive people in the US, even if modern medicine has made it much more survivable and the risk to the other 309 million is so negligible as to be essentially nonexistent. But we've had only three cases of Ebola in this country, and with the precautions already in place, there may well never be much more than that.
The folkloric "boy who cried wolf" eventually was merely ignored after he was exposed as an alarmist liar. We can't ignore the Ebola hypesters, even though we've seen through them -- not with the sheer volume of yammering they keep up. But we can give them the finger. We don't believe you, we know this is bullshit, we're not going to panic and go crazy any more every time you tell us there's a monster under the bed, we're going to make fun of you. That aggressive and angry rejection of the hype, I think, is the real message of Ebola-Chan.