Fear of an Ebola Conspiracy

Looking behind the conspiracy theories


Katy Hall of The Huffington Post interviewed me earlier this week for a story about Ebola conspiracy theories. Her article is up now; here's an excerpt:

Charles M. Schulz

Medical conspiracy theories pop up around any widespread health scare, sometimes bolstered by the inadequate or opaque government responses that can follow. Such theories captured the public imagination during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, surfaced around the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak, and they remain a staple of the anti-vaccination movement. Conspiracy theories represent a way for people to try to make sense of a chaotic health threat—especially one like Ebola that's horrific and far from being contained overseas.

"You're going to have gaps in the signals that are coming in about what's happening in the world, and you're going to want to fill in those gaps somehow," said Jesse Walker, books editor of Reason magazine and author of The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory. "If you're afraid of something, you're going to find a fearful pattern. Obviously infectious disease is something people are very afraid of."

In addition to talking with me, Hall interviewed Conspiracy Theories author Mark Fenster, who had some sensible things to say about the fears fueling some of the Ebola theories floating around. Check the rest of the piece out here.

Bonus link: The inevitable plug for the new, expanded paperback edition of my conspiracy book.