(Not) Welcome to the US: Hyper-Ebola and the Crisis of Misinformation

Natalie D. Baker, Spyridon Samonas, Kristine Artello

ABSTRACT

A hyperbolic portrayal of Ebola in the US resulted in a crisis of misinformation, when an actual outbreak never occurred. We study how online mass media uses discourse in the constitution of a culture of fear, and how non-expert actors (e.g. media) employ a specific line of discussion to legitimize actions outside of science. Strange nationalism is afantastical construction of foreign, invasive crises. This discourse was used in online media to create an imagined Ebola outbreak, which legitimized inappropriate disease management policies, since outbreak was positioned as fact. Information featured on mass media provides input to crisis and emergency management information systems, such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS). In this respect, online media play a key role in informing the public about crisis through the construction of real or imagined emergencies. How crisis is framed affects both public understanding and response by authorities.

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