Magazine | November 3, 2014, Issue

Keep Calm and Conspire On

‘UFO Refuels in Jet Chemtrail over Amsterdam,” said the headline on the website. Given the location, you could translate that as “Pothead Sees Things in the Sky, and, Whoa, Man,” but no: deadly serious stuff. See, the chemtrails are the white puffy things left by airplanes, and they contain substances that affect the weather, lower the sperm count in Aryans, and boost the power of fluoridated water so it makes our children docile and ready to accept socialism.

See, I get that, totally, but UFOs? That’s crazy talk. It’s stuff like this that discredits the chemtrail community. Likewise, when people tweet that Ebola is a conspiracy by the drug companies, which will make mad massive moolah when they roll out a “cure” for the disease they created, it makes people inclined to scoff when you say real true things, like Obama wants Ebola in America because he hates the country, and wants history to remember him as “the first president who willingly encouraged a quarter of the nation to die from uncontrolled rectal hemorrhaging.”

You spend enough time roaming the margins of the Internet and all the above might seem likely — if you were the credulous type, eager to sup on conspiracy and demonization. Speaking of which: Democratic super-genius Donna Brazile weighed in on the Ebola matter, accusing Republicans of encouraging panic to gin up the base: “They want you to be afraid, but evidently not of the things that can really harm you.”

ISIS, the debt, declining military power, Ebola — mere diversions from the real threat of incremental temperature fluctuations. Well, I’m not here to spread panic, so let’s address some common concerns about the disease we could have eliminated if we hadn’t spent all the CURE EBOLA money on Iraq.

Q. I live in a large midwestern city with an airport. Will I get Ebola?

A. Well, never say never, but do you regularly visit bush-meat markets where infected bats are being hacked to pieces in sanitary conditions that make an Upton Sinclair–era slaughterhouse look like the labs in The Andromeda Strain? You do? What’s the matter with you? Get out of there! Now! No, wait, you’ll just spread it around. Sit down and write your will on your forearm with a ballpoint pen.

Q. Isn’t that an overreaction?

A. Oh, absolutely. But let me tell you what has never happened in the history of infectious disease: The viral fire burns out, the crisis passes, the doctors collapse in their chairs and pull off their gloves and wish they were in 1956 when doctors smoked, and somewhere in upper echelons a high government official muses, “The danger is over. Countless lives were spared. Yet I cannot shake the nagging suspicion that we overreacted.”

Overreacting is when you nuke the hot zone. And even then it might be a good idea if Ebola mutates into a form that makes its victims grow big leather wings and fly great distances in sun-blotting flocks to barf on major urban centers. You will know that’s happened if the following sequence has occurred:

• a CDC spokesman assures us that Ebola will not be airborne, in the sense of people growing wings;

• reports trickle in from West Africa of people with odd bumps on their shoulder blades, hopping up and down, scratching at the gravel;

• a CDC spokesman admits some “wing-type mutations are possible, but unlikely, and the CAW! CAW! CAW! sorry, cause of Ebola transmissions remains bodily fluids BWAK”;

• people no longer queue outside the hospital but roost on power lines.

If that happens, windmills may be our last, best line of defense.

Q. Why haven’t we banned flights from countries with Ebola outbreaks?

A. Better to rely on trained observers. If anyone gets off an eight-hour transcontinental flight and exhibits worrisome signs — say, weariness, blinking, disorientation — he will be taken to a room for questioning. Have you had contact with anyone who suffered from Ebola? Nope. Okay, well, off you go then.

More important: Stopping flights suggests that we should make hurtful distinctions between those who live in the United States, i.e., “current residents,” and people who want to come here, who have as much of a right to be in the United States as those who were born here or achieved citizenship by legal means. Indeed, the desperate steps they take to come here show a commitment to the U.S. that exceeds the national pride of current residents, which only makes them more qualified to enter. (Note: Under all other circumstances, “national pride” is a bad thing.)

Q. Is there anything we can learn from this?

A. Yes. Nature, on the whole, is a remarkably complex organism dedicated to killing you. It will conjure hurricanes to drown you, tornadoes to drop trees on you, shake apart the land to swallow you in steaming fissures — but only when it’s feeling particularly operatic. Otherwise it will send microscopic beasties to lay you low so the wormy vermin can have you for dinner.

Ebola is completely natural. What’s unnatural is the ability of self-aware, tool-making, technologically advanced creatures to figure out a way to stop horrid Nature before it kills again.

It would be grand if the vaccine were developed in Israeli labs, using tobacco from a multinational cigarette maker. It would be even better if it could be delivered by chemtrails from U.S. jets using Koch-refined fuels. But you know what that would mean to those who seek the truth, don’t you? Sure. Proof of more deep conspiracies. Ebola was discovered in what year? Right: 1976. And who made his first serious bid for the presidency in that year?

Suddenly, it’s all so clear.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

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