Why now is the perfect moment for NBC’s “The Blacklist” to ramp up Ebola fears

> “Everyone is going to die, everyone!” The scared, pale woman pulls her cell phone away from her face to find she is bleeding. She makes plans to meet with another woman – “Promise me you’ll come alone!” but an angry, evil-looking guy shows up too. “You can’t stop us now everything is in place. […]

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“Everyone is going to die, everyone!”

The scared, pale woman pulls her cell phone away from her face to find she is bleeding.

She makes plans to meet with another woman – “Promise me you’ll come alone!” but an angry, evil-looking guy shows up too.

“You can’t stop us now everything is in place. It’s too late,” he says.

They wrestle over her purse and he flings her out into the street. She is hit by a cab. He grabs a package out of her bag and takes off. A crowd gathers around her body and the scene fades to black.

NBC and the director of The Blacklist must be thrilled with how nicely the show’s latest episode fits into the daily news. The show could use a boost in ratings.

In last night’s episode “The Front,” the prime time thriller jumped on the hopefully disinfected bandwagon to draw in the paranoid masses. How better to scare people than to fill an hour with hazmat suits, talk of quarantine and a map illustrating the imminent spread of a plague taking over each continent? Oh, and might as well throw in a terrorist angle, too. Swap “Ebloa” for “pneumonic plague” and you would be on NBC News instead of a tv drama.

David Brooks gives four reasons why America is so susceptible to Ebola paranoia right now:

1. No trust in authority:

“…anti-vaccine parents, who simply distrust the cloud of experts telling them that vaccines are safe for their children. …anti-science folks, who distrust the realm of far-off studies and prefer anecdotes from friends to data about populations. You get more and more people who simply do not believe what the establishment is telling them about the Ebola virus, especially since the establishment doesn’t seem particularly competent anyway.”

2. A fear of globalization:
“Ebola, which is the perfect biological embodiment of what many fear about globalization. It is a dark insidious force from a mysterious place far away that seems to be able to spread uncontrollably and get into the intimate spheres of life back home.”

3. The culture of instant news:
“… it is a lot scarier to follow an event on TV than it is to actually be there covering it. When you’re watching on TV, you only see the death and mayhem. But when you’re actually there, you see the broader context of everyday life going on alongside. Studies of the Boston Marathon bombing found that people who consumed a lot of news media during the first week suffered more stress than people who were actually there.”

4. Our fear of death:
“In cultures where people deal with death by simply getting it out of their minds, the prospect of sudden savage death, even if extremely unlikely, can arouse a mental fog of fear, and an unmoored and utopian desire to want to reduce the risk of early death to zero, all other considerations be damned.”

“It’s not the heart-pounding fear you might feel if you were running away from a bear or some distinct threat,” Brooks writes. “It’s a sour, existential fear. It’s a fear you feel when the whole environment seems hostile, when the things that are supposed to keep you safe, like national borders and national authorities, seem porous and ineffective, when some menace is hard to understand.”

So if the reality of the situation and the fear that is derived simply from watching the news isn’t enough, do we need fictional shows to not only highlight but extremely dramatize the potential dangers of an outbreak? Or are these kinds of shows simply taking advantage of the inevitable mental state of the country, and who can blame them?

Watch the full episode here.

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