Sunday, August 3, 2014

Ebola panic sparked by BBC based on a non-scientific publication

                                  "Summer Blockbuster" by American Artist Sean O.Wabich; Ink on Paper 
                                   70x100 cm: 2014

40 years ago the BBC was credited as one of the most reliable media in the world. 

Unfortunately in the past few years we have been witnessing a higher level of public tolerance towards inaccuracy by the mainstream media. Maybe this is happening since former Prime Minister Tony Blair lied to the British people over the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I think that was a major shift in terms of government credibility and I am deeply convinced British PM David Cameron was absolutely right when he said "Tony Blair poisoned the well of public trust"

However Britain easily recovered its historical prestige when 11 months ago the British parliament rejected a possible UK military strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to deter the use of chemical weapons.

There's an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me... You can't get fooled again!'"

It seems the same saying is pretty well known in Britain too and the British usually put their sayings into practice. 

Although here it seems that the well of public trust in Britain is still under a major contamination threat because an important British institution like the BBC, in 2012 published the following article on the Ebola virus being "airborne".

This article published by BBC two years ago, is now being used as the main reference by many media outlets and private citizens to spread fear and panic over the current Ebola outbreak occurring in West Africa.

The article intro says: "Canadian scientists have shown that the deadliest form of the ebola virus could be transmitted by air between species".

The only problem with this claim is that the "Canadian Study" upon which the BBC alarming news was based comes from a non-scientific publication.

I repeat it once again because my English maybe contaminated by the Italian language, being myself Italian:


In fact the only publication that reported the Canadian Study was "Scientific Reports" a non-scientific publication hosted on the domain.

A top representative from the Scientific Community advised me that "Scientific Reports editorial policy is the acceptance of papers that ensure suitability to experimental science".

In practice he advised me not to rely on such a publication for any scientific purpose. Hence this study which is known since 2012 as "the Canadian Study" has never been included or re-published by any serious scientific publication.

In practice, the Canadian Study cannot be considered scientific and consequently no serious media should rely on what it claims, especially to alarm the world's population.

The Immunology Professor told me explicitly about the Canadian Study: "you are asking me to make a comment over a non-scientific publication, what are we talking about here? you already got your answer!"

I understand that the man on the street can be easily misguided by such a publication being hosted on the domain, but the BBC is not run by the man on the street, or at least that's what I thought before reading that story.

However, among the mainstream media you have to make a distinction, because yesterday, after we published our article that dismissed the Canadian Study being "scientific", CNN immediately changed its headline from "Ebola coming to U.S." to  "2 Americans infected with Ebola in Liberia coming to Atlanta hospital"  

To be perfectly honest that change was the result of a joint effort, as after I have published the article, a Ph.D Student in Virology, Stephen Goldstein told CNN Correspondant Jim Clancy that the CNN headline "Ebola coming to U.S." was too inflammatory.

Jim Clancy informed the CNN Senior Writer who changed the headline. Team work always works. This is a lesson we should always keep in mind: Each part must do its part, which is perfectly summarized by the motto: E Pluribus Unum.

Instead here it seems that the BBC motto is "Be the last to know" or at least the last to acknowledge not only what goes on but the fact that as long as that article is On-line, the BBC reputation is sinking down to the toilet. 

For no apparent reason the BBC seems to rely on sensationalism while what is really happening is they are self-destroying their own historical reputation by admitting they're not able to distinguish a scientific study from a non-scientific one.

The role of the media is to inform the public, hence as I have been taught while working at CNN: "Accuracy is key". 

E Pluribus Unum,

Gianluca D'Agostino


Gianluca D'Agostino worked for CNN in Washington DC and for Associated Press in Rome and Tirana. D'Agostino holds a Ph.d in Theory of Information and Communication and worked as Researcher at the Department of English at Stanford University.

Personal Blog:.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Is the Mainstream Media the real Ebola?

                          "Summer Blockbuster" by American Artist Sean O.Wabich; Ink on Paper 70x100 cm

UPDATE: After we published this article, CNN changed its headline from "Ebola coming to U.S." TO "2 Americans infected with Ebola in Liberia coming to Atlanta hospital" We want to thank for this Stephen Goldstein who is a Ph.D student in Virology and Jim Clancy, CNN Correspondant & Anchor.

The only existing research that claims that the Ebola virus is airborne is the so called "Canadian Study" made by a group of Researchers at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg which was published on 2012.

That's the study upon which the whole fearmongering campaign about Ebola was based.

Although what the majority of readers ignore is that the study was never acknowledged by the scientific community. 

The only publication that reported the Canadian Study was "Scientific Reports" a non-scientific publication hosted on the domain. Scientific Reports received the Canadian paper on April 2012 and published it on November 2012.

That's why is very easy to spread panic through the media on the Ebola virus: being a complex topic that requires a scientific background, the man on the street can only rely on what the media say.

It seemed to me that in the past few months the MSM (Mainstream Media) have been getting much uglier with their low-rent strategies. It seems they still think to live during the television-era when people were used to buy whatever they sold, but that time is well over.

We are in the Age of Sharing now, or the Time of Consciousness if you like. Although human beings, in particular terrestrials are a very combative species who love to persist in their sociopath behavior.

In the past few weeks we have been reading very depressive news: From Ukraine to Gaza, conflict escalation and casualties completely filled their headlines. 

Then miraculously, an Ebola outbreak threatens to come to our neighborhood, just like the Thriller intro voice-over by the late Vincent Price who was the undisputed king of the horror genre.

But this is not a music video, we are talking about News Media announcing a massive epidemic of a deadly hemorragic fever which according to the mainstream media was ready to come to our neighborhood to visit us with the next flight from West Africa. 

Like in the best disinformation tradition, in order to be trusted news media must report the source of their news-information. When it comes to a deadly virus like Ebola you must cite a scientific study that provides substantial evidence to your story.

All the media reports showed below they all based their alarming headlines on the Canadian Study, a non-scientific study made by a group of Canadian Researchers at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Although being "Scientific Reports" a non-scientific blog hosted on the domain, average people might get confused. But if you are an Immunology Professor you know the difference between scientific and non-scientific and that's why we are here to report  to our readers what really happened.

What is really astonishing is that in the frontline of Disinformation we have nothing less than the BBC:

You have to be aware that most of the people just read headlines without reading the whole story, hence if 90% of the people only read the headlines, your disinformation mission can be considered accomplished.
Although if you read this article to the very end of it, you will find an italic written statement that says as follow: 

All content within this column is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. The BBC is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this site. The BBC is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your health.

This is another story, always by the BBC, which is still On-line by the way, written by a guy named Matt Mc Grath, who claims that there is a growing concern over "in the air " transmission of Ebola. 

The fact that the virus was not airborne was already out in the market, because Vox News released an interview with Prof. Art Reingold, the head of Epidemiology at UC Berkeley's School of  Public Health.

Prof. Reingold is a disease epidemiologist who has spent the last 30 years studying the prevention and control of infectious diseases around the world. 

According to Prof. Reingold: 

"People should not be concerned about Ebola spreading to the US or other wealthy countries. It's transmitted entirely through exposure to bodily fluids. In settings with Ebola, there's bleeding in a variety of places and the virus is present in those excretions, and people need to come into contact with that to get the virus. The people at risk are the family members who are taking care of sick people, those who are preparing bodies for burial, and health-care workers."

Nonetheless the mainstream media went on with their fearmongering tactics: 

Please take notice that this magazine's name is: "Scientific American Magazine"

After such a massive flow of disinformation was hitting the news market I immediately decided to respond by inquiring the World Health Organization on the matter. 

And they released this statement:

In the meanwhile I spoke to Professor Antonella d'Arminio Monforte who is the Head of the Division of Tropical and Infectious Diseases at the San Paolo University. 

By the way, when I talked to Professor D'Arminio she was at the Airport in the process of boarding a flight to Africa to spend her vacation holiday there. That says all on the danger of this African virus......

She confirmed the WHO position that the Ebola virus is not airborne. 

Although the question is still up: Why the media did not check the study was a non-scientific work?

A possible answer is they might have been misled by the fact that Scientific Reports is a publication hosted by the domain.  

According to Nature's website, "Scientific Reports is a publication hosted on — the home of over 80 journals published by Nature Publishing Group — Scientific Reports is open to all, publishing technically sound, original research papers of interest to specialists within their field, without barriers to access."

A representative from the Scientific Community advised me that "Scientific Reports editorial policy is the acceptance of papers that ensure the suitability to experimental science".

Iin practice he advised me not to rely on such a publication for any scientific purpose. Hence this study which is known since 2012 as "the Canadian Study" has never been included or re-published by any serious scientific publication. Hence the Canadian Study cannot be considered a scientific study. In particular, the media cannot rely on this study to alarm the world's population.

However the problem stays, because what happened with this fearmongering propaganda demonstrates that the establishment that drives the fear machine can count on the complicity of pseudo-scientific publications which are hosted on major scientific media outlet like Nature, the Telegraph, The BBC, The Scientific American and many others. 

Like in the Edward Snowden's case, the whole media system immediately agreed to trust the fact that Edward Snowden was/is a real leaker. We are assisting to the same comedy show: the mainstream media spreading terror to the world's population with false information and without having a single scientific evidence that the virus is airborne, quiet the contrary.

E Pluribus Unum