Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Possible Zombie Outbreak? Or Mass Hysteria?

Since this idea is running rampant on the Internet right now and has gone totally viral, I thought that I'd chip in my two cents and set the record straight; mainly because mass hysteria is never a good thing, and we need to keep calm and carry on. In other words, I'm going to debunk the Miami Cannibal is a zombie myth so you can stop hoarding your gun ammo and boarding up the windows now. It's not the end of the world. The zombie apocalypse is not nigh. It's just another crazy day in paradise.

Have you ever heard about the time that the "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast was thought to be real? Thousands of listeners, even though it was pointed out several time during the broadcast that it was a work of fiction, actually believed that the Martians were invading the world and mass panic ensued. It was so damaging to the American psyche that Orson Welles had to publicly apologize for scaring so many people.

After that broadcast, the newspapers were inundated with reports of flying saucers or unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Over time these alleged sightings of alien spacecraft turned into people believing that they were abducted by aliens, thanks to the story of Betty and Barney Hill. Little green men (Martians) then turned into creepy Grey aliens.

Then, in the 1980s there was the great Satanic Panic, where people firmly believed that covens of Satan worshipers would kidnap children and sacrifice them to the Devil during grisly black magic ceremonies. Children and adults alike claimed to be eye witnesses and they earnestly believed that this was occurring in their sleepy neighborhoods.

This was also when people started checking the Halloween candy for razor blades and recreational drugs. Heck, even my mom used to cut apart my Halloween candy in search for dubious items that were embedded in them before I could eat my damn Fun Sized Snickers bar. (She never did find anything wrong with my candy. I now suspect that she just wanted to eat some before I got to it.)

So why do these sort of irrational things become so popular that they are used to explain strange events even when they have a real, scientific reasons for them to occur?

According to FBI Supervisory Special Agent Kenneth V. Lanning's report on Satanic Ritual Abuse,
conspiracy theories and supernatural reasons are often used to rationalize bizarre, highly unusual and offensive actions of a person when they can't be easily explained or when people do not understand what is causing the behavior to occur. This is why urban legends exist and why it is now widely believed that zombies are shambling among us.

Instead of looking at the facts, a good number of people would rather jump to the quick conclusion that it's the end of the world and the zombie apocalypse is upon us. When in actuality, all we have is another "War of the Worlds" type of hysteria coming to a head on our society, except this time, it's the zombies instead of Martians that are bringing about the end of the world.

People, especially those in the zombie apocalypse survival camps (you know who you are), are searching for and finding all sorts of scary, morbid, and bizarre news stories that they wrongly believe to be related in some remote way to the Miami Cannibal incident and have decided that they indicate that it's the beginning of the zombie apocalypse.

Here are a few examples:
Plausible Zombie Attack Reported in Miami, Fl
Florida zombie had cocaine psychosis. Coke supply infected with flesh eating disease
Police shoot 'zombie' feasting on another man
New Jersey Man Throws His Guts at Cops This one is explained in more detail here. Apparently the man has a history of resisting arrest and has had psychiatric care in the past.
Zombie Apocalypse Begins In Florida

Heck, this one wasn't even in the U.S.: 
Zombie movie sparks police call out

While I do enjoy a good zombie story, if an actual zombie outbreak occurred it would happen really fast-- so fast that there would be mass hysteria in the area that it was occurring, loss of contact with local authorities and news reporters, and mobs of people running for their lives and being devoured (which would be recorded by a news helicopter and go viral on the Internet). Then, areas where the outbreak occurred would be quarantined and the cordoned off area would be heavily enforced by police or the National Guard. Soon after, news reporters would be flocking en masse to the area like it's the height of hurricane season and our TVs would be inundated with breaking news on a hourly basis. 

The only reason that people have really jumped on the Miami Cannibal being a zombie is the fact that one of the eye witnesses describes the attack like that of a zombie. From a movie.

Article from the Miami Herald 

The most widely accepted versions of zombies are those that are the reanimated dead as represented by movies, TV shows, works of fiction, video games and comic books. They feel no pain, are inhumanly strong, growl, roar or groan unintelligibly and crave brains or other body parts. They also viciously attack the living and attempt to eat them alive. For all intents and purposes, fictional zombies are already dead. Basic bodily functions have ceased and yet they are still ambulatory (walking around).  Which is what makes them so scary.

The whole zombie angle that so many zombie lovers have on taken after reading the news reports of the gruesome attack in Miami is fantastical, and entertaining, but not true; mainly because there are factual, rational reasons for why people are behaving strangely and committing such atrocious acts of violence upon their fellow man.

Saturday, May 26th at 2 p.m., Miami, Florida police responded to a 911 call about two men fighting on a bike path on the MacArthur Causeway (a local highway that leads from Miami Beach to the city proper). The highway was busy with holiday traffic and there were many eye witnesses as Randy Eugene, delirious and naked, attacked a homeless man and began eating his eyeballs and nose, which he ripped out of the man's skull with his bare hands. Mr. Eugene growled at police officers when they approached and would not stop consuming his victim, so the police were forced to shoot him. He didn't react to the pain of being shot, and it took several bullets to kill him.

The first official reason  I read for Mr. Eugene not dropping after he was first shot was cocaine psychosis. The newspaper clipping above from the Miami Herald and states that he was on a new form LSD.

Now, information has been released that Mr. Eugene that indicates that was suffering from excited delirium caused by a designer recreational drug called "bath salts" on the streets, which may have contained the synthetic drug methylone.

Excited delirium often occurs in men with a history of serious mental illness and drug abuse, especially if the drugs are stimulants, such as cocaine. However, head trauma and alcohol withdrawal can also cause exited delirium to occur.

Signs of excited delirium include disorientation, paranoia, hyper-aggression, heart attacks, chest pain, hallucinations, incomprehensible speech or shoutingapparent superhuman strength or endurance when resisting arrest or restraint, and hypothermia (overheating which can cause people to rip off their clothes in an effort to cool down). It can also cause insensitivity to pain and violent, often bizarre behavior.

While Mr. Eugene's behavior was utterly horrific, it does not mean that he was one of the walking dead. He was just another victim that used a synthetic designer drug that has terrible side effects on the human body. The worst part about this is that by labeling him a zombie, it dehumanizes him and turns him into a monster, an Other that is safe to kill because it is not Us. This behavior is not only incredibly sad when it occurs, but dangerous, as the minute you stop seeing people as fellow human beings and start seeing them as monsters, they are a threat to be eliminated, no matter the cost and you yourself lose a part of your humanity in the process.

"But Cassie," you may protest, "what about the reports of people consuming cocaine laced with a veterinary drug that causes human flesh to rot and fall off? Isn't it proof positive that the zombie outbreak is happening all around us and that the government is engaged in a massive cover up?"


A world-wide conspiracy to cover up a deadly zombie virus?

Most deadly, widespread illnesses, such as SARS and AIDS, are not covered up. Believe it or not, there are agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that work to educate the people as much as possible in an effort to prevent the spread of highly virulent and deadly diseases in an effort to save people's lives.

Speaking of the CDC, do you recall the Zombie Preparedness campaign? It was created was to find a way to spark the public's interest by using zombie movie pop-culture to get the public to prepare for surviving natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, by stocking up on necessary supplies.

They even put up this nifty novella "Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic" (which is available for free download) on their website for informational purposes.

Zombie virus Z5N1- Yet another reason to get your seasonal flu shot!

Fortunately, this is all fiction.

Zombies in real life include voodoo zombies, a condition caused by ingesting the pufferfish toxin Tetrodotoxin. Ingesting the neurotoxin that causes the body to enter a death-like state, where life functions slow down to the point where a person for all intents and purposes can appear to be dead, but do not really die.

Real zombies in wildlife, such as cordycepts fungus controlling ants in tropical forests of Brazil, Africa and Thailand, take over the an ant's nervous system and force it to climb to the highest tree limbs it can find where it dies and the fungus then spreads its spores. The infected ants are not dead while they are moving, but are puppeted by the fungus. Which is creepy in its own right. But it does not make the infected ants undead insects roaming the jungles.

Since science has yet to prove whether or not such a thing as the walking dead is possible, I'm not going to be freaking out about the start of the zombie apocalypse. I didn't believe that it was a zombie when I first read about the Miami Cannibal and I still don't. And you shouldn't either. For zombie lovers, news like this is just too good to be true.

Yes, there is a lot of scary stuff out there; flesh eating bacteria, rabies, recreational drugs laced with other drugs that can kill people or at least cause their skin to rot and fall off, Furbies, American Idol-- the list goes on. But that doesn't mean that the world is ending, nor that the zombie apocalypse is nigh.

However, if after reading all the facts, you are still intent on insisting that the zombie outbreak is occurring right now, head over to the CDC and get your emergency supply checklist. That way at least you'll have a stockpile of useful things at your disposal once the world ends.

Or you could just make yourself one of these and call it a day.

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1 comment:

  1. I like to think the zombie attack is among us. It makes it more fun. ;) I did a post about this topic on my blog.