Good evening. You’re tuned to talk radio 790 WACK. I’m Dr. Mel O. Mann, and welcome to another edition of Will This Kill Me?, the show where you tell me your irrational fears about what you think is going to kill you. Unlike the other hosts on this station, I will try to allay those fears, not stoke them. I’ll try to prove that the world is not as dangerous as you think and that you’re just having Pavlovian reactions to the Internet’s alarmist tendencies. Our sponsor tonight is Valium. “Valium: If you don’t need it, you’re not paying attention.” As always, the phone number is 800-555-PANIC. Our first caller is Joe from Jersey City. Joe, what do you fear is going to kill you?
Doc, I think I have Ebola.
Joe, you certainly do not have Ebola. Unless you’ve been to West Africa recently, or have handled the bodily fluids of the few known victims in the United States, you have as much chance of getting Ebola as being struck by lightning in the desert. Tell me, Joe, why do you think you have Ebola?
I’ve been vomiting a lot, and I’ve got the shakes.
When did this vomiting and shaking start?
About an hour after I got home from Duffy’s Tavern.
You don’t have Ebola, you’re just hung over.
But before we went to Duffy’s, we were at the Brooklyn bowling alley where the Ebola doctor went. What if I used the same ball as him?
Joe, as every medical expert will tell you, the chance of contracting the disease through casual contact like that is virtually nil. I’d be much more worried about the 500 pairs of feet that used the rented shoes before you. Why don’t you read…?
Well, my girlfriend has been vomiting too, and now she’s bleeding, and I had contact with her blood, and now I’m sure we’re going to die.
I hesitate to ask this, Joe, but what caused your girlfriend to start bleeding?
Well, it’s that time of the month, and …
Joe, you cannot get Ebola from touching your hung over girlfriend’s menstrual blood! I think it’s time to take another call. Wanda from Wisconsin, what do you fear is going to kill you?
Hey, Doc. Yesterday I took my sister to the hospital to get a colonoscopy, and I didn’t want to get Ebola, so I wore a homemade hazmat suit.
A homemade hazmat suit?
Yes. I especially didn’t want to come in contact with the doctor and nurses because you can get it from feces and, you know, they were sticking stuff up her poop chute. Anyway, on the way out, I forgot and took my gloves off to scratch an itch on my nose and then I touched a button on the elevator. So now I’m living in a tent with a Port-a-Potty in my backyard, my husband brings me my meals on paper plates and paper cups, and then I burn all my garbage.
(Sigh.) Listen, Wanda, there are no known Ebola patients anywhere near Wisconsin, so you’re definitely not going to get it from touching an elevator. And if you’re asymptomatic…
Yeah, but my sister’s husband just returned from a business trip to South Africa so…
South Africa doesn’t have Ebola. It is 3,000 miles from the nearest country with Ebola. It’s like the distance between New York and Los Angeles. Listen, while as a nation we should take precautions, you getting Ebola is as unlikely as George W. Bush selling one of his paintings to the Louvre. Let’s take another call, and please, nothing more about Ebola. Vern from Vermont, what’s going to kill you?
Yeah, Doc, I was watching the ISIS videos and now I’m worried they are going to come and behead me. I mean, I’m not afraid of dying for what I believe in, but I’d rather do it with my head still attached, know what I’m saying?
First off, Vern, why would you watch those videos? They are disturbing as hell, and the only way you could see them is by seeking them out, so that seems morbid. Second, if you are nowhere near Syria or Iraq or Turkey, and are not planning to visit there soon, there is no chance that ISIS is coming to behead you.
But Doc, I wrote a letter to the editor of our local weekly, opposing the imposition of sharia law, and I’m sure I’m now on their enemies list.
Nobody is imposing sharia law in Vermont, Vern, and I’m sure ISIS is not reading your local newspaper. Trust me, they are not coming to the Green Mountain State.
That’s what they want you to think. Anyway, my 16-year-old daughter has stopped speaking to me. I think she’s planning to run off to join ISIS, like those girls in Colorado.
Your 16-year-old daughter is probably not speaking to you because she’s 16 years old. That’s what teenagers often do. Stop thinking that every incident that happens 2,000 miles away applies to you. OK, let’s try a different caller. Steve from New York, what’s going to kill you?
I’m frightened to death, Doc. ISIS terrorists are sneaking across our southern border disguised as Central American children, and they’re carrying the Ebola virus with them in weapons they can fire into village squares. Obama is letting them do it because a pandemic would allow him to impose martial law. We’re all going to die under a totalitarian state.
Steve, Steve, I beg you, for the love of God. Please turn off Fox News. Now.
I can’t. I co-host their morning show.
Ugh. Can we get just one intelligent caller, with a genuine reason to be concerned, like climate change? Ah, here we go, Barack from D.C. What’s making you tremble with fear, Mr. President?
Well, Doc, I have this security detail that’s supposed to be elite, that’s supposed to take a bullet for me if necessary. But in fact they suck. Just in the last month, they’ve allowed people to climb over our fence and run around near the Oval Office, and allowed another man with a knife to get on an elevator next to me.
Yes, I read about that. On the bright side, I listened to the Congressional testimony and it’s good to know that, even in these hyper-partisan times, the Republicans are concerned about your health.
Sure, that’s what it was. Anyway, it hasn’t gotten better. This morning, I was taking a bath and an intruder came in and tried to plug in a toaster and throw it in the tub. Good thing Biden peeked in and said, “Hey, can I get a bagel?” or I don’t know what would have happened. I mean, I no longer feel safe here. What should I do?
I’ve got a solution. Get the networks to keep playing the footage of Sarah Palin saying you live at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue. The intruders will go to the wrong address and you can bathe in peace.
Hey, that’s a good idea, Doc. Would you be interested in being my Surgeon General?
Hell no. Next, let’s hear from Paula from Walla Walla. Paula, what’s your fear?
Wait, Doc, I have a question for you. You’re always taking our calls, trying to talk through our irrational fears with reason and logic. But everyone has irrational fears – snakes, spiders, etc. What’s your irrational fear? What are you afraid is going to kill you?
I’m glad you asked me that, Paula. I do have one strong irrational fear: Heights. I have recurring nightmares where I’m looking over the edge of a very tall building and I wake up in a cold sweat. I understand that the dreams are probably metaphorical – it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever find myself in that position in real life, and I’ve stood at enclosed summits, like the top of the Empire State Building, without any fear. But if I see a photo or advertisement where a celebrity or model is perched on the roof of a tall building, I imagine myself falling, falling… Wait, I think I’m going to be sick.
You’re afraid of heights? Ha ha ha, what a loser!
Gee, thanks. Cassie from Tallahassee, what do you fear is going to kill you?
Every day, I’m frightened, Doc. I go online and all I see are posts about war, disease, bigotry, poverty, injustice. It overcomes me and I fear we are nearing the apocalypse. This is the worst time in human history.
Stop it, Cassie. This is not the worst time in human history. I understand your reaction. The Internet has made the world smaller, so you get hit with all the bad things happening in the world immediately, and you’re letting it unduly frighten you. In fact, statistics show that the world is healthier than it’s ever been, more people are escaping poverty, and the world is generally more peaceful than usual. Can you imagine if we had the Internet back in 1944? War and butchery on every continent, dead bodies floating on Omaha Beach, Jews led to the gas chambers in the concentration camps. Your Facebook feed would have been a nonstop horror show; even cat videos wouldn’t have amused you. Or how about 1918? Millions dead in World War I, hundreds of thousands dead in a flu epidemic that dwarfs Ebola. The Huffington Post’s front page would have been scarier than all the Stephen King novels put together. Or how about 1863, during the Civil War, with slavery still…
You mean it can get much worse than this? Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhh… (Drops phone)
OK, that went well. Charlotte from North Carolina, what’s keeping you awake at night?
Well, Doc, it’s guns. People are getting killed for trivial things like playing loud music or texting in a movie theater, there are shootings in high schools, while other people are carrying Uzis into their local Chipotle. It’s like the Wild West out there. I’m worried that I’m going to get hit in the crossfire.
Thank you, Charlotte. Finally someone with a rational concern. The homicide rate in the U.S. is disgracefully high, much higher than any other developed country. But did you know that the homicide rate is exactly half what it was twenty years ago, and keeps dropping? The annual rate was 9.5 per 100,000 in 1994 but it was only 4.7 last year. In fact, a handgun is more likely to be used in a suicide than a homicide. The murder rate is still much too high, of course, but while I certainly cannot guarantee your safety, I can say that, statistically speaking, as an American, you are safer than you have been in decades.
That’s all well and good, Doc, but my dumbass brother just walked into the living room and said he was going to clean his gun now. I asked him to please check first to see if the gun is loaded, but the jackass said, “Why? I know it’s not loaded.”
Charlotte, I’d advise you to get out of the house immediately for your own safety. Recently, a young man in the town next to mine accidentally killed his girlfriend while cleaning his gun. The carelessness of some people is astounding. Now let’s talk to John from Denver. John, you’re on WACK radio. What’s going to kill you?
I’m talking to you on my cell phone while texting my sister. Is this going to kill me?
Don’t be silly. Of course not. No definitive link has ever been established between cell phone use and brain…
Oh, I should have mentioned that I’m talking to you and texting while driving my car down the Thruway at 70 mph after drinking a fifth of vodka.
For God’s sake, man, yes, that might kill someone! Pull over! Pull over to the side of the road right now. Right now! (Waits a moment.) OK, have you pulled over?
Is there anyone else in the car that can drive?
Yeah, my buddy Frank.
Has he been drinking?
Thank goodness. Let him take the wheel.
… He says booze interferes with the buzz he gets from heroin.
No, no! Please stay on the line and talk to my producer and she’ll call you a cab. Oy. Our next caller is Orlando from Florida. Orlando, what’s your irrational fear?
A new neighbor just moved in next door. I think he’s going to kill me.
For heaven’s sake, why would you think your new neighbor would want to kill you?
He’s George Zimmerman.
Oh. Well, I can understand your concern. But let’s look at this logically. Yes, Zimmerman killed a young man and reports about his recent aggressive behavior should give one pause. But I think that if you keep to yourself and avoid confrontations, you won’t be in any danger …
What do you mean, too late?
I’m walking my dog and she just ran up and took a dump on his lawn. Now Zimmerman is running this way, screaming obscenities at us while waving his gun. I gotta run!
Yikes. Even I’m starting to feel irrational fears. OK, let’s talk to Anita from, she says, an undisclosed location. Anita, you must be terrified of something very serious if you’re in hiding. What do you think is going to kill you?
An Internet troll.
Well, Anita, I know Internet trolls can be disgusting but I really doubt that…
Have you ever gotten a death threat from one of them? Or had one of them threaten to rape you?
Well, no, but…
Well, I have. And so have many other women I know. Have you been following GamerGate?
Yeah, a little. Male gamers have been harassing women game developers who have criticized the culture’s sexism.
Yes. Then these asswipes threatened us with vile comments on Twitter, in Internet threads. They published our home addresses and phone numbers, with messages that they are outside our front doors with guns, and several of us have had to stay away from our homes out of fear. If someone who knew your home address threatened you, wouldn’t you be frightened?
Absolutely. Have you contacted the authorities?
Yeah. And I’m sure they’ll get right on that, about the same time I track down Bigfoot. A couple of weeks ago, I was supposed to give a speech at Utah State but I received a death threat. I checked with the security people there and they told me that state open carry laws prevented them from stopping attendees from bringing guns because, you know, freedom, yay America. I had to cancel my speech. Listen, I know they are just a small subset of the gaming community and that it’s unlikely one of these gutless twerps will take a shot at me but why should I take that chance?
I think you are right to be afraid. Thanks for your call. It’s a reminder that for all the threats we face, real or imagined, the worst one is the bigotry, ignorance, and aggression of our fellow man. It’s also a reminder that while the Internet can exaggerate public threats, it allows others to deliver private threats directly. As always, it pays to be vigilant. I have time for one last caller. Fred from Flushing, you’re on WACK radio. What’s going to kill you?
Actually, Doc, I expect to die of natural causes.
Really? It’s great, Fred, that you’re so rational and….
Nah, just kidding. The zombie apocalypse is coming and…
Yeah, okay. Well, that’s all the time we have for this edition of Will This Kill Me? I’ll be back tomorrow night to discuss more irrational fears. In the meantime, I’m going home where there is a bottle of wine with my name on it. Please stay tuned for Who Needs Science? Oh, and get a flu shot.