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What the world thinks of the American Ebola panic

Jeff Hulbert of Annapolis, dressed in a protective suit and mask, wants all flights from Ebola-hit West Africa halted as he protests outside the White House on Oct. 16. (Mladen Antonov/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

The American panic about Ebola hasn't made headlines just in the United States. It's also gotten attention abroad — and many foreign broadcasters and newspapers have criticized the American reaction in harsh terms.

Here's a roundup of some commentaries and reports from around the world:

Russia: "Ebola rumor mill has gone into overdrive."

Russia's RT news channel never misses a chance to criticize the American media, and U.S. Ebola coverage has provided a welcome opportunity. "The Ebola rumor mill has gone into overdrive," RT wrote in an article on its Web site, accusing the U.S. media of "contributing to rather than quelling the spread of disease-provoked hysteria."

RT — which is financed by the Kremlin — also condemned President Obama's decision to send troops to West Africa. "In the event of a full-blown outbreak of Ebola in the United States, would that be the signal for the U.S. Army to introduce martial law on the streets of America?" the channel asked.

Nigeria: "America's funny hypocrisy"

The Nigerian newspaper Vanguard suggested that the United States might face similar — or even worse — problems handling an Ebola outbreak than Nigeria did. The western African country successfully fought the disease and was declared free of it on Monday. "Africa, in spite of calls by the WHO that the rest of the world come to its aid, was being left to its own devices as far as finding a workable vaccine for Ebola was concerned," the newspaper pointed out.

"What goes round may somehow come around. Just as Nigeria was being declared Ebola-free by the WHO, America started its long walk through the dark tunnel with her first Ebola case," the Vanguard added. "For as long as it was citizens of the poorer nations of the world that were suffering, it was okay for America and the rest of the West to delay clinical trial of drugs that could bring succor to many." In other words: Nigeria's Vanguard thinks that the United States rushed to test new Ebola treatment methods and vaccines only after it became clear that the disease could reach North America.

Liberia: U.S. implicated in "devilish" Ebola tests

As my colleague Terrence McCoy summed up last week, Liberian newspapers have done little to correct myths and have instead churned out Ebola conspiracy theory after theory. The country's Daily Observer published an article on its Web site in which it speculated about possible U.S. Defense Department involvement in the 'manufacture' of the virus, claiming that "the U.S., Canada, France, and the U.K. are all implicated in the detestable and devilish deeds that these Ebola tests are."

Iran: Washington using Ebola outbreak to expand military presence

The country's Press TV channel was quick to offer an explanation for the conspiracy theory spread by Liberia's Daily Observer. "Reports have pointed out that the U.S. and a number of Western countries are using the Ebola outbreak to expand their military presence in mineral-rich Africa," Press TV wrote in an article published Oct. 19. The channel's post — which seems to be entirely based on the crude report published in Daily Observer — also points at the American interest in challenging Chinese influence in Africa. 

According to the state-run TV channel, the United States might have manufactured Ebola — as well as HIV — to benefit American pharmaceutical companies."Hence, Africans are being used as guinea pigs," according to the Iranian media outlet, which offers no evidence for the claim.

Nevertheless, the allegation spread and was reportedly featured on Turkish state television and in a newspaper cartoon.

Germany: "Ebola has fueled an infinite loop of disinformation."

Germany's Manager Magazine criticized the American news channel CNN:  "For days, the 'Fear & Greed Index' of CNN has been stuck at 'Extreme Fear'." News magazine Der Spiegel struck a condemnatory tone as well: "As long as the disease was limited to distant Africa, Americans hardly cared. That changed suddenly when the first U.S. cases emerged. Since then, Ebola has fueled an infinite loop of disinformation and demagogue, spreading in the form of headlines, and twitter hashtags such as #EbolaInAmerica," the Hamburg-based magazine argued in its online edition.

The German weekly Die Zeit, however, urged understanding. "In dealing with Ebola, Germany should show a bit more humility in order to prevent a spread of the disease like in West Africa." According to Die Zeit, a certain degree of worry is justified.

Britain: "The President's tactic may backfire, creating the very panic it seeks to avoid."

The Guardian newspaper deemed the U.S. anxiety over Ebola as a recognizable, if unhelpful, human reaction. "Hysteria shuts down schools and airports, paranoia undermines health workers and law enforcement, and fear encourages some of people’s worst instincts," according to the paper.

The Independent duly noted the American panic — "Glance at the headlines and you'd think Dallas is a city about to fall to the silent enemy within," it wrote — and attributed some of it to the upcoming midterm elections. "In an election season, where there's potential panic, there's politics."

France: "An excess of caution [and] American hysteria." 

France's private TV channel TF1 summarized: "Schools that are closed f0r no reason, and cruise ships that have to turn around... those are only a few examples of an excess of caution." The TV channel also mentioned the case of a Washington Post photographer who was disinvited from a journalism workshop at Syracuse University because he had recently returned from a reporting trip to Liberia, and called it an example of "American hysteria."

South Africa: "What are African governments doing?" 

"U.S. media reported on overzealous action taken by some worried communities, including a group of Mississippi parents who pulled their children from school because the principal had traveled to Zambia — a southern African country far from the Ebola crisis in West Africa," noted the Mail and Guardian, a pan-African newspaper that has a South African publisher and is headquartered in Kenya. But it placed blame elsewhere: "Those who are criticising America and Europe for 'not doing enough' to fight Ebola, should ask African leaders the same question; 'what are African governments doing for themselves?'"