Government Lied About Pandemic Which Killed 50 Million People … Attempt to “Prevent Panic” Backfired

Governments Have Suppressed the Dangers of Epidemics Before, Only Making Things Worse

The mainstream American press has agreed – at the request of the government – not to report on suspected Ebola cases.

Let’s provide some context …

The U.S. National Academies of Science noted in 2005 (starting on the bottom of p. 64):

In the United States, national and local government and public health authorities badly mishandled the [1918 “Spanish Flu”] epidemic [which killed up to 50 million people worldwide], offering a useful case study.

The context is important. Every country engaged in World War I tried to control public perception. To avoid hurting morale, even in the nonlethal first wave the press in countries fighting in the war did not mention the outbreak. (But Spain was not at war and its press wrote about it, so the pandemic became known as the Spanish flu).

The United States was no different.  In 1917 California Senator Hiram Johnson made the since-famous observation that “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” The U.S. government passed a law that made it punishable by 20 years in jail to “utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the government of the United States.”

One could go to jail for cursing or criticizing the government, even if what one said was true. A Congressman was jailed. Simultaneously, the government mounted a massive propaganda effort. An architect of that effort said, “Truth and falsehood are arbitrary terms…. There is nothing in experience to tell us that one is always preferable to the other…. The force of an idea lies in its inspirational value. It matters very little if it is true or false” (Vaughn, 1980).

The combination of rigid control and disregard for truth had dangerous consequences. Focusing on the shortest term, local officials almost universally told half-truths or outright lies to avoid damaging morale and the war effort. They were assisted—not challenged—by the press, which although not censored in a technical sense cooperated fully with the government’s propaganda machine.

Routinely, as influenza approached a city or town—one could watch it march from place to place—local officials initially told the public not to worry, that public health officials would prevent the disease from striking them. When influenza first appeared, officials routinely insisted at first it was only ordinary influenza, not the Spanish flu. As the epidemic exploded, officials almost daily assured the public that the worst was over.

This pattern repeated itself again and again. Chicago offers one example: Its public health commissioner said he’d do “nothing to interfere with the morale of the community…. It is our duty to keep the people from fear. Worry kills more people than the epidemic” (Robertson, 1918).

That idea—“Fear kills more than the disease”—became a mantra nationally and in city after city. As Literary Digest, one of the largest circulation periodicals in the country, advised, “Fear is our first enemy” (Van Hartesveldt, 1992).

In Philadelphia, when the public health commissioner closed all schools, houses of worship, theaters, and other public gathering places, one newspaper went so far as to say that this order was “not a public health measure” and reiterated that “there is no cause for panic or alarm.”

But as people heard these reassurances, they could see neighbors, friends, and spouses dying horrible deaths.

In Chicago, the Cook County Hospital mortality rate of all influenza admissions—not just those who developed pneumonia—was 39.8 percent (Keeton and Cusman, 1918). In Philadelphia, bodies remained uncollected in homes for days, until eventually open trucks and even horse-drawn carts were sent down city streets and people were told to bring out the dead. The bodies were stacked without coffins and buried in cemeteries in mass graves dug by steam shovels.

This horrific disconnect between reassurances and reality destroyed the credibility of those in authority. People felt they had no one to turn to, no one to rely on, no one to trust.

Ultimately society depends on trust. Without it, society began to come apart. Normally in 1918 America, when someone was ill, neighbors helped. That did not happen during the pandemic. Typically, the head of one city’s volunteer effort, frustrated after repeated pleas for help yielded nothing, turned bitter and contemptuous:

Hundreds of women who are content to sit back had delightful dreams of themselves in the roles of angels of mercy, had the unfathomable vanity to imagine that they were capable of great sacrifice. Nothing seems to rouse them now. They have been told that there are families in which every member is ill, in which the children are actually starving because there is no one to give them food. The death rate is so high and they still hold back.3

That attitude persisted outside of cities as well. In rural Kentucky, the Red Cross reported “people starving to death not from lack of food but because the well were panic stricken and would not go near the sick” (An Account of the Influenza Epidemic, 1919).

As the pressure from the virus continued, an internal Red Cross report concluded, “A fear and panic of the influenza, akin to the terror of the Middle Ages regarding the Black Plague, [has] been prevalent in many parts of the country” (The Mobilization of the American National Red Cross, 1920). Similarly, Victor Vaughan, a sober scientist not given to overstatement, worried, “If the epidemic continues its mathematical rate of acceleration, civilization could easily … disappear … from the face of the earth within a matter of a few more weeks” (Collier, 1974).

Of course, the disease generated fear independent of anything officials did or did not do, but the false reassurances given by the authorities and the media systematically destroyed trust. That magnified the fear and turned it into panic and terror.

It is worth noting that this terror, at least in paralyzing form, did not seem to materialize in the few places where authorities told the truth.

One lesson is clear from this experience: In handling any crisis, it is absolutely crucial to retain credibility. Giving false reassurance is the worst thing one can do. If I may speculate, let me suggest that almost as bad as outright lying is holding information so closely that people think officials know more than they say.


As Reuters pointed out yesterday, there’s still a lot about Ebola that scientists don’t understand. Trying to pretend they know everything will just create more panic in the long run.

Note: The above-quoted comment was made by John M. Barry, Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane and Xavier Universities at a scientific workshop entitled The Threat of Pandemic Influenza: Are We Ready?

Barry’s 2004 book The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Greatest Plague in History was a New York Times Best Seller, and won the 2005 Keck Communication Award from the United States National Academies of Science for the year’s outstanding book on science or medicine. In 2005 he also won the “September 11th Award” from the Center for Biodefense and Emerging Pathogens at Brown University.    Barry has served on a federal government’s Infectious Disease Board of Experts, on the advisory board of MIT’s Center for Engineering Fundamentals, and on the advisory committee at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for its Center for Refugee and Disaster Response.

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  • kimyo

    Pandemics and Solar Activity

    The results of this study support the suggestion by Kilbourne (1976) that there is a 10-11year periodicity superimposed upon the occurrence of influenza pandemics.

    Solar behaviour and the terrestrial responses are now reasonably well identified. We have observed the modulation by solar magnetic activity of not only the Sun’s total energy output, but also its output of ultra-violet radiation (some of which penetrates to sea level) and soft X-rays, which do not. However it is not clear how the antigenic shifts might be caused. The influenza virus survives only short periods in the open air. Could the shifts occur in the hosts? Changing levels of ultraviolet flux could affect hosts at the dermal and subdermal levels.

    the spanish flu followed the solar maximum in 1917. nasa is pegging this cycle’s maximum for 2014.

    if the increased virulence is caused by reduced uvb exposure, this would be easy to remedy with modern technology. no american north of atlanta ever gets enough uvb, 1) none reaches us from oct-mar 2) apr-sep it’s only present for a few hours straddling 1pm 3) it’s blocked by glass and sunscreen (uva isn’t).

    uvb was demonized along with fat, cholesterol and salt. all of those are now known to be required for optimal health. narrowband uvb therapy has been in use for years, successfully treating psoriasis.

  • jadan

    John M Barry gives an educated guess of 200,000,000 deaths for the global flu of 1918, not the 50 mil of the Wikipedia entry. So much suppression of the real data happened that it is impossible to know for certain. Americans have little idea of the excesses carried out by the war mongering college professor, Woodrow Wilson, who mobilized the American fascist virus to compete with the flu virus. Wilson himself was stricken with the flu during the Versailles gathering. The flu was known to affect the brains of some who got sick. Barry speculates that the flu sabotaged Wilson’s will power and his moderating influence in the negotiations which lead to the harsh terms of the Versailles Treaty imposed on Germany. This ultimately justified the rise of Hitler. Nothing has changed so much from that time. Wilson’s fledgling national security state was not half so effective as our latter day mega version of suppression. People are not clamoring for the truth. The positive thinking and systematic denial of the business-as-usual majority makes the control of public awareness not that difficult. One wonders just how far Ebola has moved into the US? The MSM do actually reflect the posture of the American people as much as they control it. If I’m honest with myself I have to admit I don’t enjoy hearing about this bloody pandemic. It’s not a pleasant thought.

    • lavada

      MSM do NOT reflect the “posture of the people”, they IGNORE it and shout it down. the people have OVERWHELMINGLY 94% demanded quarantines or entry stops to those from infected areas. MSM has loudly and in every way possible flouted this.
      Because of MSM’s pervasive control of mass comm, ad MSM’s total lying- we no longer have much real idea of WHAT the American want. you certainly don’t.

    • lavada

      MSM do NOT reflect the “posture of the people”, they IGNORE it and shout it down. the people have OVERWHELMINGLY 94% demanded quarantines or entry stops to those from infected areas. MSM has loudly and in every way possible flouted this.
      Because of MSM’s pervasive control of mass comm, ad MSM’s total lying- we no longer have much real idea of WHAT the American want. you certainly don’t.

      • jadan

        If you’re so hot to go down this quarantine road, FEMA is ready and willing to accommodate you and the 94% you represent. Good-bye civil liberties, hello medical fascism.

  • Carl_Herman

    Great documentation, GW; thank you. We’ll keep pointing to the facts, and see what develops 🙂

    • karatekop

      just finished the Barry book. found it of limited usefulness, as it is your typical MSM bromide.
      nowhere does Barry address the (like Ebola which emerged from western labs via vax campaigns) vaccines which caused the entire catastrophe.
      Mali- which had no cases due to border closures- now has an “explosion” of Ebola due to the Ebola vaccines trials which began by WHO/DOD on Oct 8. the ‘mysterious’ spread of the scourge erupted 2 weeks later from a 2yr old infant WHO WAS VACCINATED.
      Wake up sheeple.

  • robertsgt40

    My biggest concern is that the “government” doesn’t want to contain Ebola.

    • Edward Coyle

      Our ebola czar is a eugenist and has written that “leadership” is necessary to end overpopulation.
      Interesting things are in the minds of the far left, but watch out for the crazy Tea Party.

      • robertsgt40

        Correct. I doubt this clown was appointed to solve the problem. I’m sure he’s an Agenda 21 fan. He has zero experience in healthcare. He was a no-show at the first two meetings on Ebola. Enough said.

        • Edward Coyle

          Are you fully realizing the implications of “leadership” as they mean it?
          They mean doing the politically unpopular, perhaps illegal.

      • CitizenBrain

        Yeah, because not wanting to be taxed into poverty is crazy. LMAO at you.

      • paul morris

        no one in the Tea Party groups in a tenth as crazy as the mainstream media types, the govt, the mainstream political party leaders (republicrats all of them) etc

    • Wiseman

      Funny, no mention that only the people who took the Vaccines got sick and died, history will soon repeat itself.

      • robertsgt40

        The real kicker is the “Spanish” flu of 1918 that took out up to 50m people. It started with the vaccines the US military received BEFORE shipping out to WWI excursion. I’ll pass on needles. Take my chances flying bare buns.

        • oatwillie

          Was there a vaccine for flu in 1918 ?

          • robertsgt40

            Yes. Troops got it in the states before shipping out. They were the source. Turns out it wasn’t flu virus. It was bacterial infection. Oops


    i still think that USAMRIID has an antiserum for Ebola. many suspect ebola is a GMO as it is.

    • paul morris

      colloidal silver works – but Big Pharma can’t control it (you can make your own cheaply) and thus won’t make the $$$$$$$$$ from it like they do with ineffective or downright dangerous vaccines

  • Mario

    My mother lost her entire family to the Spanish flu, they lived in south Tejas at the time. My grandmother told my mom that while they travelled(by waggon) through Tejas to get down to south Tejas that they saw entire villages and towns that the people were laying out in the open dead. Eventually even my grandparents became infected, they died leaving my mom orphaned and a young girl. It was there very own walking dead experience. Only a matter of time, before it happens again.


    Proof That The Swine Flu Epidemic Was Man Made and Intentional Written by Sarah C. Corriher

    The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a patent for, Genetically Engineered Swine Influenza Virus and Uses Thereof (patent #8124101). It was filed in 2005 for approval. The makers of the human variant of the swine flu virus waited until the patent was finally approved in January of 2009, before unleashing the virus into the wild.

    US Army withheld promise from Germany that Ebola virus wouldn’t be weaponized October 20, 2014

    German High Government Official Seeks Washington’s Reassurance that the US did Not Weaponize the Species of Ebola that Germany Made Available to Washington, and Washington has not provided the reassurance.

  • Christian Gains

    Tremendous comments guys! And, while ALL are VERY LIKELY correct, I’d like to postulate one more factor.

    I’m a STRONG believer in the effect that Yahwey [God] & the spiritual realm have on human affairs.

    NOT to say, or insinuate, that we shouldn’t examine and respond to physical evidence, but just to reiterate that our Country was ACTUALLY, (In a small Chapel that still resides across from the North Western corner of Trade Center 2 I believe), consecrated in desperate prayer, by George Washington and his Cabinet, immediately after his inauguration. They committed this Nation and people to the service and under the protection of ALMIGHTY YAHWEY.

    But, alas, “we the people”, as a people & Nation, have rejected that commission, and leaned to our own understanding, till now we begin to see signs that our “GENUINE SECURITY” [spiritual ‘hedge’], has been breached, and our Cities attacked, as well as our population attacked by, by man & plague, and sickness, as seldom before.

    If you study JOB 1 & 2, you’ll see that Yahwey CLEARLY protects, EVEN when chastening His people. BUT! He’ll lift that spiritual protection to teach His people NOT TO give themSELVES credit, but rather to honor & worship His power, love and mercy.

    So, I submit that we, as well, should SEEK spiritual remedies as well as physical, AND, that we demand of our Government TRUTH above ALL else!

  • paul morris

    I should like to point out this flu was actually H1N1- which has more than one variant

  • Boni Biggun

    The Spanish flu was not Spanish or a natural flu, it was the 1st MAN MADE BIO WEAPON! They even tested it on their guinee pig solidiers. The quote of that day was “more soldiers died from the “shot in their arm, then they were shot from an enemy gun!”

    HIV/AIDS, EBOLA, all the H1N1 variants, Lyme disease add naseum are all MAN MADE BIO-WEAPONS!

  • The current flap over Ebola and quarantine demonstrates, again, that, even faced with a dangerous and unprecedented threat, it is virtually impossible to break out of silly, irrelevant partisan bickering, which causes many self-described liberals and progressives to confuse, while they claim to uphold, the paradigms of scientific rigor and public interest that can help us the most.

    See analysis at: Ripley Was Right: Ebola, Science, and the Precautionary Principle ( )