Given his tight grip on the intellectual reins of America’s conservative movement you’d think Rush Limbaugh would employ a great deal of rigor when presenting his audience with facts. Because he engages so many listeners, and because they “ditto” everything he says to their weary families, friends and co-workers, you might assume Limbaugh would work tirelessly to separate right from wrong. He’d be quick to dissect fact from fiction, conjecture from reality.
You would be incorrect.
“Okay, wait for it, wait for it. You’re gonna love this. Folks, you’re absolutely going to love this. Well, wait. Maybe some of you won’t love this. Let me speak for myself. I love this. You know that magical serum that was given to two white Americans suffering from Ebola? You know what the magic ingredient is? Nicotine.”
“Tobacco is the magical ingredient in the serum. It’s a Kentucky tobacco plant from which they derive the magical serum that has caused massive reversals of the symptoms of Ebola in the two white Americans.”
First: Rush’s audience has gotten so science-skittish that the only way to dazzle them with research news is to call it “magic.” There’s no other way of impressing upon his fans how a new drug might work. Any dittohead incidentally can turn a light on in a dark room and suddenly see the carpet, but how does that happen? What’s the weird connection between the two? NO ONE knows. Let’s just say that it’s “magic.”
But now here’s the best part of the broadcast: The eye-of-newt in the magic potion would be NICOTINE? Dear sweet lord, no. The drug, ZMapp, is a mix of three monoclonal antibodies that bind to the Ebola virus. Mapp Biopharmaceutical sequenced and cloned the proteins, and then produced the antibodies in Nicotinia plants. That’s right: Tobacco plants happen to be good at growing human antibodies.
But no, it doesn’t mean there’s any nicotine in ZMapp. Maybe that sounds confusing, but it’s really not. You can think about the drug’s production a simple way. Remember back when your grampa used the family bathtub to make prohibition-era gin? He would bottle the booze and leave the porcelain behind. The tobacco plant also happens to be a handy tool, but in this case for making antibodies. The key difference would be that the ‘bathtub’ ultimately gets harvested and destroyed, but that’s a small price to pay. Congratulations, you now know more about the fight against Ebola than all of Limbaugh’s listeners combined…