It’s good to know that our elected leaders have focused on the truly vital issues in the midst of the China-originated global pandemic. Senate Democrats, led by Kamala Harris, demonstrated their grasp of constituent priorities in a national crisis by introducing a resolution last week to put the Senate on record that anyone who calls the outbreak “Wuhan virus” or “Chinese virus” is a raaaaacist. Normal naming conventions are apparently a bigger problem than the origin or impact of the virus itself, it seems.
Whereas the elected officials in Washington are self-identifying as morons …
Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) introduced a resolution last week condemning anti-Asian racism and the use of the terms “Wuhan virus”, “Chinese virus,” or “Kung flu” in referring to the coronavirus or COVID-19.
“Whereas the use of anti-Asian terminology and rhetoric related to COVID–19, such as the ‘’Chinese Virus’’, ‘‘Wuhan Virus’’, and ‘Kung-flu’, have perpetuated anti-Asian stigma,” the resolution stated.
“After Donald Trump repeatedly used his platform to try to racialize this disease, we continue to see a spike in rhetoric and actions against the Asian American community because of misguided fears surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak,” Duckworth said in a statement.
This argument is tiresome enough even in a vacuum. Diseases routinely get named for the region or geography from which they emerge. Just to use some well-known examples, Ebola got its name from the West African river where the hemorrhagic fever is thought to have first crossed over to human populations. Lyme Disease gets its name from the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut. The West Nile virus got its name after being discovered guess where in 1937, and Zika — the scourge that erupted in another Olympic year four years ago — got its name from the Zika Forest in Uganda sixty years earlier. Plenty of other examples come to mind, including MERS seven years ago — Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome.
Therefore, there is nothing unusual about calling this the Wuhan virus, since it has almost certainly originated in Wuhan. “Chinese virus” is more far accurate than “Spanish Flu,” the widely accepted casual term for the 1918 influenza epidemic, the usage of which no one had ever claimed was motivated by racism or bigotry. It’s also more specifically accurate than MERS, for that matter, which originated in Jordan. “Kung Flu” is an attempt at levity, perhaps not in the best taste given the circumstances, but is far more accurately assigned to the gallows-humor category than racism.
Having this fight at all over “Wuhan virus” is dumb and demagogic enough. Having at this particular time, when millions of Americans are losing jobs because of the China-originated virus and the economy is collapsing, is simply perverse. Perhaps someone should let Senate Democrats know that the stigma from long-established naming conventions isn’t anyone’s highest priority at the moment. Putting food on the table and getting back into public life far outstrip this issue, to the extent it’s even an issue at all. Right now, Harris et al‘s colleagues in the lower chamber aren’t even bothering to show up for work, which might be a bigger problem than Trump’s reference to a “Chinese virus” several weeks ago.
Especially since Trump stopped using the term anyway, as Mairead McArdle noted last night at National Review:
President Trump briefly referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” defending his use of the term by saying “it comes from China,” but later backed away from the phrase after reports of an uptick in violence against Asian Americans.
“Look, everyone knows it came out of China, but I decided we shouldn’t make any more of a big deal out of it,” Trump said in early March.
This is nothing more than an excuse to call Trump a racist for following scientific naming conventions that go back more than century, at least. Smearing Trump and millions of Americans who use those terms is apparently the highest priority for Senate Democrats, which is certainly revealing, but not in the way Senate Democrats intend. One has to wonder why they’re so focused on diverting attention away from the origins of COVID-19. Tom Cotton’s certainly curious about that:
It's understandable why the murderous Chinese Communist Party doesn't want the Wuhan virus to be linked to China.
But it's mind-boggling that Senate Democrats are participating in China's propaganda.
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) May 21, 2020
Does this report from NBC explain it?
The Chinese have pushed out 90,000 tweets since the start of April from 200 diplomatic and state-run media accounts as part of an offensive in the COVID-19 information war, according to data collected by the Hamilton 2.0 dashboard of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a tool that aggregates accounts connected to the Chinese government.
Bret Schafer, the digital disinformation fellow at the alliance, based in Washington, D.C., has been tracking China’s increasing social media output for months.
According to Schafer’s analysis, Twitter output from China’s official sites has almost doubled since January, and the number of diplomatic Twitter accounts has tripled, to 135, up from just 40 accounts this time last year. Many tweets are in English or Mandarin, but the diplomatic accounts are often in the language of an embassy’s host country.
It certainly seems like someone’s getting suckered by the propaganda. Maybe Senate Democrats need to spend less time on Twitter and more time focused on the real crisis at hand.