Sunday, March 15, 2020

This Cat's Account Of Our Current Predicament Feels Oddly Correct: Farming Pathogens

Be sure to peep Rob Wallace's Twitter

yasha.substack |  Since the coronavirus started making news here in America, it’s been portrayed as a foreign pathogen. It’s not just Donald Trump and his the MAGA fan club. Starting with the Chinese bat soup meme, all kinds of nativist political theories and racist conspiracies have been oozing out of centrist, rightist, and progressive media and political circles — making it seem like the virus is primarily a foreign problem and quite possibly a foreign conspiracy against the United States. 

Just check out this crazy viral xenophobic theorizing that ties the disruption caused by corona closures to Russia and Putin. It’s pushed by a respected liberal academic — someone who regularly gets space in the New York Times. Americans love their insane nativist conspiracies about foreign plots by shady asiatics. Don’t deny them this basic right!

This stuff is infectious and has already led to sporadic violence against Chinese-Americans and people from Asia in America. But this nativist blaming isn’t just happening here. 

China’s been trying to pin the virus on the American government, and so has Russia. A few weeks back, Russian state news broadcast a segment that tied the virus to an American plot against China

Channelling Brass Eye, the host of the news program laid out his logic like this: China is America’s greatest enemy. “Corona” means “crown.” And Donald Trump “crowned” the winners of his Miss Universe pageant. It all added up. Trump unleashed a bioweapon. The clue is in the etymology!
And really, who knows? Maybe the virus is some shadowy American chemical warfare program that backfired. It wouldn’t the first.

I’m sure that xenophobic panics have always followed pandemics and outbreaks of disease, going back to origins of human history. It’s a natural response when faced with a mysterious, deadly calamity. You blame the out-group — a different ethnic or religious or minority group. You blame whoever your official enemy is, or whoever it is most politically useful to blame. It happened during the Spanish Flu that decimated humanity a century ago. And it hasn’t changed today — in our age of supposed rationality. 

And what’s politically useful today about blaming the coronavirus on a specific country? It helps obscure the real origin of the pathogen — which is not national, but international. It’s economic and political.