A long and shameful tradition.

Recently at Pharyngula a commentator mentioned something related to a political problem I’ve been thinking about. The political problem is the attempts to call covid 19 by names related to China or Wuhan and probably other versions.

They pointed out how people from one country would name a disease after another country and specifically the “the French disease”, syphilis. After some searching I found this.

Brief History of Syphilis.

Introduction, second paragraph.

From the very beginning, syphilis has been a stigmatized, disgraceful disease; each country whose population was affected by the infection blamed the neighboring (and sometimes enemy) countries for the outbreak. So, the inhabitants of today’s Italy, Germany and United Kingdom named syphilis ‘the French disease’, the French named it ‘the Neapolitan disease’, the Russians assigned the name of ‘Polish disease’, the Polish called it ‘the German disease’, The Danish, the Portuguese and the inhabitants of Northern Africa named it ‘the Spanish/Castilian disease’ and the Turks coined the term ‘Christian disease’. Moreover, in Northern India, the Muslims blamed the Hindu for the outbreak of the affliction. However, the Hindu blamed the Muslims and in the end everyone blamed the Europeans [46].

Anyone who wants to name a disease after a country, region, ethnicity, race and similar are bigots. This is social dominance behavior for no good reason. Racism and other bigotries.

Another version could be naming pranks and irresponsible behavior after other races. When I was a kid a prank some kids did involving knocking on someone’s door and running away was called “n%$$#& knocking”. Knocking someone out by pushing on their neck was called a “Chinese knockout”.

It’s unacceptable. It’s a discriminatory irrational insult and for what? I honestly want to know and I’m going to look for the reason so I can do something with it. Racist, nationalist and similar solidarity is one answer. In addition to desire to make a percieved adversary feel insulted.

I seen people insist that it’s acceptable because that’s where it started. That changes nothing. That’s an excuse to keep doing something insulting. I’ll keep calling it racist, bigoted. Coronavirus for the kind of virus and covid 19 for the specific example.

Finally I’ve considered and rejected calling it something like “the Trump virus” (reflect their behavior back on them). I’ve got the same instincts but I want them attached to better things. I may use that as an example of something that is similarly useless and counterproductive dominance behavior in place of relevant personal characteristics to attach negative feelings to.


  1. says

    How about TEOTWAKI virus?

    No, the world isn’t going to end, but how we’ve lived the last two centuries just might. With everyone’s lives on hold for six months, 38C temperatures in the Arctic, a massive reduction in pollution, and the BLM movement worldwide, people might finally be willing to change politically, environmentally and socially. We can hope.

    Anyone who wants to name a disease after a country, region, ethnicity, race and similar are bigots. This is social dominance behavior for no good reason. Racism and other bigotries.

    Vis-a-vis rightwing bigots who called (and still call) HIV/AIDS “gay cancer” among other sexually-related insults. They are the same ones who get upset about the phrase toxic masculinity, as if it were being labelled a disease.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Intransitive @ # 1: … rightwing bigots who called (and still call) HIV/AIDS “gay cancer” …

    My recollection (and I am neither gay nor San Franciscan) has it that the “gay cancer” label started among gays in the Castro district in the early days of the epidemic, when doctors still had not identified the immune-deficiency syndrome, never mind the virus behind it. (We probably still have a few denialists about that last part, somewhere on the outer edges of the planetary disk.)

    That was a whole 40 years ago – time flies, whether you’re having fun or not…

  3. says

    Hopefully this will get us to change our behavior. Unfortunately it looks like the usa is on course to be the example of why we need to be able to change our collective behavior to varying threats. I’ve seen people trying downplay deaths by comparing them to the total population while simultaneously ignoring the total number of infected, a number that is a political threat to them. There could be millions of deaths.

    “The gay disease” is another good example. They do their hurtful dominance displays even as they whine about criticism of behavior. It’s amazing how much of this is people trying to maintain their power to be the ones to say things that feel bad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *