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World

All Apologies

Medical workers put on protective suits at a preparation room next to the isolation wards at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan in Hubei Province, China, February 24, 2020. (China Daily via Reuters)

The respected scientific journal Nature has published an apology for associating COVID-19 with China, explaining it “was an error on our part” to erroneously link the pathogen with Wuhan and China.”

Nature’s rationale is that since mid-February, the virus has an official name — “COVID-19” — and that Asian people have faced racist attacks in the wake of the virus.

More speculatively, Nature’s apology says that a virus name that generates stigma could hurt “the diversity of university campuses and diversity of points of view in academia.”

Of course one expects that there will be fewer international students at Western universities, but the primary cause of this will be fear of the disease itself and the travel bans that impose uncertainty on the endeavor of international study. Campuses tend to be incredibly supportive environments for students.

If I might speculate for a minute, I think we’re going to see a great number of these apologies. Initially, no one thought calling it the “Chinese coronavirus” or the “Wuhan flu” was offensive or bigoted. Names like this were used in China or in Asian polities like Hong Kong and Taiwan where ethnic Han Chinese predominate. But the Chinese mainland government and its co-conspirator, the World Health Organization, have pushed this narrative about “stigma” being worse than the disease itself relentlessly. I’ve mostly given up calling it the Wuhan virus, only because calling it COVID-19 or just “COVID” is what’s common among friends who are in the medical profession. But I think apologies are inappropriate. So long as honest historians of this era exist, the virus will always be “associated” with Wuhan and China.

Most worryingly, elites in the West converge on high-status opinions because they want a high-status life. This makes our elites relatively easy for a bloody-minded Chinese Communist Party to manipulate. I’d rather our institutions not volunteer for these struggle sessions.

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