Stop blaming my favorite animal, the pangolin, or the so-called “scaly anteater,” for the pandemic!
That’s a tree pangolin above in a defensive posture. Ever since the nexus for the outbreak of COVID-19 was traced back to a wet market in Hubei province, scientists have been looking for the virus’s heritage. It’s possible that the virus emerged in a colony of horseshoe bats in Yunnan, a province that borders the south-east Asian country of Myanmar. But some fingers are also pointing at the pangolin, which was once believed to have bats in its ancestry. The animal, like others that American wouldn’t recognize, is the most trafficked beast in the world due to the supposed health benefits of its scales, with most of that traffic ending in China. A search for the “missing link” in the chain of the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has uncovered two close cousins of the variety of coronavirus that started the pandemic in Wuhan in pangolins smuggled into China. Not THE virus, however. Here’s a photo of a pangolin unfurled:
1. It is outrageous that a U.S. newspaper would include this sentence…From an article about the joys of Randolph Scott Westerns by Times film critic Ben Kinegsberg: “The depiction of Native Americans as horse-eating, husband-killing savages doesn’t sit well in modern eyes, and the name of Henry Silva’s character in “The Tall T” is so offensive it cannot be printed.”
Well, it has to printed somewhere, or the information itself has been permanently erased! If a newspaper is going to start purging words, names, history and facts, where does it stop? I’ve been trying to imagine what name could justify the Times refusing to reveal it, other than “Voldemort.” What could it be? Let’s check the Internet Movie Database (the film is “The Tall T“)…
Oh come on! The name so offensive that it can’t be printed is “Chink.”
2. Fake News Report…Ugh. Headlines! I have noticed that conservative websites are increasingly misrepresenting facts in their headlines, yes, just like the mainstream media does. Here’s a headline from the conservative Minding the Campus: “Court Rules Free Speech Must Yield to ‘Woke’ Speech.”
That’s not what the news story says (even as it is falsely presented in the text); it’s not even close. At Shawnee State University in southern Ohio, Prof. Nicholas Meriwether, who is tenured, called upon whom he thought was a male student(registered in class under the name Alena Breuning) saying at one point, “Yes, sir.” The student approached Meriwether after the class and told him that she was transgender and wanted to be referred to with female titles and pronouns.
You can read about the whole mess here, but in the end, the professor sued the school, after resisting the student’s request. The Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Roberta Milliken, informed him that “Every student needs to be treated the same. The policy seeks to ensure that what is done for one student is done for all to avoid issues of discrimination.” She informed the professor that the school viewed his disparate treatment—that is, not calling the student by the gender pronoun she requested, as having created a “hostile environment.”
Meriwether asked her if he would be in compliance with the school’s policy if he were to 1) refer to all students “by their self-asserted gender identity” but also 2) include on his syllabi a disclaimer stating that he did so under compulsion and explaining his personal and religious beliefs about gender. Milliken told him that that would not be acceptable.
A formal investigation of Meriwether ended with a decision by the provost that he had violated university policy by continuing to address the transgender student differently than other students “based on a trait that is protected under our nondiscrimination policy.” A warning letter was then placed on Meriwether’s personnel folder stating that if “such behaviors” recur, he would face the possibility of “further corrective action.”
Professor Meriwether claimed that the letter in his file could prevent him from obtaining any future academic position and violated his rights. He brought a lawsuit against the university late in 2018, aided by Alliance Defending Freedom, arguing that the university violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments by punishing him for his speech by forcing him to “lend credence to cultural ideas Dr. Meriwether does not share or wish to advance.”
On September 5 of last year, U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Litkovitz, to whom the case had been assigned, dismissed Meriwether’s complaint. “Universities may sanction professors whose pedagogical attitudes and teaching methods do not conform to institutional standards,” she said. This past February, U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott upheld Judge Litkovitz’s dismissal of the case. Meriwether’s attorneys are appealing the dismissal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The case is interesting, but not now, here. The point is that the Court ruling had nothing to do with “woke speech” being favored by the Court over free speech, but simply that a college can have certain standards of conduct, like “don’t be a jerk and just call students by the existing gender designating pronoun they choose within reason, ” and if a professor is required to follow them, that doesn’t mean he’s being abused.
3. On that other hand, here is usually sensible Amy Alkon on the matter of people becoming indignant or worse if you inadvertently refer to them by a pronoun they do not prefer:
Personally, I’m disturbed by the whole notion that we “include” people through calling them the right pronoun, which requires all this “homework” about a person before you say one word to them. This new requirement for doing this seems to be a sort of religion that allows people to have power over others — to push them around and deem them thought and speech criminals, even if they simply forget to use somebody’s requested “pronoun.”
This also seems to be a way for people to feel special without earning it — to require people to find out all sorts of information about them, on penalty of being accused of a thought or speech crime and then cancelled. It seems outrageous to me that some stranger would be required to prep for conversation by investigating my history — that my family are Eastern European Jews, that old friends call me “Flamey” or “Flame-o,” that I eat keto, that I blah, blah, blah, blah, blah — and that they would be seen as disrespectful and even bigoted for failing to find out all the ways I’m (heh) unique and special.
But that’s what we’re requiring people to do with this notion that we have to ask “what is your preferred pronoun?” And again, this is done now with threats embedded — with the threat that you will lose your job and be deemed a bigot if you don’t make this “What’s your pronoun?” business a priority.
Oh, and I will be very clear on this again: If you want me to call you “zhe” or “they” or “lemon pie with a slight dusting of confectioner’s sugar on top,” I will do my best to remember that and do it, because it’s kind. But I think the considerations above are important, and I think it’s too easy to just accept the demand to ask people for their “pronouns” as a requirement for being considered decent — with the possible penalty of losing everything as the penalty for failing in some way, even by forgetting.
4. On that “most cases” stat…You can mark down any pundit (or Facebook friend) who gloats about the official U.S. tally of Wuhan virus cases making it the most infected nation in the world as fitting neatly into the topic of this recent post. (Paul Krugman’s latest column does this. Of course. Res ipsa loquitur.) This is the price the US pays for being a transparent society with a large population that is also the most mobile and free in the world. Nobody knows what the real tally is in China, or Russia. The outbreak is just getting started in India. Meanwhile, the partisan use of the virus to impugn leadership is the ultimate boomerang: all of the cites with the worst level of infections are Democratic-run. As one unkind pundit on the right pointed out with a map of case clusters, Deranged Washington Post pundit Jennifer Rubi’s prediction that more Republicans than Democrats would die in the pandemic (because, she said, the Republican were following Fox News) seems like longshot. At this point, the most cases per capita are in New York, Massachusetts, Washington State, New Jersey and Louisiana, with the highest concentration in cities run by Democratic mayors.