Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why H1N1 and not "Swine Flu"?

There has been a lot of discussion about H1N1 over the last 10 months, or so. But before it was referred to by its real name, the H1N1 virus, it was commonly called the "Swine Flu" virus. Now, there are a lot of reasons why this name has been propagated, and most of the responsibility falls on the 24-hour media apparatus that so invades our vocabulary. The term "swine" flu, without a doubt increases the sense of urgency, the sense of unhygienic and latent danger that catapulted so many in our area to protect themselves against the virus.

And of course, Passport Health does provide those services and vaccines that protect the individual from the very real medical threat of the H1N1 virus. But we are asking you to think about the way "swine" flu has twisted off the base of concrete-medical concern and latches on to the average person's fear via the very disgraceful and bigoted assumptions in language that Swine flu fosters.

If the reader would, remember the panic that the out-break of H1N1 created. Now, remember that most news sources referred to it by its nickname Swine Flu, remember that it had "originated" in Mexico and made its way to North America... (of course, it did *not* originate in Mexico, but rather in Asia; we will not dwell on this fact, however).

It takes a rather large philosophical investment for a reader to argue that the connection between "swine flu" and Mexico did not already target some very sensitive (albeit unsaid, latently anticipated) connections between the word "Mexican" and the word "swine."

To make matters all the more apparent, the common belief was that travelers had brought the virus into the United States after vacationing... or was it a Mexican immigrant, himself? Anyway, the virus was originally transmitted from the pig to the person in Mexico (furthering this all but unsaid social comment on the cleanliness of the Mexican population), had incubated in the south and spread disease among the Americans in the north. See any parallels to many economic "dispositions"?

Of course, implicitly offensive terms like Swine Flu trickle down through the news sources that most of the population rely on for their information, and it is used day in and day out, just like any other term, until the public "forgets" its real content and implications, and denies any real malevolence in the phrase. This is understandable to a degree, since the average public never meant to use it as an offensive parallel;

but if the reader will notice that around late summer, the media began to alter its reference--from Swine Flu to H1N1. Now, whether this is a tactic to make the same old story (still dangerous, in fact, more likely to upsurge) sound new via a "new" name, or due to the obviously bigoted connations, Swine Flu for a large part became H1N1.

The sad thing is, this difference in terminology in the media does not mean a conversion in terminology for the general public. Now, if anything, the two words are used interchangeably, and often together.

I don't think this is a matter of being "politically correct," but to be sure we live in a politically correct time. I will leave you with twp last questions, however; is it so wrong to wish that people did not accept the offensive and bigoted terms passed down by news sources attempting to sell a permanent brand of national panic?

Is it so outlandish to think that the apparatus that most people openly acknowledge to purposefully propagate a continuous feeling of "high-drama news" that it would *not* implicitly build its story on the already-existing political tensions of national immigration and local employment by specifically linking the concept of Mexican swine and American security?

Is it really so nuts to attempt to respect everyone? If that makes Passport Health "p.c." well, then that's okay by us.