Swine Flu, Cultural Sensitivity, and a slight lack thereof:

The BBC is reporting that some people are not thrilled about calling the influenza virus that's currently causing alarm around the world "swine flu". Unfortunately, there's a slight possibility that the alternative suggestion wasn't entirely well thought out.

One Monday, Israel's deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, who belongs to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect, said the outbreak should be renamed "Mexican flu" in deference to Jewish and Muslim sensitivities over pork.

Anyone else just facepalm?


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What the how??

Why does it bother them that a disease is named after an animal that their religion considers unclean?

And why on earth aren't they seizing the opportunity to parade around saying "See? Didn't we say they were unclean all along?"?

*facepalm* indeed.

By konrad_arflane (not verified) on 28 Apr 2009 #permalink

The disgusting fact is that this religious wacko is a deputy Health Minister.

Well, the flu originated in Mexico....you know, I can't even try to get sarcastic enough for that idiot. Sometimes all you can do is shake your head. Maybe he's saying they'd rather be infected by a Mexican than a swine? I think the tortured "logic" is that if it is from a swine, people who are infected by it are therefore unclean? Maybe?

If you believe in things you can't understand, it's superstition.
--loosely, from Stevie Wonder

I don't know why you people think this is magic. It's just this little chromium switch here. *click* Oh, you people are so superstitious.
--slightly less loosely from Firesign Theatre

More than this, you know there's nothing
More than this.
--Roxy Music

Sometimes I just want to stop. Tell me this is not one of them.

By Crudely Wrott (not verified) on 28 Apr 2009 #permalink

And of course, people will be less concerned about suffering from a virus that at one time originated in swine if only they're not reminded of this by the name of said virus? Or something?

I just can't quite get past the form-over-substance....
At least I understand why the pork/bacon/ham industry is concerned about the name - advertising is all about names and associations.

But to think that people will feel unclean if they have a virus *named* for the animal it originated from, regardless of whether or not the virus actually originated there....

There's nothing resembling a halachic rational for this. This is pretty crazy even by the ultra-Orthodox standards. Nor for that matter is there any reason under any form of Islamic law to have a problem with the name. This is just stupid.

Also, a friend suggested as other possible names to further emphasize the treif aspect of it: bacon bug. The sausage stew. The pork palsy. As long as we're going for non-kosher sounding diseases maybe the next one can be called the shellfish sarcoma?

Sorry, and other thought: Shouldn't the chareidim want to use the pork name because use of that name might reduce consumption of pork by non-chareidi?

But to think that people will feel unclean if they have a virus *named* for the animal it originated from, regardless of whether or not the virus actually originated there...

But the thing that gets me is that if you've got a virus, if you're *sick*, then you're *unclean*. One of the things traditionally done to the unclean in religions that concern themselves with such things is to quarantine them, y'know, like you'd do with someone suffering from a serious and highly infectious disease.

I really just don't get why this would even be a problem, even assuming that the most radically orthodox interpretations of Judaism or Islam are correct.

By konrad_arflane (not verified) on 28 Apr 2009 #permalink

There *is* a precedent with "Spanish Flu", but of course, this one is *already named*.

Most diseases get the name of the discoverer. If we are going to change the name, let us make an exception here and call it "Litzman Disease".

Over at Effect Measure I was trying to suggest the name "Oh-nine flu", which has the advantage of rhyming with Swine flu as well as being culturally neutral.

Talking of the 1918 'flu pandemic, I read somewhere that it only ended up being labelled "Spanish 'Flu" because the Spanish papers reported it widely, while the press in all the countries involved in WW1 were either told not to spread panic, or simply had other (war-related) fish to fry.

It's not kosher or halal to eat Mexicans, either.

Then again, when have religious conservatives been consistent?

By Nils Ross (not verified) on 16 May 2009 #permalink