Yesterday, amid the ongoing economic and social disruptions caused by the coronavirus, rising numbers of infections and deaths globally, and widespread closures of schools and other extreme measures imposed across the country, the mainstream media decided we should have a national debate about whether it’s racist for President Trump to call it the “Chinese virus.”
In what can only be described as a moment of unconscious self-parody, the media pretended not to understand why Trump would refer to the virus in geographic terms—as if they’d never heard of the Spanish Flu, West Nile Virus, Ebola, Zika, Lyme Disease, or the many other diseases named for their places of origin. As if they haven’t been doing the same thing for months.
Why? Because the mainstream media’s ranks are populated by biased hacks who don’t care half as much about reporting accurately on the Wuhan coronavirus as they care about making Trump seem like a racist.
“Why do you keeping calling it the Chinese virus?” asked a seemingly indignant and bewildered Cecilia Vega of ABC News during Trump’s press briefing yesterday, citing “dozens of incidents of bias against Chinese Americans in this country.” Isn’t this racist? Trump’s answer was straightforward and bone-crushingly obvious: “Because it comes from China. It’s not racist at all, it comes from China. That’s why. It comes from China. I want it to be accurate.”
Trump has a point about accuracy. Indeed, “Chinese” is not a race but a nationality, like “American.” And of course in the phrase “Chinese virus,” the word “Chinese” is an adjective modifying the noun “virus.”
But set all that aside. Watching the exchange above, you have to wonder: Is there no one in the White House press corps who’s willing to pull Vega aside and implore her to not do this sort of thing on national television? Is there no one who will politely tell her she’s making a fool of herself, and in the process making the entire press corps look ridiculous?
Apparently not. If anything, Vega’s penchant for performative outrage and concern trolling is shared by many of her colleagues. Later in the same briefing, a reporter asked the president about some unnamed White House official reportedly using the term “Kung Flu,” which Trump had apparently never heard before and asked the reporter to repeat, which she did without missing a beat.
CLIP: President Trump is asked about the term 'Kung Flu'
Watch complete news conference here: https://t.co/GwQnJ0pwmo pic.twitter.com/ElDbKUvrgU
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 18, 2020
The fun was just beginning. After the briefing, reporters and pundits scurried back to their studios and newsrooms to compose serious monologues and straight-shooting explainers about the dangers of scapegoating and racism in times of crisis. Vox, as expected, churned out an article about how “Trump’s new fixation on using a racist name for the coronavirus is dangerous.”
Over at The Atlantic, which has been dutifully regurgitating Chinese Communist Party propaganda for weeks now, James Fallows tut-tutted over the phrase while Graeme Wood, seeing an opportunity to sneer at Trump voters, declared Trump’s use of “Chinese virus” meant that Trump was “retreating, like a child to his blanket, to the kind of degenerate culture-war squabble in which he feels most secure and his supporters most aggrieved.”
NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel outdid them all, earnestly reminding his viewers that scapegoating was a real problem “in the Middle Ages,” and that Trump, you see, is scapegoating Chinese people by calling this the Chinese virus. “This is a bat virus, not a China virus,” he said. “It doesn’t speak Chinese. It doesn’t target Chinese people.”
NBC News’ @RichardEngel:
“This is a virus that came from the territory of China but came from bats. This is a bat virus, not a China virus. It doesn't speak Chinese. It doesn't target Chinese people. It targets human beings…”
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) March 18, 2020
Great story, Richard. Compelling, and rich.
Do The Media Care About Reality?
Listening to these people, you realize they’re far more riled up about Trump saying the words “Chinese virus” than they are about the Chinese Communist Party covering up the disease for months, allowing millions of people from virus-affected areas to travel overseas, silencing doctors who tried to get the word out, spreading lies about how the virus originated in the United States, and expelling the American press from the country this week.
Those are all things the national press could be legitimately upset and outraged about. You might think they would be interested in reporting and commenting on such things. Instead, we’re treated to asinine lectures about xenophobia that the blue-check media don’t even believe themselves.
The disingenuousness lately has been appalling. Just a few days ago, David Frum, responding to a tweet about Trump’s use of “Chinese virus,” averred that no one even uses the phrase “Spanish Flu” anymore, when Frum himself used it in 2016
Or at least not since 2016, when @davidfrum called it the Spanish Flu. https://t.co/vSiwafzJ9w pic.twitter.com/bpobHu8xNp
— John Daniel Davidson (@johnddavidson) March 17, 2020
So please, media, enough of this. We all know what the president means when he says “Chinese virus,” and so do you.
If you’re going to get upset about something right now, while we’re in the middle of global pandemic that’s about to destroy the economy, pick something that actually matters and stop wasting everyone’s time trying to prove Trump is a racist for calling the coronavirus what we all know it is: a virus that came from China.