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We need to verbally distance ourselves from Trump

Do NOT insert phrases like ‘China virus’ or ‘Chinese virus’ into your think-pieces

March 22, 2020

11:55 AM

22 March 2020

11:55 AM

For the past few days on his Twitter feed, Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to the COVID-19 pandemic as ‘the Chinese virus’ or ‘the China virus’. In almost every press conference he has attended, he has doggedly used the terms ‘China virus’ and ‘Chinese virus’, despite criticism. I cannot stress enough how important it is that the media refrains from co-opting these shockingly racist epithets.

It’s obvious to me why Trump is doing this. He hopes that by using the terms ‘China virus’ and ‘Chinese virus’, journalists will be forced to repeat them, and before we realize the damage we are causing, all media outlets will be publishing articles containing the phrases ‘China virus’ and ‘Chinese virus’ until it seeps into the language of the general population, infecting the minds of people who would otherwise have called it by the correct name of COVID-19, instead of saying ‘China virus’ (or ‘Chinese virus’).

It’s depressing to witness that to some degree his plan is working. I have seen at least a dozen fellow journalists including the term ‘Chinese virus’ in their negative opinion pieces about Trump, and a fair few more have written about the many times Trump has referred to it as the ‘China virus’. 

Be sensible and think logically about this, for the public good. Every time you use the phrases ‘China virus’ and ‘Chinese virus’ in a news article or blog, no matter how much you disapprove of their usage, you are infecting at least three more journalists who will then go on to write more articles containing the words ‘China virus’ or ‘Chinese virus’. This then spreads further to other media outlets such as CNN, Sky News (Fox News tested positive weeks ago) and salon.com. Before you know it, hundreds of journalists and newscasters are repeatedly using the terms ‘China virus’ and ‘Chinese virus’ which then spreads these terms across the general population, many of them already high-risk MAGA hat wearers. To date the stats are: 2,634 journalists in the US have used at least one of these phrases, in the UK 357 opinion pieces have tested positive, and more than 6,500 blogs worldwide are suspected. If we don’t flatten the curve now, this time next week we could be looking at a global disaster.

Some people have been questioning why Trump’s use of ‘Chinese virus’ and ‘China virus’ is so problematic and it really grinds my gears that I even need to explain this: it just is. Think about it, it’s like calling the 1918 flu pandemic (the Spanish flu) ‘the Spanish flu’! How ludicrous would that be? We haven’t referred to the deadly influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 as ‘the Spanish flu’ since two weeks ago, so if anyone even called it that right now, nobody would know what they were talking about.

So please, please I implore you all, do not fall into his trap. STOP spreading his poisonous words, use verbal distancing measures, and by this, I mean do NOT insert phrases like ‘China virus’ or ‘Chinese virus’ into your think-pieces, no matter how relevant you think it might be. We must suppress and contain it. Only then will Donald Trump stop calling it the ‘Chinese virus’ (or ‘China virus’) because his attempts to turn his racism into a pandemic will have failed miserably.

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