28 April 2009
Idiot of the Week: Epidemic Edition
Our first nominee is Yakov Litzman, an Israeli public health official who urges the world to rename the swine flu. That labelling of the potentially deadly virus, which has its origins in pigs, is offensive to both Jews and Muslims, the official notes generously, because both faiths regard the pig as an unclean animal. Well, the existence of swine flu might seem to confirm their ancient viewpoint, but I'm still baffled by the notion that naming it for swine somehow makes a virus more objectionable. You'll have problems enough if you catch it, but now you want to worry that it makes you unclean? That can't help but sound redundant to sensible people. But the topper that may clinch the award for this bureaucrat is his helpful suggestion that, in deference to the cultural sensitivities of Semites, the virus be renamed the Mexican flu. I imagine that those might be fighting words south of the border, or at least a good reason to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Tel Aviv, with plenty of sneezing.