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Covid-19 is the fault of others, like many other epidemics in history

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

Mats Paulsen The great powers in the world blame each other for the pandemic. A quick look in history shows a circus of blame games when it comes to epidemic or a disease. By Mats Paulsen

There are many examples. - In the early 1980s, AIDS was called GRID - Gay Related Immune Disorder. Some immediately spoke of the "gay epidemic" or the “gay plague”.

The flu pandemic of 1918/19 is forever linked to Spain's name, although it did not start there. In Anglo-Saxon language places, rubella is still called German measles. In parts of Africa, Covid-19 is mentioned as "white man's disease". Asian-looking people are pointed at as disease spreaders.

Trump blames WHO and China. He have called Covid-19 the “Chinese disease”.

When things get bad and difficult to grasp the reflex is often: Blame others. This primal behavior is evident during epidemics.

When confronted by new and frightening illnesses, people can create scapegoats as a totally misguided means of coping with fear, focusing blame and bolstering prejudices”, writes the respected history hub ‘Brought to Life, Exploring the History of Medicine’.

Syphilis is another circled and evident example. The British called syphilis “the French disease”. The French put the blame on the Italians and vice versa. The Dutch blamed the Spanish, while the Russians blamed the Poles. In Japan, the Portuguese were at fault. The Turks called it “the Christian disease”. In Tahiti, it was known to islanders as “the British disease”.

And often marginal groups, minorities and the poor are the targets. Like when Jews were blamed for the Black Death. And the immigrant Irish workers were accused for the cholera epidemics in the 1830s.

Another example from ‘Brought to Life’ is not that old. Early in the last century, American researchers blamed syphilis on what they perceived as a racial weakness. It was a ‘black disease’. 400 black men carrying the disease were kept under observation but left untreated for decades.

Now its all about Covid-19. More scapegoats will be found.

Via Google we have all the knowledge of the world at our fingertips. So we should know better. But we still point fingers to others. And with the power of digital communication available to all blame can spread and magnify quickly.


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