Mao’s Moment

Is there more to the Butterfly Theory than meets the eye of the logically challenged and intellectually dishonest? Jessica Valenti argues that the mass murder in Altanta confirms her priors about white men murdering women of color because of religion, as that’s the only tune she’s capable of playing. If neither facts nor logic play any role, and one is never pressed to actually show their work to back up their hysteria, aren’t they allowed “their truth”?

But the sudden concern for animus against Asians, which has yet to reach the inner sanctum of elite colleges refusing to admit curve-busting Asians based on their qualifications rather than let them take seats away from applicants who wouldn’t otherwise make the cut. has not only given rise to a new reason to blame white supremacy, even if most anti-Asian violence is committed by people who aren’t very white at all, but has sanitized criticism of a foreign nation. China, still communist after all these years, as the people of Hong Kong found out, is now off limits.

Cock swaddle, you say? University of San Diego prof Tom Smith did, and a shitstorm ensued.

If you believe that the coronavirus did not escape from the lab in Wuhan, you have to at least consider that you are an idiot who is swallowing whole a lot of Chinese cock swaddle. At least Peter Daszak has good personal and financial reasons, not to mention reasons of career preservation, for advancing what he must know is a facially implausible thesis. But whatever. Go Science!

He added an update after temperature rose.

UPDATE: It appears that some people are interpreting my reference to “Chinese cock swaddle,” as a reference to an ethnic group. That is a misinterpretation. To be clear, I was referring to the Chinese government.

On the one hand, this shouldn’t have been necessary, as no one who cared to think would have confused the Chinese government with Asian Americans. On the other hand, anyone who believes that any challenge or criticism of China is a “dog whistle” or cause of anti-Asian hatred isn’t going to care.

Naturally, Smith’s university reacted to the emotions of the mob rather than the intellect of its academic.

And yet Prof. Smith is now being investigated by the law school, and the “Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA) and the USD School of Law Student Bar Association are calling on law school and university officials to fire the professor who they say used racist language when talking about the coronavirus and China.”

Is criticizing a communist government now “racist language”? A butterfly flapped its wings and if you’re paranoid enough, it means anything you want it to mean.

The University of San Diego School of Law is aware of the blog post of the faculty member.

While the blog is not hosted by the University of San Diego, these forms of bias, wherever they occur, have an adverse impact on our community. It is especially concerning when the disparaging language comes from a member of our community. A core value of the University of San Diego School of Law is that all members of the community must be treated with dignity and respect. University policies specifically prohibit harassment, including the use of epithets, derogatory comments, or slurs based on race or national origin, among other categories.

Two points of note in this message sent to the law school community: the first is that Smith’s use of “Chinese cock swaddle,” (a vulgarity chosen in place of the even more vulgar “bullshit”) was a form of bias, a slur or epithet. The second is that it disparages people of Chinese ancestry, presumably because the word “Chinese” is in there.

To their credit, other USD law profs sent a letter to their dean about these “issues.”

The faculty member in question made a political comment in forceful language. He has the right and perhaps the obligation as a citizen and an academic to comment on matters of public concern such as the Chinese government’s handling of COVID, and to do so in evocative and forceful language. No fair, much less lawyerly way of reading what he wrote would conclude anything other than that “Chinese cock swaddle” was referring to propaganda of the Chinese government and surely not denigrating people of Chinese origin or descent. The context makes this perfectly clear.

This is one of those things that’s too obvious to say, and yet they said it because it had to be said because being “perfectly clear” doesn’t count for much anymore. When it comes to criticizing Russia, it’s all fine, since Russians are white and Putin backed Trump anyway, so screw him. But China?

The problem is the word. Trump emphasized “Chy-na” to deflect responsibility from his failings by blaming them on the hated commies. The backlash, which was hardly new as anti-Asian animus existed long before Trump even if certain cohorts didn’t care much about it until it served their greater good, is to connect any use of the word to the transient concern for the least-favored “people of color,” who are only “of color” when it serves the cause.

The conflation of words is nothing new to social justice. Remember when the phrase “house master” had to be eliminated from colleges as the word “master” was reminiscent of slavery, even if the phrase had nothing whatsoever to do with slavery? But it sounds the same, and that’s more than anyone could stand.

But the consequence is different when it involves a country, particularly one with whom our political and economic, not to mention health, existence is in tension. Can we no longer speak ill of China without invoking the outrage of the unduly passionate’s sudden concern for Asian Americans? Is China above reproach lest some wag scream “dog whistle”? Perhaps if we stop calling it by its name and instead complain of “the big nation with a lot of people between Russia and Myanmar,” we can call it out?

It might lack the punch of calling out China, but think of the many Asian Americans who could be beaten and killed if geopolitics isn’t dictated by the our most fragile sensibilities? As long as we don’t let them into Harvard and Yale, what do we care if Mao finally won the Cultural Revolution?

21 thoughts on “Mao’s Moment

  1. DaveL

    It’s long been known in military circles that China considers psychological or information warfare to be central to its overall national security strategy. And their efforts in this regard are accordingly massive. We’ve spent the last four years hearing all about Russian disinformation campaigns, Russian attempts to influence elections, Russian efforts to destabilize American society. We’ve heard virtually nothing about Chinese influence campaigns.

    So maybe this idea that criticizing the Chinese government is racist and therefore forbidden arose organically out of American “woke” culture, and it’s purely coincidence that it inures to the benefit of one of the largest psy-op forces in the world. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

    1. SHG Post author

      If it’s good psy-ops, who would be able to tell? More importantly, if it inures to their benefit, does it matter?

  2. B. McLeod

    It has never been apparent to me how someone saying COVID-19 came from China somehow gets construed as advocacy for violence against Asian American Pacific Islanders. This is nuts, and only gets by because our politicians, media and universities are also nuts.

  3. Steve White

    I fear an unholy alliance between the Democrats and The Chinese Communist Party has been formed around this issue.
    Biden and Harris flew to Atlanta to make speeches about it – and Harris’ speech seemed to blame Trump pretty explicitly, but without actually naming him.
    The Trump DOJ had sued schools for their Asian quota systems, discrimination based on race, and Biden ended that lawsuit. I believe Biden must have received some strong negative feedback for that action, and since he was not willing to reverse course on it, sought out a reason for Asians to vote against Republicans in the future.
    So, tell them if they vote Republican, they will get killed. It’s bad to not get into the school you earned, but worse to get killed, so the Dems can run on the lesser of evils platform.
    But Trump is the bad guy only if his criticisms of the Chinese government were attacks on Asian Americans, or at least caused some people to attack Asian Americans. There is no evidence for this as best I can see, but Harris explicitly claimed “scapegoating” in her speech. That was clearly a deliberate lie.

    The Chinese government of course has similar motivations to make Trump’s criticisms of them be viewed as merely racism against Asian which can be completely disregarded.

    I truly fear for our sovereignty and survival as a nation. Looking at history, it appears the first element of colonization was the colonizers exacerbating internal conflicts so they did not face united opposition. Divide and Conquer. I am particularly upset they are peddling this right after they won. Is there any point at which is it more important to unify the country than get more votes?

    PS – on the ideas the Professor expressed, after a heck of a lot of reading about this, as best I can tell, it is reasonable to believe the virus was the product of Gain of Function research, at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and escaped from there. Whether this happened or not may never be known for sure – but examining Gain of Function research and particularly the decision to fund Gain of Function research in China is not just our right, but our duty, to make sure an escape does not happen – or does not happen again.

  4. Paleo

    Another example of our current state. Racism has decreased so much across my lifetime to the point that, even though it’s still here, there’s not nearly enough to go around. So we’ve got to fabricate it.

    So we go crazy when a white girl wears cornrows. A blue collar worker hangs an ok sign outside his car window and loses his job. A white guy shoots up some massage parlors and says “nope, no racial motivation” and we scream about white supremacy.

    Or we turn an obvious criticism against the CCP into racism against Asians. Note that the same people complaining about this are the ones who say that criticizing the government of Israel is not anti-Semitic. Because objective rules can’t be applied objectively or their philosophy would fall apart.

    1. SHG Post author

      In the quest to prove one’s bona fide virtue, finding new examples of racism requires people to dig ever deeper, seeking out racism where no man has ever gone before.

  5. Curtis

    There is a lot of hatred among Asian countries and Asian people. A lot Americans of Vietnamese, Laotian, Taiwanese and Indian descent love insults these directed at Chinese people and especially their government.

    Since half the world lives in Asia, there is a heckuva lot of diversity in the word “Asian.”

    1. SHG Post author

      As I wrote about earlier, there’s a good deal of intramural hatred among different Asian peoples (as with most others). It must suck for them to be grouped together knowing how much disdain they have for each other.

  6. Dan J

    >Remember when the phrase “house master” had to be eliminated from colleges as the word “master” was reminiscent of slavery, even if the phrase had nothing whatsoever to do with slavery?

    A depressing addition to the list: houses no longer have “master bedrooms.” They now have “Owner Suites” or simply “Primary bedrooms.”

    1. Rengit

      In the pursuit of gender equality, I can see that using the term “mistress bedroom” would have had unfortunate connotations.

  7. KP

    “Perhaps if we stop calling it by its name and instead complain of “the big nation with a lot of people between Russia and Myanmar,” we can call it out?”

    How’d that work for the person-that-cannot-be-named in the woodpile ? I’m sure they’ve all become quite different people now they are referred to by some politically-correct phrase.

    We could try “the country of the sacred earth and divine land” (Chixian Shenzhou) as it used to be named, and see if it makes a difference. As they were probably writing it down while we were grubbing around waiting for the bronze age, I don’t think they will be interested in what we call them.

  8. Bryan Burroughs

    Speaking of “their truth,” I actually heard a guest on a local NPR affiliate yesterday declare that her perceived reality trumped actual reality. The host made the grave sin of stating that the motives of the Atlanta shootings weren’t immediately clear and it might be too early to declare it a hate crime. She pushed back immediately and said that she was tired of having people tell her what was and wasn’t a hate crime, that she was able to decide that based on her own feelings and perceptions of reality, and we shouldn’t listen to the shooter’s statements because he was a mass murderer. The other guest, a professor of race relations, wasn’t any more helpful. The host had no clue how to respond.

  9. John Holden

    Does no one else think that “swaddle” is a misspelling of “wattle,” an actual part of a rooster that people eat? And thus a reference to the stereotype that Chinese people eat weird stuff?

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