Though the swine flu itself is not spreading as fast as anyone feared, the epidem-mythology hasn’t slowed. The misinformation has spread from pork manufacturers to subway riders to the entire nation of Mexico. It’s not just the Israeli government who would prefer to associate the H1N1 flu strain with the Mexicans than with swine. China has put a number of Mexican citizens essentially under house arrest, on fears of swine flu, and has even sent a plane to Mexico to extract Chinese nationals from the country. Mexico is understandably upset.
And now there’s the Bloomberg-appointed New York City government official Betsy Perry, who wrote a Mexico-bashing article in the Huffington Post, in which she called it a country of “guns, drugs, kidnappings and swine flu.” Perry resigned from her committee post today after protests by Mexican-Americans.
The swine flu, it should be clear, has nothing to do with Mexicans–just ask the Fort Dix personnel in New Jersey, where the first epidemic hit in 1976. That story, by the way, came with its own attendant fearmongering, as reported this weekend by the always-shrewd mythographers over at NPR’s On the Media. Check out their story here.
Today is Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates an unlikely Mexican victory over much larger and more powerful force (the French, in 1862). Here’s hoping they win this PR battle just as decisively.