Don’t Blame Bat Soup for the Coronavirus

Don’t Blame Bat Soup for the Coronavirus

Racist memes target Chinese eating habits, but the real causes of the virus are more mundane.

As news of the novel coronavirus spread online, one video became emblematic of its claimed origin: It showed a young Chinese woman, supposedly in Wuhan, biting into a virtually whole bat as she held the creature up with chopsticks. Media outlets from the Daily Mail to RT promoted the video, as did a number of prominent extremist bloggers such as Paul Joseph Watson. Thousands of Twitter users blamed supposedly “dirty” Chinese eating habits—in particular the consumption of wildlife—for the outbreak, said to have begun at a so-called wet market that sold animals in Wuhan, China.

There was just one problem. The video wasn’t set in Wuhan at all, where bat isn’t a delicacy. It wasn’t even from China. Instead it showed Wang Mengyun, the host of an online travel show, eating a dish in Palau, a Pacific island nation. Sampling the bat was simply an addition to the well-trodden cannon of adventurism and enthusiasm for unusual foods that numerous American chefs and travel hosts have shown in the past.

At a time of heightened fear over a viral pandemic, the Palau video has been deployed in the United States and Europe to renew an old narrative about the supposedly disgusting eating habits of foreigners, especially Asians. Images of Chinese people or other Asians eating insects, snakes, or mice frequently circulate on social media or in clickbait news stories. This time, that was mixed with another old racist idea: that the “dirty” Chinese are carriers of disease. Many Americans long believed that, as the New York Daily Tribune wrote in 1854, Chinese people were “uncivilized, unclean, filthy beyond all conception.” Today, those same ideas have often been transferred to other groups such as South American refugees, yet they still persist in the way some Westerners think about China.

READ MORE: https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/27/coronavirus-covid19-dont-blame-bat-soup-for-the-virus/

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