Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Heather MacDonald, a right-winger widely respected as an intellectual, has now weighed in on Ebola, and her conclusion is just a seemingly high-minded version of what Keith Ablow was ranting about last week: she believes that we're at risk of Ebola exposure because the public health field is lousy with anti-colonialism, or something very similar:
The public-health establishment has unanimously opposed a travel and visa moratorium from Ebola-plagued West African countries to protect the U.S. population. To evaluate whether this opposition rests on purely scientific grounds, it helps to understand the political character of the public-health field. For the last several decades, the profession has been awash in social-justice ideology. Many of its members view racism, sexism, and economic inequality, rather than individual behavior, as the primary drivers of differential health outcomes in the U.S. According to mainstream public-health thinking, publicizing the behavioral choices behind bad health -- promiscuous sex, drug use, overeating, or lack of exercise -- blames the victim.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthy Communities Program, for example, focuses on "unfair health differences closely linked with social, economic or environmental disadvantages that adversely affect groups of people." CDC's Healthy People 2020 project recognizes that "health inequities are tied to economics, exclusion, and discrimination that prevent groups from accessing resources to live healthy lives," according to Harvard public-health professor Nancy Krieger....

The public-health profession has a clear political orientation, so it's quite possible that its opposition to a visa and travel moratorium is influenced as much by belief in America's responsibility for the postcolonial oppression of Africa, and suspicion of American border enforcement, as it is by a commitment to public-health principles of containment and control.
MacDonald starts by telling us that a couple of CDC health programs don't want to address the problems caused by certain personal behaviors -- but if you look at them, you see that they're very much focused on overeating and lack of exercise. What they're not focused on is blaming individuals for eating poorly, or for not being active. The point of the programs is to nudge people toward healthier habits, and make exercise options and better food more readily available. I'm not sure exactly how a finger-wagging focus on "individual behavior" would work -- public shaming? scarlet letters? signs hung around fat people's necks in the public square? -- nor do I understand how it would improve public health. But it sure would help divide the country into the worthy and the unworthy, which is the kind of sorting that's the basis of all modern conservatism.

MacDonald goes on to discuss other ways in which the evil liberals of public health have failed to sort the citizenry into the saved and the damned:
During the height of the AIDS epidemic, the public-health profession abjured any focus on abstinence as a means of stopping the spread of the disease. This silence was contrary to decades of public-health response to venereal disease, which stressed individual responsibility, as well as contact tracing, to prevent further infections.
Oh, right -- instead of recommending safe sex, the public health community should have told high-risk groups to give up sex altogether -- presumably forever, since it's a quarter century after the first AIDS diagnosis and we still don't have a cure. I assume this would include entire entire African heterosexual populations, although I assume MacDonald is thinking more about those awful gays.
The American Journal of Public Health recently published a study coauthored by Columbia University professor and longtime police critic Jeffrey Fagan arguing that young black men who have been stopped and questioned by the New York Police Department suffer from stress and anxiety. The more times an individual gets stopped, Fagan claims, the more stress he may feel. The study did not consider whether individuals who have been stopped numerous times by the police may be anxious because they are gang members operating in a world where retaliatory shootings are common.
Right -- all Those People are in gangs, so stress them out as much as you want. It's cool. They're used to it.

The idea undergirding all this is that authorities should respond to every societal problem by punishing someone, a necessity liberal squishes just don't recognize. In the case of travelers from West Africa -- the overwhelming majority of whom are disease-free -- I guess the "individual behavior" they're being punished for is not having the moral fiber to be born in a white First World country.


Victor said...

I love that "Anti-colonialist" line!

Another, more high-brow way of saying "N*GGER!!!"

Philo Vaihinger said...

I have no idea why she concedes everybody in public health opposes travel restrictions. From what I have seen the field is divided, as are medical professionals in general. After all, the chief point at issue is whether this would excessively burden necessary movement of supplies and people to fight the outbreak, and that is a logistical question, not a medical one.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Wait, perhaps she concedes the point so that she can complain about it, blaming sinister influence of lefty ideology.

Leo Artunian said...

I seem to remember that the chief response to venereal disease was not abstinence, but safe sex, specifically the use of condoms. Men of a certain generation will remember "For prevention of disease only" on vending machines in gas station men's rooms.

Glennis said...

the public health community should have told high-risk groups to give up sex altogether

That plan has such a well-documented track record....

Jebediah, RBG said...

"The public-health profession has a clear political orientation"

Health professionals seem, to her, to have a clear political orientation only because her own political orientation is so invested in punishing the poor and minorities. She simply can't understand their non-punitive, results-oriented approach.
And the logical leap she makes next deserves credit - its the equivalent of jumping the Grand Canyon on rollerskates.