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A Modest Proposal for containing Monkeypox

The WHO has proclaimed Monkeypox a global health emergency.

A major study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that Monkeypox is being driven overwhelmingly by sex between men. Yesterday the CDC reported the first two child monkeypox cases in the US:

“California toddler and an infant in D.C. were likely infected by ‘household contacts’ and both had contact with gay or bisexual men, CDC chief says”

Although the report is consistent with the study, I suspect Ian Miles Cheong thinks the phrase “between men may be understating the age range involved. “Are we allowed to ask any questions?”, he tweeted – to which the literal answer may be ‘no’, since Twitter has announced it will censor those who use the word ‘Groomers’, and I suggest the question Ian has not (yet) asked might involve that word.

However, I have a question – a modest proposal (and it truly is modest, as it would be dishonestly vain of me to pretend it was my idea; I owe it all to the inspiration of Professor Neil Ferguson and Dr Fauci).

Why don’t we just ban male homosexual sex – for three weeks “to Flatten the Curve” or fifteen days “to Slow the Spread” or whatever period sounds good? (How long hardly matters, provided it’s long enough to prepare a case for banning it for a lot longer. Here again, I must modestly disclaim all inventiveness of my own. I owe the idea of banning briefly, then using that time to get the ban extended to Dr Deborah Birx.)

Of course, such regulations reduce liberty – but surely global health experts have established beyond question these last two years that liberty can and should be sacrificed whenever the WHO declares a global health emergency.

Of course, Sweden claimed they would (and did) get a better outcome through doing much less by regulation, leaving far more of the distancing and restraint decisions to individual discretion – but the health authorities and media of most of the rest of the western political world treated the idea as ridiculous then, and do not call themselves ridiculous now.

So I put it to my readers that it would be absurd for those who guided us through the last pandemic not to enact my modest proposal for handling this one (especially as the rules would be easier to draft, since I’ve a vague notion that there’s an old law that could be revived to ban this unhealthy behaviour).

21 comments to A Modest Proposal for containing Monkeypox

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Regarding Swift’s original “Modest Proposal”, I must also commend to your attention the extension of it proposed by Lord Bathurst in a letter to Swift written in 1729 or 1730:

    The more I think upon this scheme, the more reasonable it appears to me; and it ought by no means to be confined to Ireland; for, in all probability, we shall, in a very little time, be altogether as poor here as you are there. I believe, indeed, we shall carry it farther, and not confine our luxury only to the eating of children; for I happened to peep the other day into a large assembly [Parliament] not far from Westminster-hall, and I found them roasting a great fat fellow, [ Walpole again ] For my own part, I had not the least inclination to a slice of him; but, if I guessed right, four or five of the company had a devilish mind to be at him.

    However that might fall foul of the strange modern tendency to consider some forms of redistribution as absolutely unthinkable, however great the benefit they might bring to the common weal.

  • Paul Marks

    Perhaps the most insane conspiracy theory was that the Democrats, the media, and the rest of the establishment, were trying to protect child sex abusers – it would be horrible if the most insane conspiracy theory turned out to be true.

  • Steph Houghton

    Natalie while I admire many things about the Dutch, I think their habit of eating politicians is not one to be emulated. After all I would not feast upon leaches, and politicians are a little to like for my taste.

  • Paul Marks

    The Netherlands?

    If a certain murdered political leader had lived, the Netherlands might have been saved.

    In politics – being murdered is the sincerest compliment, it means at least one person thought you could actually make a difference.

  • jon eds

    Surely it’s “4 weeks to break the back of..”

  • Myno

    Warning: if you cried that monkeypox would eventually be a danger to all, not just the immediate viral pool profile, and that hence all of us must refrain from any sexual contact (plus [American] football and wrestling matches) for “the short term”, the powers that be would take you seriously. The temptation to lock us all up in order to avoid burdening only a favored class would be more than they could resist.

  • Alexander Tertius Harvey

    Why not mandatory face masks for oral sex. You can never be too careful…

  • Fraser Orr

    Isn’t the argument for legal abortion that poor people cannot afford to support children they might have, really rather functionally equivalent to Swift’s Modest Proposal? This fact struck me as I was thinking about Niall’s comment. It reminds me of the fact that the problem with argumentum ad absurdum is that some people think the absurd is a jolly good idea.

    (FWIW, I am mostly in favor of women being able to have an abortion for much of their pregnancy — I never thought I’d say this — but I think the French have it about right.)

  • Fraser Orr (July 25, 2022 at 5:23 pm), I took the liberty of correcting your spelling of my name. 🙂

    I thought current French law allows abortion (without special cause) for 14 weeks, which is one week less than the state law the USSC upheld in overturning Roe v Wade, and less than half of 39 weeks. I thought this because it was frequently stated by commenters on President Macron’s presuming to criticise the USSC’s decision. (By all means advise me if those responders were wrong.)

    Good point about Swift’s proposal versus one of Planned Parenthood’s talking points. However I find the idea of eating someone much more revolting than the idea of killing someone, and this attitude to cannibalism is widespread – though very recently challenged by the New York Times, I hear.

  • bobby b

    Functionally, if we’re selling fetal parts for medical use, aren’t we cannibals already? We’re just skipping the actual swallowing part.

    (As a practical matter, I’d go along with that 15 week cutoff. But the idea of profiting from the practice makes the concern of a coarsening of our outlook on life into a real thing. How long until we start basic economic calculations about what, really, granny brings to the table at her advanced age?)

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b, TBH I’m not opposed to selling fetal parts for medical use for the same reason I am not opposed to selling body parts from willing participants — a change that would solve the transplant organ shortage overnight. Certainly it is macabre, but it is also potentially useful without necessarily doing any harm. However, it enters a complicated system of judgement of WHY the fetal parts are being sold. What purpose are they being put to. Are women getting pregnant and aborting babies for the financial gain of the sale? That is pretty dreadful and should surely be both illegal and a violation of medical ethics for anyone who participates. Are we harvesting the organs of a much wanted but non viable pre-born baby to allow a newborn to live? Then it could be a godsend. If the baby is going to be aborted anyway, as transplant surgeons often say, you can’t take your organs to heaven with you.

    It is certainly a decidedly slippery slope, and the question of consent is particularly complicated. But if we can bring medical miracles out of tragedy then that surely goes some small way to ameliorate the pain.

    No doubt I’ll die one day. I sure hope they can recover some functioning parts from me to help another person. And if I were to suffer the unimaginable tragedy of the death of a child, something which I have not, I believe I would feel the same way about the body of that child.

    As to the usefulness of granny, especially when granny is gaga and can’t make decision for herself, then, once again, we are on a terribly slippery slope. But hopefully granny will have had the foresight to let her loved ones know her preferences. Hopefully she will have done so also before they start applying pressure on her to “die gracefully.” I know I have been very clear with my family on my wishes. I would certainly encourage everyone to have the kindness and foresight to do so with their families too, to relieve them of the burden of making some terrible decisions in a vacuum.

  • Fraser Orr

    BTW, to illustrate where my wandering mind goes, it strikes me that Swift’s “Modest Proposal” represents a kind of calorific perpetual motion machine. So not practical at all.

  • bobby b

    “Certainly it is macabre, but it is also potentially useful without necessarily doing any harm.”

    To me, the harm lies in how it skews the rationalization of the abortion itself. Think, Trolley Problem with a big cash incentive on one side. Important concepts that should be driving a decision are no longer the only drivers.

    I always understood the barrier to using medical knowledge gained by people like the camp Nazis. Yeah, useful, but we ought not ever grant any sanction to such acts. Fruit of the poisonous tree and all that.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . it strikes me that Swift’s “Modest Proposal” represents a kind of calorific perpetual motion machine. So not practical at all.”

    It’s like those cereal commercials, that always say “PART of this complete breakfast.” The Circle of Life always needs some outside energy to keep turning.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    I always understood the barrier to using medical knowledge gained by people like the camp Nazis. Yeah, useful, but we ought not ever grant any sanction to such acts. Fruit of the poisonous tree and all that.

    I think we use medical knowledge gained in the past in utterly unethical ways all the time. To give one example, the whole western foundation of vaccines is based on an experiment by Edward Jenner who injected an eight year old boy with a virus (cowpox) and then deliberately exposed him to smallpox, all without the boy even knowing what was happening, in fact he was the son of Jenner’s gardener, and so was basically coerced into participating. Fortunately the boy was saved and vaccines were invented. If a doctor did that today, he’d go to jail irrespective of the outcome. It is also worth noting that our entire space program was based on the work of a Nazi who spent his time designing weapons that killed thousands of civilians in wartime London.

    So I think we aren’t so squeamish about it. A lot of the Nazi data was dismissed more because the research was very poorly conducted, and apparently some of it has been used, such as their data on hypothermia, though no doubt with considerable wringing of hands.

  • More need for modesty on my part; it appears the Fauci/Ferguson-inspired idea – that the logic of lockdown says ban G and B – is occurring to others. 🙂

    On a more serious note,

    @bobby b, TBH I’m not opposed to selling fetal parts for medical use for the same reason I am not opposed to selling body parts from willing participants (Fraser Orr, July 26, 2022 at 1:07 am)

    On the one hand, I must remark that the analogy to “willing participants” fails rather extensively. Somewhere on the web (if it hasn’t been cancelled) there is a video made many years back by the first infant to survive abortion solely thanks to Reagan’s resuscitation law. As a grown woman, she made a video stressing her happiness to be alive and her gratitude to those who had brought in the law. Outside certain specific situations, this is what one should assume holds in the overwhelming majority of cases. So the analogy to the willing donor of an organ fails in a rather important way.

    On the other hand, I do see a point Fraser may legitimately be making, fully relevant to the emotional aspect of my earlier murder/cannibalism contrast. Just as our own willingness to kill people in war or execute them for crimes, but never to eat them, makes a murderer’s deed less vile to us than a cannibal’s, so our willingness to transplant willingly-donated organs makes China’s brutal harvesting of body parts from unwilling Uighurs seem less vile to us than if the Chinese were eating Uighurs, and likewise makes us react to Planned Parenthood’s sale of aborted body parts differently from if we saw a Veritas video of abortion theatre nurses snacking on them.

    However that relates more to emotions than to policy. I endorse bobby b’s argument about the moral hazard of profiting from abortions (I might persuaded to exempt any aborted result of rape from the ban).

    As regards data from the Nazi experiments, it has always seemed to me that the data belongs to the surviving relatives of the victims (since they are free from the aborting mother’s complicity) or, if that were practically hard to administer, to the Israeli state, who could then choose what to do with it. I have always seen it as culpable that Germany had not (last I looked, which was long ago) handed it all over to Israel and then deleted it from their own records.

    Lastly, Swift’s ‘modest proposal’ was for the eating of poor Irish (probably Catholic) children by people who could afford to buy them, so were not so poor (and by implication probably not Catholic and probably not Irish). The analogy is not to a perpetual motion machine but indeed to China’s elite and its consumption of Uighur body parts – with the sad addition that the horror of that in no way justifies regarding the idea as a satire that is not intended to be done or a propaganda claim that is not occurring right now. We cannot read the archives of the Chinese state today in the way we can those of the Nazi state, so we cannot read the directives on how the selections and allocations for organ harvesting shall be made, or the communist-theory justifications of why this should be done – but they exist.

  • Fraser Orr

    Niall Kilmartin
    On the one hand, I must remark that the analogy to “willing participants” fails rather extensively.

    I think though that we must draw a distinction between those who are willing to be killed, who are very few in number, and those who, predicated on their inevitable death, are willing to donate their organs, of which there are many.

    makes a murderer’s deed less vile to us than a cannibal’s

    This is a good point. We do have some rules about consumption that are culturally dependent. Some cultures did practice cannibalism. For some as an insult to those eaten such as enemies, and for some as an honor to those eaten, such as ancestors. We have weird food taboos in our culture. For example, we are happy to eat cows but horrified at eating horses, fine with eating pigs but shocked by eating pugs. I think outside of Donner party type extremis there are no cultures that practice cannibalism for nutrition though. It seems to be more of a symbolic gesture insofar as it is practiced. And so I think the horror of the nurse eating the body parts comes not because they are hungry but because they are deliberately violating the body of an innocent for no good reason. We are rightly horrified by this because its purpose is to horrify us. It is why they make movies about this stuff.

    However that relates more to emotions than to policy. I endorse bobby b’s argument about the moral hazard of profiting from abortions

    I think the argument of moral hazard is a slippery slope argument. If action A may lead to action B (bad) and also action G (good) should we bad A to prevent B at the cost of G? It is fodder for moralizing, preaching politicians. It is feedstock for tabloid journalism. This argument is often categorized as “what about the children?”, which has a certain irony in this case, but is one that we libertarians will often recognize as a very dangerous argument indeed.

    Lastly, Swift’s ‘modest proposal’ was for the eating of poor Irish (probably Catholic) children by people who could afford to buy them

    Ah, yes, I didn’t remember it accurately. So not a calorific perpetual machine after all.

  • […] A Modest Proposal for containing Monkeypox A true but tpngue in cheek proposal.  Most of us need not worry about monkeypox. WHO declares monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency after 5 deaths worldwide […]

  • Far from taking up my modest proposal, the New York City Health Department seems to think it is more important to warn against thinking about the principal infection vector than to deal with the disease.

    New York City Health Department Begs WHO to Rename Monkeypox Because It Stigmatizes Gay People

    To be fair, my modest proposal was entirely derived from techniques used two years ago, and another technique used two years ago was insisting on renaming the bug from ‘The Wuhan Flue’ to ‘Covid’ on the pretext that the popularly-derived name would cause prejudice.

    However The New York City Health is left standing by The San Francisco Aids Foundation. Andy Ngo quotes them

    The San Francisco Aids Foundation (@SFAIDSFound) has released a guide to having sex ahead of the #DoreAlley gay sex festival. The guide says if you have bumps on your skin & don’t know what they are, to cover them up & go have sex anyway.

    Also

    Mainstream journalists have adopted what critics are calling a “don’t say gay” approach to covering the monkeypox outbreak in the United States. The media’s coverage of monkeypox, which officials in New York and California have declared a threat to public health amid rising case numbers, has studiously avoided using the word “gay” when discussing the individuals who are most at risk of contracting the viral disease.

  • TDK

    Aids is pertinent.

    When Aids arrived in the 1980s it was known pretty quickly that this was mainly affecting gay men or less commonly woman who had sex with bisexual men. There was a public debate about whether to target advice to gay men specifically or to the general population. It was said to be homophobic to target gay men alone and so the condoms were recommended to all. Lots of demonstrations with bananas ensued.

    In the same way Niall instructing (advising?) gay men only to abstain would not fly.

  • Well, TDK, it certainly isn’t flying with the Washington Post or with CA Senator Scott Wiener, who tweeted, “We need a national mask mandate. Period.” less than two years ago but says says “If people want to have sex, they are going to have sex”, today. But (as my links show) it’s the grossness of the contrast that is not flying with others.

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