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Time: "The History of Quarantine Is the History of Discrimination"
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From Time:

The History of Quarantine Is the History of Discrimination
Mary Beth Keane @Mary_Beth_Keane Oct. 6, 2014

Mary Beth Keane is the author of Fever, a novel about Typhoid Mary.

Getting sick is not a crime, so how do we bridge the divide between protecting the public’s health and preserving individual civil liberties?

By now most people know that Thomas Eric Duncan is the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States, and that he’s being kept in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Recently arrived from Liberia, he was staying with four relatives when he became ill; for several days after Duncan’s diagnosis, these four most at risk remained trapped in their home, alone with the towels Duncan used when he bathed, the utensils he used to eat, the sheets he sweated through as his temperature rose. As of Friday morning, they’d been moved to a more remote location, also under armed guard, but where they are free to venture outside.

The word quarantine comes from the Italian quaranta, meaning forty, or the number of days ships had to remain isolated at sea before the people on board could go ashore during the height of the Black Plague, when as many as 50 million 14th century Europeans died. Here in the US, the use of quarantine as a public health tool has almost never been without controversy, mainly because the large-scale quarantines in our nation’s history have always meant taking a group of people, usually in the lowest income bracket or of the same minority group, and placing them apart. Looking at a history of quarantine means looking at a history of discrimination.

The most infamous case of involuntary isolation in the U.S. is that of Mary Mallon—better known in folklore as Typhoid Mary. Though her case hit the headlines in 1907, it becomes newly relevant whenever the U.S. faces a health crisis that pits protecting the public against an individual’s civil rights. Mallon, who arrived from Ireland as a teenager in 1883, was finding steady work cooking for New York City’s wealthiest families when an ambitious sanitary engineer identified her as the first healthy carrier of typhoid fever. The main difference between Mallon and Duncan is that Mallon was asymptomatic, and she claimed to have never had Typhoid fever. Doctors could prove she harbored the bacteria in her body, but acknowledged that in every way she was the picture of perfect health. Instead of trying to educate Mallon about her unique condition at a time when the average person knew so little about germs, the Department of Health along with the New York City Police Department showed up at the Upper East Side home where she was employed and arrested her without a warrant. “Typhoid Mary,” headlines read in newspapers all over the country; the nickname has survived far longer than any memory of who she really was.

Treated like a criminal even as health officials admitted that she harbored typhoid fever through no fault of her own; placed in forced isolation even as those same officials acknowledged that New York probably had hundreds if not thousands of healthy carriers moving about in the big city, her case was riddled with contradictions from the start. Stubborn and intelligent, the woman at the center of it all struck me from the beginning as a character I wanted to understand better; so much so that I ended up writing a novel about her life. After reading about the period for many months, it came to me: Mallon’s case was just as much about gender and class prejudices as it was about typhoid. Maybe more so.

Liberalism is freedom for aggression.

 
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  1. Did you see this: General who heads US Southern Command has some grave concerns re: Ebola and border security.

  2. In the words of the c19 Missouri philosopher William Munny: “We all have it coming”. If we’re lucky it’s a massive heart attack playing golf or walking the dog. Otherwise it’s a demented hell-hole called a nursing home; or months wallowing in shit in a colono-rectal ward as one piece after another of your entrails is ‘sectioned’. Pick a ward. There are people croaking in them every day.

    Disease and death (known by the euphemism ‘Health’) is grown-up stuff; ill-suited to the know-it-all, high school valedictorian writing style.

    Retrain as a nurse, Mary Beth. Do something about human suffering.

  3. welfare liberalism – the enemy of civilization

  4. Did that author really write that much about Typhoid Mary without mentioning how many deaths she was responsible for? Or that she broke her promise after her first quarantine to not seek employment as a cook, forcing them to re-quarantine her?

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    @Anonymous

    "Did that author really write that much about Typhoid Mary without mentioning how many deaths she was responsible for?"

    Of course. The point is that Ms. Keane identifies with Ms. Mallon, so dead people don't matter.

    , @Half Canadian
    @Anonymous

    I've read all of 10 pages on Typhoid Mary, and even I knew that she'd been told of her condition, and warned not to work as a cook.

  5. @Anonymous
    Did that author really write that much about Typhoid Mary without mentioning how many deaths she was responsible for? Or that she broke her promise after her first quarantine to not seek employment as a cook, forcing them to re-quarantine her?

    Replies: @Steve Sailer, @Half Canadian

    “Did that author really write that much about Typhoid Mary without mentioning how many deaths she was responsible for?”

    Of course. The point is that Ms. Keane identifies with Ms. Mallon, so dead people don’t matter.

  6. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Exactly. ‘Quarantine’ is just another word for ‘discrimination’. Big f*cking that’s the whole damned point of it.
    The dictionary definition of ‘discrimination’ is ‘to tell the difference between’. That is doctors in the middle ages made the realisation that infectious diseases are contagious between persons, and the way of preventing epidemics in the days before effective medication was to make a distinction between the infectious and likely infectious, and to try to segregate them from the healthy, in order to do something utterly horrible, nasty and trivial, such as preserving health and life of those fortunate enough to live infection-free zones. How dare they! , those old time Nazis!

    • Replies: @DWB
    @Anonymous

    Exactly, and well put.

    To those of us cursed to work with mere numbers and maths, we have, inter alias, discriminant analysis. The fact that a segment of the society wants to freight a word like "discriminate" so as to render it a set of scarlet letters hardly alters reality.

    of course quarantines discriminate. That's what they are designed to do. Otherwise, they are useless.

  7. This just goes to show that a lot of people in the country are absolutely insane.

    • Replies: @e
    @Chris

    "This just goes to show that a lot of people in the country are absolutely insane."

    Yes, and whether they're writers, academics, politicians, or your nutty next door neighbor, they're not being made to pay for such insanity by shaming in the public square. Blogs like this are a start, but the modern public square is still television. Do you see them shamed on the nightly news of any of the three major networks?

    How about this? In Nebraska, no less. This insanity from people teaching our kids on our dollars deserves public shaming.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/389862/school-told-call-kids-purple-penguins-because-boys-and-girls-not-inclusive

  8. “Liberalism is freedom for aggression.”

    This thing you call liberalism is in fact more dangerous than any chain of molecules. It is exactly freedom for aggression – well said.

    Not sure you’ve got the ding an sich labeled perfectly, however. At minimum, the assistance of some liberals may be required to eradicate it.

    “Disease and death (known by the euphemism ‘Health’) is grown-up stuff; ill-suited to the know-it-all, high school valedictorian writing style.”

    That’s the style, but worse is the fact. What accounts for this sudden ubiquity of WCTU types?

  9. DWB says: • Website
    @Anonymous
    Exactly. 'Quarantine' is just another word for 'discrimination'. Big f*cking that's the whole damned point of it.
    The dictionary definition of 'discrimination' is 'to tell the difference between'. That is doctors in the middle ages made the realisation that infectious diseases are contagious between persons, and the way of preventing epidemics in the days before effective medication was to make a distinction between the infectious and likely infectious, and to try to segregate them from the healthy, in order to do something utterly horrible, nasty and trivial, such as preserving health and life of those fortunate enough to live infection-free zones. How dare they! , those old time Nazis!

    Replies: @DWB

    Exactly, and well put.

    To those of us cursed to work with mere numbers and maths, we have, inter alias, discriminant analysis. The fact that a segment of the society wants to freight a word like “discriminate” so as to render it a set of scarlet letters hardly alters reality.

    of course quarantines discriminate. That’s what they are designed to do. Otherwise, they are useless.

  10. I would have thought that a virus that makes you bleed, shit, and vomit from all your holes would overcome the progressive bad think suicidal impulse, but nope.

    What this overpaid idiot doesn’t realize is that most people aren’t going to spend time wringing their hands about “civul rites” in the face of Ebola. To put it bluntly, in the end quarantine will be enforced by rule of law or rule of gun.

  11. Kind of an odd inversion of the usual society>individuals reflex on the left.
    Though I guess this isn’t so much “individuals” for them as a collection of grievances taking human form.

  12. Isn’t the story of Typhoid Mary just another story of the bravery of love ?

  13. I thought P.C. was just about words. But they really do mean to kill us with it.

  14. That is so f-ing repulsive. Typhoid Mary killed people because she wouldn’t stop working with food! I sincerely hope that author has friends and loved ones die of infectious diseases.

  15. e says:
    @Chris
    This just goes to show that a lot of people in the country are absolutely insane.

    Replies: @e

    “This just goes to show that a lot of people in the country are absolutely insane.”

    Yes, and whether they’re writers, academics, politicians, or your nutty next door neighbor, they’re not being made to pay for such insanity by shaming in the public square. Blogs like this are a start, but the modern public square is still television. Do you see them shamed on the nightly news of any of the three major networks?

    How about this? In Nebraska, no less. This insanity from people teaching our kids on our dollars deserves public shaming.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/389862/school-told-call-kids-purple-penguins-because-boys-and-girls-not-inclusive

  16. And yet … after reading the article I must confess I feel a sudden pang of sympathy for Mary.

    Even more bizarre, I still feel a vague sense of revulsion and race-guilt for the Europeans who (equally unintentionally) infected Indians with smallpox.

    It is truly amazing how the cognitive dissonant leftist worm burrows into one’s brain. I guess that is mental hegemony.

  17. “I would have thought that a virus that makes you bleed, shit, and vomit from all your holes would overcome the progressive bad think suicidal impulse, but nope.”

    Multicult snake-handling.

  18. So exactly what would the esteemed Ms. Keane propose for asymptomatic carriers of serious illnesses such as the unfortunate Mary Mallon (or Mary Brown, after she changed her name to avoid detection)? Numerous outbreaks of typhoid fever (untreatable in the days before antibiotics) were traced to Typhoid Mary, and a number of people died. Yet Mary steadfastly refused to cooperate with health authorities by continuing to work as a cook and changing her name and job frequently to avoid recognition. Just let them go on sickening and killing innocent people? Perhaps Ms. Keane would like to employ a typhoid carrier known to have infected lots of people as a cook in her own household or perhaps her children’s school. This is idiocy beyond belief.

    • Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    @Black Death

    Exactly. Whenever think pieces like these are written, it's never from columnists who have personal experience with pandemics.

    There is an apt gif going around online with Dr. Who and a pasted on quote "Excuse me, what is this f***ery?"

    Quite apt in situations such as these. Quite apt indeed.

  19. @Anonymous
    Did that author really write that much about Typhoid Mary without mentioning how many deaths she was responsible for? Or that she broke her promise after her first quarantine to not seek employment as a cook, forcing them to re-quarantine her?

    Replies: @Steve Sailer, @Half Canadian

    I’ve read all of 10 pages on Typhoid Mary, and even I knew that she’d been told of her condition, and warned not to work as a cook.

  20. @Black Death
    So exactly what would the esteemed Ms. Keane propose for asymptomatic carriers of serious illnesses such as the unfortunate Mary Mallon (or Mary Brown, after she changed her name to avoid detection)? Numerous outbreaks of typhoid fever (untreatable in the days before antibiotics) were traced to Typhoid Mary, and a number of people died. Yet Mary steadfastly refused to cooperate with health authorities by continuing to work as a cook and changing her name and job frequently to avoid recognition. Just let them go on sickening and killing innocent people? Perhaps Ms. Keane would like to employ a typhoid carrier known to have infected lots of people as a cook in her own household or perhaps her children's school. This is idiocy beyond belief.

    Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi

    Exactly. Whenever think pieces like these are written, it’s never from columnists who have personal experience with pandemics.

    There is an apt gif going around online with Dr. Who and a pasted on quote “Excuse me, what is this f***ery?”

    Quite apt in situations such as these. Quite apt indeed.

  21. The dictionary definition of ‘discrimination’ is ‘to tell the difference between’.

    Precisely, and the function of the immune system is discrimination between self and non-self, a function that is essential to life. The person-self is still allowed to perform this discrimination, although deranged screeds like Ms. Keane’s suggest that the Left is not all too happy about that. At the level of the race-self, however, for one race in particular, such discrimination is strictly forbidden, even though a race without an immune system is as certain to die as a similarly disarmed person.

    I thought P.C. was just about words. But they really do mean to kill us with it.

    Apparently.

  22. Typhoid Mary was given multiple opportunities to seek work other than as a professional cook. Partly because being a professional cook was the best paying work she could find she kept returning to it until she was taken into custody. My understanding is that in the future the City of NY attempted to help such people financially so as to get them into professions where they would not injure people, and would not require incarceration. One reason the Spanish should not have killed the ebola nurse’s dog is that getting the cooperation of people is very important and in the future everyone in Spain, and maybe elsewhere, will note what happened to the dog and perhaps not cooperate with authorities.

    The person sent to track down typhoid Mary turns out to be interesting. From the last generation of Yankee greatness before WWI blew everything apart came Dr Sara Josephine Baker, one of the first female physicians and possibly ‘married’ to another woman.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sara_Josephine_Baker

  23. “George says:

    One reason the Spanish should not have killed the ebola nurse’s dog is that getting the cooperation of people is very important and in the future everyone in Spain, and maybe elsewhere, will note what happened to the dog and perhaps not cooperate with authorities. ”

    Another reason: given that lots of people have dogs, and they could potentially be a vector/reservoir for Ebola, it would be worth studying what happens to a dog that is exposed.

  24. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    If you take the time to study the actual TRUTH about ‘typhoid Mary’ you’ll see she was no saint. Even after she knew she was a disease-carrier she knowingly engaged in high-risk behavior that she knew would and could infect innocent people. A modern comparison would be one of those guys (usually black) who KNOW they have HIV or AIDS and have sex with partners without condoms and say nothing of their illness. Who knows how many lives were saved by quarantining her? Probably more then a few.

    Of course none of this fits the cultural Marxist narrative of her as a “victim”.

  25. A more relevant episode than Typhoid Mary incident would seem to be the Bubonic Plague outbreaks around 1900 in San Francisco California and the earlier plague episode in Honolulu.

    The California governor at the time claimed there was no plague. He spent lots of public money on a campaign that claimed there was no danger. He claimed the feds made it all up. Meanwhile there were hundreds of clearly plague deaths in San Francisco’s Chinatown just as there had been in Honolulu’s Chinatown.

    Incredibly even in 1900 the medical community wasn’t completely sure what caused bubonic plague. So they burned down almost all of Chinatown in Hawaii. When the rats came to the mainland the medical authorities (Marine Hospital Service) quickly identified the bacillus but the California governor – Henry Gage – refused to accept the evidence. He was more or less a tool of Southern Pacific and the business interests. The idea that there was Bubonic Plague in California was bad for business so he quashed it. He tried to censor medical reports and defame the head of the MHS. For example he claimed that the MHS had injected plague bacteria in cadavers to create disease hysteria.

    They put a rope around Chinatown close to where I came to live sixty years later. But the Chinese sued and others countersued. At least the California authorities didn’t just burn down the whole area as they did in Honolulu. But of course Mother Nature chose to burn it down a few years later after the 1906 earthquake.

    Governor Gage was an early version of Barrack Obama – assuring the electorate that there was nothing to worry about.

  26. Are you actually insane?
    Blacks eating bats brought us ebola.
    Blacks bonking monkeys gave us HIV.
    Homo’s donating blood spread the disease.

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