I see a comic artist has seen fit to resurrect the legend of the smallpox blanket as a comic piece in his daily strip. The strip veers occasionally to a biased and politically correct scolding thing, rather than a chuckle, but did make me wonder if there was any truth in the matter.
It turns out that there was – and it was the British military who thought to try the trick on the American Indians back in the 18th century at Fort Pitt. There is some controversy as to whether it actually worked.
In the 19th century there are stories about the trick being tried again, but again, there is little evidence that it was the actual cause of devastation. Devastation did occur, but the transmission means seems to have been accidental rather than deliberate. Not that it was for want of trying, but it just didn’t work out that way. Go google up the wiki articles and then follow the reportage trail and see for yourselves. If you are biased, you won’t see very far, but do look anyway.
Then I tried to trace the question of whether syphilis had been dropped on the Old World by sailors returning from the New World in the late 15th century. There’s been a scientific fight – probably fueled by nationalism and racialism – about that for some time, but the thought that it was a Western hemispherical disease that spread east seems to be gaining the upper hand.
And then there is the thing about HIV virus coming out of Africa, but not through the agency of any shadowy CIA conspiracy – by the simple process of sex with the natives.
So perhaps the score cards are even. But still…handle them with gloves…