Your humble blogger has returned from Shanghai, and would like to apologize profusely for the lack of blogging this past week. Conspiracy theorists might be wondering if it was because of The Great Firewall or rising anti-foreigner sentiment in China (which, based on personal experience and media reportage, appears to be vastly exaggerated) or whether I was some top-secret emissary of the U.S. governmment. The truth is much more banal: my laptop’s power cord died during this trip, so my computer had no juice for blogging.
I will post something about Sino-American relations in due course, but in the meanwhile I see that over the past week, my departing zombie joke became… a big enough zombie story to require a CDC public response. The Huffington Post’s Andy Campbell reports:
[O]n Thursday, the agency made it official: Zombies don’t exist.
"CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms)," wrote agency spokesman David Daigle in an email to The Huffington Post.
Nevertheless, recent incidents in which humans reportedly ate human flesh have the Internet in a firestorm, with "zombie apocalypse" being Google’s third most popular search term by Friday morning (emphasis added).
The incidents in Miami, Maryland and Montreal do seem to have riled up the interwebs a bit. So, as the author of an important work on the global implications of an undead-created crisis, I feel compelled to respond.
And my response is: everyone chill the f**k out.
As much as the media likes the "take-three-things-and-make-them-a-trend," let’s put things into perspective. We have two straightdforward cases of cannibalism in Maryland and Montreal. Hannibal Lector-type clones on the prowl can be disturbing, but they’re not a serious threat, and such incidents are apparently not on the increase. Unless the victims of the cannibalism rise up and start hungering for human flesh, there is no pandemic — and certainly no need to buy one of these units. Seriously, if you’re afraid of these kind of reports, you might as well be worried about zombie gnomes or other such silliness.
The Miami incident does contain some more disturbing facts, like "the attacker failed to respond after being shot" and the victim of the attack "miraculously survived" and that some people are buying shotguns. Still, according to all of the reports, the attacker actually did die and did not reanimate. Unless more cases pop up in southern Florida, I think the republic – and the world — are safe.
As for the CDC statement, well, it contains an awful lot of wiggle room. Still, its overall tone is consistent with what I concluded about the role of domestic politics during a zombie crisis:
Clearly, the initial policy responses to a zombie attack are crucial. This is the period when domestic constraints on policy responses are at their weakest. If governments can fashion clear, coherent, and competent policy actions from the outset, then domestic pressures on policy autonomy should be modest….
If the zombie problem persists, however – through initial policy errors, resistance from zombie relatives, or the logistical difficulties of destroying the undead – then domestic politics will play an increasingly important role in global policy articulation. Legislatures will slowly exercise more voice, interest groups will constrain policy options, and the public will grow restive towards far-flung operations to eliminate the scourge of the living dead. If this effect takes place across a broad swath of countries, the bargaining core for meaningful international cooperation to combat the undead would slowly disappear.
So, my recommendation to everyone is still "DON’T PANIC" about zombies. Unless Congress decides to hold hearings. At that point, feel free to freak out.