Rantz: Asian Giant Murder Hornet name changed over ‘stigma’, racism

Aug 1, 2022, 6:00 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 9:59 am

What’s more dangerous than a two-inch long hornet that decapitates its prey, with a stinger that feels like a hot needle jabbing at you? Language that isn’t inclusive! It’s why the Entomological Society of America changed the name of the Asian Giant Murder Hornet, claiming it stigmatizes Asian people. It’s now the Northern Giant Hornet.

The Asian Giant Murder Hornet arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 2019 and caused immediate concern. They prey on honey bees, decapitating them before destroying their hives. The ecologic impacts are considerable. It prompted an aggressive campaign by the Washington State Department of Agriculture to eradicate the insects.

Ecological concerns weren’t the only thing weighing on the minds of Washington entomologists. They wanted the name changed for fear it could lead to hate crimes against Asians. The complaints are absurd and contrived.

Claims of anti-Asian sentiment

Washington entomologist Chris Looney wrote the official proposal to change the name. Even though the murder hornets naturally occur in Asia, he believes the name could lead to anti-Asian sentiment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions have contributed to a rise in hate crimes and other odious behavior directed at people of Asian descent in countries across the globe,” Looney wrote. “Although the descriptor ‘Asian’ in this context is not at all pejorative, and is geographically accurate, its association with a large insect that inspires fear and is under eradication may bolster anti-Asian sentiment among some people.”

He cites his own experience hearing statements like “another damn thing from China” when members of the public discussed the Asian Giant Murder Hornet.

“Even if people do not explicitly ascribe negative feelings towards the insect, or their neighbors and colleagues of Asian descent, the prominence of the descriptor ‘Asian’ in the common name will, for some people, implicitly take precedence over other, more important, biological characteristics,” he speculated. ”

“Finally, insisting on incorporating ‘Asian’ into the common name risks alienating some community members and deterring participation in an otherwise vibrant community science program,” he continued.

Looney argued the name was “problematic and may be barriers to accurate and effective communication” about the Asian Giant Murder Hornet’s threat. He called for an “accessible, accurate name” because it would lead to “inclusive communication with the public.”

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Northern Giant Hornet

Looney concluded his proposal arguing that by “removing ‘Asian’ but retaining ‘giant,’ the entomological community can start to move away from the confusing and potentially harmful current de-facto common name.”

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) agreed. The name was changed to Northern Giant Hornet, though the insect is native to Southern Asia. It was only brought to North America, experts believe, in error.

“In short, ESA wants to avoid geographic descriptors that could unintentionally create associations between pest insects and people,” ESA spokesperson Joe Rominiecki told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “In the case of Vespa mandarinia, entomologist Chris Looney authored the proposal for ‘northern giant hornet,’ and the reasoning behind it was a mix: avoiding the association of a pest insect with Asian people generally, avoiding sensationalism and evoking fear, and avoiding potential confusion with other related species.”

Rominiecki claimed that “ESA has heard from members of Asian heritage sharing their negative experiences of their cultural background being associated with notable invasive insects, and at least a couple have shared these concerns publicly.”

Entomologists of Color weigh in

The spokesperson pointed to a Crosscut article titled, “When catchy names for insects sting — think ‘Asian giant hornet’” by Hannah Weinberger.

“‘Asian giant hornet’ started circulating on the heels of another pejorative nickname for coronavirus: ‘the Chinese virus.’ With bigots committing hate crimes and unfairly implicating people of Asian descent in the spread of the coronavirus, a name as benign as Asian giant hornet takes on a different sheen,” Weinberger wrote.

The article quotes Jessica Ware, founder of Entomologists of Color. She says that we must “make it so that people who are participating in this discipline don’t see themselves reflected as a slur describing an invasive insect … and have a seat at the table for decision making.”

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Every concern is contrived

No one is actually offended by Asian Giant Murder Hornet. Some, however, will pretend to be.

The contrived concern gives white progressives in the entomology community a way to play literal White Knights. They’re woke, evolved, and ready to take on an imaginary fight. It’s so much easier to change a name than it is to solve the problem posed by Asian Giant Murder Hornet.

Progressives routinely feign offense in order to change language. Why treat insects any differently?

They refuse to say “homeless.” Instead, progressives say “people experiencing houselessness.” Instead of “felon,” progressives say “people who experienced the criminal justice system.”

It’s like progressives get paid by the word. But the longer they talk, the more time they have to convince you of their heroism in fighting stigma. The progressive war on words should earn the stigma. Instead, media outlets celebrate the wokeness.

UPDATE 08-02-22: Entomologist Chris Looney weighs in

Looney responded to an email about the name change after this story was published.

He argues that the main “motivation for proposing the name was to avoid confusing Vespa velutina (the Asian hornet) with Vespa mandarinia (Asian giant hornet, murder hornet, Japanese giant hornet, etc).”

“Vespa velutina is rapidly spreading in Europe and Korea, both areas of which are outside of its native range,” Looney said via email. “It’s a serious problem, and it has very different biology than the giant hornets we are worried about. It could very easily become introduced in North America also.”

He also argues that, despite spending considerable space in his application focused on stigma with the Asian community, this isn’t about “wokeness.”

“It pisses me off to no end that every media outlet has turned this into some exercise in wokeness, instead of focusing on the main, practical reason for the proposal,” Looney complained. “I feel like that really distorts my effort, and gets people riled up about something that simply isn’t true.”

He may be upset, but it’s his own doing.

The first reason he offers in his application to apply a different name to the insect is his concern over Asians being castigated. He said the Asian Giant Murder Hornet moniker is “at worst a ‘racist’ trope.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3–6 pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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