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Matthew R Francis @DrMRFrancis
, 13 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
In case you're wondering why many of us don't use the term "Ultima Thule" for 2014 MU69:
Personally, I think it's bad scicomm practice even without the Nazi connection (which is a horrible thing to say, but whatever). It's an obscure term, an inaccurate term, and an aggrandizing term.
At the risk of yet more mentions chaos, let me add a few things, and an apology. [thread coming]
The term "ultima thule" dates back nearly two thousand years, but recently was appropriated by Nazis and other white supremacists as part of their mythology.
Like many of us, I'm not fully up on my Nazi mythology. I remember reading this article by @meghanbartels about the term, but then forgot it. newsweek.com/nasa-named-its…
I have criticized the popular name for MU69 for other (less important) reasons. That's very much my mistake, and I apologize for not keeping that important issue in the front of my mind.
As a result, while I haven't used the term myself, I've RTed and QTed many others who *did* use the term. The New Horizons team themselves use the term, along with many other scicomm people, who either didn't know or didn't think it was important to avoid using it.
Many in my mentions are still arguing that it isn't important, largely on the basis that "ultima thule" predates the Nazis by over a thousand years and (unlike e.g. the swastika) isn't strongly associated with Naziism in modern culture.
In my personal opinion, however:
1. still choosing to use the name while current neonazis like Steve Bannon use it makes it difficult (perhaps impossible) to reclaim the name
2. *If* the name was culturally significant to people, it might be worth reclaiming. The problem is, casually naming something risks exactly this kind of thing happening: affecting the survivors of Nazi atrocities and their descendants for no good reason.
3. Science is political, especially when we (white dudes in particular) pretend it's not. Words matter. Names matter. It's generally not white men who get hurt when the midden hits the windmill.
This requires being thoughtful, cautious, considerate, and *above all* receptive. When someone says they're upset, try to understand why. Telling them they shouldn't be upset (or should be upset about something else instead) is a
To wrap up a Thread That Should've Been a Blog Post™:
1. I'm not telling you to be upset, but understand why some people are
2. I don't blame people for not knowing this bit of Nazi mythology, but if you know and continue to use the term, you might ask why you're doing it.
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