Monkeyshines, Monkey Business and Monkeypox

The Willard Hotel has been a fixture here in Washington DC since 1847, when a fellow named Henry Willard took over a row of boarding houses located next to the White House grounds. Prior to that, even, and probably due to their proximity to the White House and what was, at the time, the State Department, those nineteenth century B-and-B’s had been the scene of some interesting history and had already hosted quite a few historical luminaries, including Charles Dickens, who complained about the accommodations. Coming from an expert on inadequate housing, such as an author who grew up in poverty during the reign George III, and later wrote Tale of Two Cities, that’s pretty some pretty severe shade to throw. Undaunted, however, Mr. Willard took spade and pick to the problem (along with a considerable amount brick and mortar), ultimately producing a truly classic example of American architecture that still stands today.
So by the time America was hard upon the start of the Civil War, the Willard was the place to stay in Washington, and its place in the history of the United States was secured. A Japanese diplomatic delegation, negotiating a treaty between their country and the USA, stayed at the Willard in 1859 and proclaimed it a marvel even more impressive than the White House itself. In a last-ditch (and futile) attempt to avert conflict, delegates of the the newly-formed Confederate States of America met at the Willard with those of the United States for a peace conference, just weeks before what would prove to be the politically catastrophic inauguration of Abraham Lincoln. And once South Carolina initiated open rebellion and fired cannon shots at Fort Sumter, all kinds of interesting history happened at the Willard. Julia Ward Howe wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” there, for example.
And while reputable historians have substantiated that the term “lobbyist” did not, in fact, originate with Ulysses S. Grant inventing a pejorative for the oleaginous schemers who habitually ensconced themselves in the Willard’s sumptuous lobby, it was, in fact, crawling with them throughout his administration and for decades thereafter. Nathaniel Hawthorne once remarked that the Willard was, practically speaking, much more the center of Washington than the Capitol, the State Department or the White House. Mark Twain stayed at the Willard, long enough to write two books there, and other guests included P.T. Barnum, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Emily Dickinson, the Duke of Windsor, Walt Whitman, Buffalo Bill and Harry Houdini. In 1916, Woodrow Wilson announced the creation of the League of Nations there. During World War II, the British military and the French government in exile conducted operations from the Willard. Martin Luther King stayed there in 1963 during his march on Washington and wrote the final version of his “I Have a Dream” speech there. Richard Nixon’s miscreant minions hatched dirty tricks there during the 1968 Republican felony spree that would spawn the Watergate crisis. And, as everyone who didn’t already know about it heard on prime-time television during the January 6 Select Committee hearings last Thursday, the Trump crime family and assorted banana-Republican accomplices plotted the overthrow of the US government from a “war room” (aka “command center”) located at – you guessed it – the Willard Hotel.
So, whether serving as the site of a future shrine to Democracy and Justice where acts of transcendent good and genius have exalted our species above a bestial world, red in fang and claw; or, as the scene of the basest iniquities and treachery conceivable by the human mind, callously committed in service to greed, hubris, ego, avarice, the lust for power and, occasionally, Satan Himself, the Willard Hotel has always been a place that simply cannot escape history. And as frequent readers of the Web log are well aware, the Round Robin Bar at the Willard Hotel is one of my favorite places to relax after a long day of consultations. And it was there, on Friday evening, while I was enjoying a glass of Macallan 18, that Dr. Apoda Obun Didirin MD, PhD, MPH, BFD, Special Attaché for International Medical Policy at the Embassy of Nigeria, sat down at my table with a large branch-water mint julep.
“Mr. Collins,” he began, “I have been speaking with your secretary, Gretchen, for several days, attempting to make an appointment for a consultation, unfortunately, without success. A solution to my predicament, however, is urgently required. May I prevail upon you now?”
It is rare that would-be clients stalk me, but it does happen. When they are that desperate for my advice, I figure it’s probably a good idea to give it to them – although I never shy away from using the occasion to obtain some additional leverage in receiving remuneration commensurate with their urgent and despondent situations. “An ad-hoc consultation,” I told him, “under these circumstances, will entail an additional surcharge of twenty-five percent.”
“Naturally,” he replied with a wide smile.
“With payment in full, in advance,” I continued, producing my iPhone and Square credit card reader from my suit jacket.
“Oh,” he exclaimed, staring at them for a moment, “yes, um… yes, of course.” Then, after rummaging around in his luxury dashiki for a moment, he produced an American Express card made out in his name at the Nigerian Embassy, 3519 International Court NW, Washington DC.
I ran it. It went through. Today, even my cocktail hour would be well compensated. Try as I might these days, I can’t seem to avoid having people shove money in my face. There are worse problems to have, I know. “Okay,” I inquired, “how can I help you and the people of Nigeria today?”
“[Expletive] the people of Nigeria,” he spat, “I need help with my bloody problem!”
“And what might that be?” I pressed.
“The [expletive] monkeypox,” he groaned. “It’s making my life [expletive] hell, I tell you!”
“How so?” I inquired.
“Of all the officials in the government, who does President Buhari appoint to ‘manage the monkeypox situation,’ I ask you? He appoints me! And what is the first thing Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, the Minister of Health, tells me to do? Find a solution to the [expletive] monkeypox misinformation crisis!”
“You mean,” I sought to clarify, “the claims circulating on the Internet that there are going to be ‘monkeypox lockdowns,’ that will be used as a pretext for ‘monkeypox tyranny,’ that monkeypox is caused by Covid-19 vaccinations, or that monkeypox is a bioweapon designed by George Soros and cooked up in a lab at NIH by Anthony Fauci on orders of the Biden Administration, that sort of thing?”
“Yes, that sort of [expletive],” he ruefully confirmed. “But specifically, what has my government’s knickers in a twist is the lies about how it came from Nigeria, that it’s all over the place in Nigeria and Nigeria is full of gay men who spread it!”
“Well,” I observed, “I don’t know about ‘gay,’ but the World Health Organization does, in fact, link the initial spread of the pandemic to what it calls ‘men who have sex with men,’ and notes that the current outbreak seems to have originated with a man who traveled from Nigeria to Britain and Belgium, attended several dance raves and had sex with other men.”
“Look here,” he explained, “there are plenty of men in Nigeria who have sex with other men, okay? But they are not gay! They just do it for money! Maybe the men they have sex with are gay, maybe those men are bisexual, I don’t know, but they are always rich white foreigners who come to Nigeria with lots of money to pay Nigerian men for sex. It’s not the same, not the same at all!”
“That’s a mighty fine point,” I observed, “to try and get across on the Internet.”
“Listen,” he bristled, “it’s well known in Africa that you have to engage in some very… vigorous stuff… in bed to give somebody else monkeypox! In western Africa, the Swahilis even say, ‘Unanipenda sana unanipa tumbili ndui ugonjwa,’ which means ‘You love me so hard, you give me the monkeypox.’ It is a figure of speech, of course, but you get the idea. Nigeria cannot be held responsible for what some crazy rich white men do with each other or maybe with their pet gerbils! Just think about what such adverse publicity could do to the Nigerian tourist industry!”
“But isn’t most of the Nigerian tourist industry currently based on visits by rich white guys who want to have sex with Nigerian men?” I asked.
“Well… yes,” he conceded. “But we’re working on that! As soon as we can get the gangs, kidnappers, muggers, con men, dishonest taxi drivers, pickpockets, blackmail scammers, human organ thieves, corrupt police and rebel militias under control, we’re convinced that the portion of revenues attributable to cultural, food, sightseeing, wildlife and ecological tourism will surpass that particular sector significantly.”
“Perhaps,” I allowed, “but coming from an official of a country whose major industries are international email and telephone fraud, I feel compelled, from a standpoint of professional integrity as a policy consultant doing business in the capital of what remains the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth, to ask: are you, or have you ever been, a ‘Nigerian prince, seeking assistance in’ the disposal of, or access to, large sums of money?”
Being far too dark of complexion to blush at that, Dr. Didirin’s body language nevertheless did portray an equivalent response. “When I was in college, yes. But I only did it to pay my tuition.” He took a long pull off his branch-water mint julep. “It’s colonialism, and after that, globalization, don’t you see? What are people in countries like Nigeria supposed to do? Yes, a few of us are in on it – cutting out a share of the piles of money that spill out of the mines, the petroleum fields, the pipelines, the refineries, the palm oil, coffee, cocoa and rubber plantations, the timber operations and all that – but the rest of us are left out there, raggedy-[expletive], with nothing!”
“So,” I probed, “how about… the other?”
“You have any idea how much money it takes to support three wives in Nigeria?” he implored. “There they are, watching American and European TV all day on their [expletive] satellite dishes, getting ideas! Ideas about their wardrobes! Ideas about their shoes! Ideas about their jewelry! Ideas about their handbags! Ideas about where their children should go to school! Ideas about what kind of automobile I need to buy them! Ideas about swimming pools and vacations to the [expletive] Riviera! Before the white men showed up, a Nigerian man needed three wives to run his household, but now, he needs three wives to have the respect of his peers, because any Nigerian man who is worth anything has to have three wives and that’s [expletive] all there is to it! Now you tell me, what kind of bull-[expletive] post-modern African culture is that?”
“Isn’t polygamy illegal in most of Nigeria?” I prodded. “Certainly it is in the south, where you are from.”
“The law in Nigeria isn’t the same as the law here,” he explained. “Here, the law is the law, and when the law says you don’t do something, you don’t do it and no excuses. But in Nigeria, certain laws are more like… suggestions. And let me tell you, if guy wants to be a success in Nigeria, he has to be seen as a Big Man. And a Big Man has many wives, and that’s all there is to it.”
“Interesting. But you haven’t answered my question,” I pointed out.
Well, I learned then and there that no matter how darkly complected somebody is, there are certain questions that will elicit a discernible blush. “Yes,” he sorrowfully admitted, “big medical degree, big government job… even those big bribes I got, it didn’t matter. I knew I was going to go bankrupt keeping up the expenses with those three wives. Fortunately… or maybe unfortunately… I don’t know… I kept my six pack, my deltoids, my pecs, my glutes, all of that in good shape, and yes, I had sex for money with rich white foreign men. But…” He paused for effect, pointed his right index finger at me and stared me straight in the eye. “I… am… not… gay!”
“Of course not,” I concurred, “it’s common knowledge everywhere in the world that nobody, anywhere in Africa is gay. You killed them all, quite gruesomely, centuries ago.”
“Good,” he nodded. “So long as that’s understood. Now, are you telling me, just because it happens to be true that the monkeypox came out of Nigeria because of men having sex with men, that nothing can be done to gainsay that?”
“On the contrary,” I assured him. “In fact, nothing could be easier than the successful formulation of a viable solution. It’s quite simple, really. First of all, you and your colleagues need to admit to yourselves that certain… inconvenient truths… are being circulated about your country on the Internet. Then, you need to fight fire with fire.”
Dr. Didirin took another long pull off his mint julep and pondered my advice. “Doesn’t the fire department usually employ water?”
“Yes,” I acknowledged, “but not always. Sometimes, they set a fire in the grass to deprive an advancing brushfire of fuel. And that’s what you should do.”
Dr. Didirin leaned forward anxiously. “How?”
“Start your own disinformation campaign,” I recommended. “Start rumors in chat rooms, put about gossip in Facebook groups, spread memes on YouTube, tweet fabulist messages of various kinds, all saying, one way or another, that the stories about Nigerian men having sex with rich white guys for money being what started the monkeypox epidemic is part of a hoax.”
“A hoax?” His eyebrows raised in twin arches of intense interest. “By whom?”
“Well,” I offered, “that’s up to you. Who do you want to discredit – the Russians? The Chinese? The French? The British? Some other African nation? Pick a scapegoat, any scapegoat. How about the Brazilians, or the Japanese? It always pays to play a bit to the offside, you know.”
He mulled this over momentarily, then took another pull off his branch water mint julep (the Round Robin serves a rather large one, by the way, they are popular with tourists). “Maybe we’ll blame it on the United States.”
“It’s up to you,” I noted with a shrug, “but think twice about CIA Dossier 20170036.”
He stared at me blankly. “What’s that?”
“Let’s just say,” I cautioned, “that before you blame the US in your disinformation campaign, you should ask that question of President Buhari. In fact, I strongly suggest you let him pick who to blame it on.”
I watched as the light bulb over Dr. Didirin’s head slowly began to glow: dull red at first, then yellow, and finally blazing white. “Oh… yes… I definitely should.” And as he killed that generously poured mint julep, his eyes lit up with mischief.
“How about,” he proposed, “I have sex with you in return for that consultation fee? I’m not kidding, I could really use the money.”
“How about I give you a couple of phone numbers at the Belgian and British embassies instead?” I countered. “I’m sure they’d enjoy a trip to Nigeria without the plane fare, the ten-hour flight and having to go through customs at that stinking Lagos airport.”
“Fair enough,” he acquiesced as I handed over a cocktail napkin with the names and home phone numbers of a couple of rich white diplomats written on it. They had been to Nigeria for such dalliance many times before, I knew, and would appreciate my efforts.
“And… could you stake me for another one of these mint juleps?” Dr. Didirin pleaded. “I’m flat broke.”