Dehumanizing people

People have dehumanized other people for a very long time. This post is about dehumanization in propaganda. Warning: the article contains images that might be disturbing. Which is partly the idea of this kind of propaganda where other people are treated as less than a human.

During World War II, Japanese were often depicted as animals. Example of propaganda poster (via Artifacts Journal).

This poster from North Korea depicts alleged atrocities carried out by the American soldiers during the Korean War (source: Wikipedia). There are also propaganda posters depicting American soldiers as child-eaters.

This Serbian antisemitic propaganda poster depicts a Jew tightening a rope around the necks of European and American politicians (via Blavatnik Archive). Nazis often referred to Jews as rats.

A modern day example: video tweet showing a person eating live pigeon. This video has been shared quite often on Twitter and Facebook.

Example tweet

Even when this video has been posted without mentioning Coronavirus or Covid-19, the comments made by some people are telling: “this is why the world is sick”, “what the f* is wrong with Chinese?”, “They are not even human“. It seems many believe that eating live pigeons is something Chinese people do perhaps regularly. They don’t.

The person is a Chinese Internet celebrity called 独臂胜哥 or “One-armed Brother Wins”. The “One-armed Brother” eats basically anything in online live streams: frogs, raw meatballs, feces, cockroaches and so on. These live stream videos seem to have a number of regular viewers.

Why is “One-armed Brother” eating almost anything online: probably for fame and money. There are online articles suggesting that money has a central role in these shows. One example article in Chinese.

Western tabloid news have helped to give more visibility to this Internet celebrity over the years. Example:

Mirror news

These articles do not mention the name of the Internet celebrity or the context.

It doesn’t take much research to find out that the acts of “One-armed Brother” are not common. These videos are quite similar to Western game shows like Fear Factor or Survivor where participants eat live animals for shock value. They are not valid examples of eating habits in China – or anywhere else for that matter.

Without real context these videos can be easily used as racist propaganda. There’s no need to edit them: just add some suitable caption or hashtags and the modern wartime poster is ready to be published.

Further reading:
Is bat soup a delicacy in China? (France 24 Observers)
Coronavirus Fears Are Reviving Racist Ideas About Chinese Food (Vice)
Pinning Coronavirus on How Chinese People Eat Plays Into Racist Assumptions (Eater)
The West Blames the Wuhan Coronavirus on China’s Love of Eating Wild Animals. The Truth Is More Complex (Time)
Eating live animals (Wikipedia)

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