Friedman’s Vermin Analogies Echo Ugly Pro-Genocide Propaganda

MEDIA, 12 Feb 2024

Jim Naureckas | Fair Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting - TRANSCEND Media Service

6 Feb 2024New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman had a piece in the Point (2/2/24), an online Times feature the paper describes as “conversations and insights about the moment,” that compared the targets of US bombs to vermin. It’s the sort of metaphor that propagandists have historically used to justify genocide.

NYT: Understanding the Middle East Through the Animal Kingdom

Thomas Friedman (New York Times, 2/2/24): “Sometimes I contemplate the Middle East by watching CNN. Other times, I prefer Animal Planet.”

Friedman’s piece compared the nation of Iran to “a recently discovered species of parasitoid wasp,” which (according to Science Daily) “injects its eggs into live caterpillars, and the baby wasp larvae slowly eat the caterpillar from the inside out, bursting out once they have eaten their fill.” Friedman asks:

Is there a better description of Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq today? They are the caterpillars. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the wasp. The Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas and Kataib Hezbollah are the eggs that hatch inside the host—Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq—and eat it from the inside out.

Is there a better way to describe distinct political movements in four different Mideast nations, each with a social base in a minority or majority population of those countries, than by comparing them to flesh-eating parasites injected by a foreign insect? Well, yeah—lots of them.

But Friedman’s framing of Iranian allies as vermin naturally leads him to call for an eliminationist solution: “We have no counterstrategy that safely and efficiently kills the wasp without setting fire to the whole jungle.”

‘Analogies from the natural world’

Der Sturmer: Spider

Likening Hamas to a spider, Friedman followed in the footsteps of the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer (2/1930), which in this cartoon suggested that gentiles were “sucked dry” by Jews.

Friedman was not done with his vermin analogies. Hamas is not only a parasitic wasp larva, he wrote, but is also “like the trap-door spider,” since they are “adept at camouflaging the doors of their underground nests, so they are hard to see until they’re opened.” (Elsewhere—New York Times, 12/1/23—Friedman has argued that the war against Hamas has already succeeded, since Israel has made its point that if “you destroy our villages, we will destroy yours 10 times more”—a suitable message for the Middle East, he suggested, which “is a Hobbesian jungle…not Scandinavia.”)

Comparing various Muslim political movements to creepy invertebrates was part of Friedman’s musings about how he “sometimes prefer[s] to think about the complex relations between [Mideastern] parties with analogies from the natural world.” Strikingly, however, the comparisons to loathsome arthropods were reserved for nations and militant groups—like Hamas, Yemen’s Houthis, and Iranian allies in Iraq and Syria—that US-made bombs are currently falling on.

The US itself appears in the column as an “old lion,” “still the king of the Middle East jungle,” but with “so many scars from so many fights” that “other predators are no longer afraid to test us.”

And Benjamin Netanyahu, who as prime minister of Israel is responsible for killing more than 27,000 people, most of them civilians, and wounding nearly 67,000 more, is compared to a lemur, because he’s “always shifting side to side to stay in power.”

Conceived as subhuman

Cartoon from the Nazi paper Der Sturmer portraying Jews as vermin

Captioning the antisemitic cartoon “Vermin,” Der Sturmer (9/28/1944) described Jews as “the parasite, never satisfied as it creeps about.”

The comparison of official enemies to vermin is a hallmark of propaganda in defense of genocide. The group Genocide Watch lists “dehumanization” as the fourth of ten stages of genocide, in which members of a targeted group “are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases” in a process that “overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder.”

“It’s very difficult, psychologically, to kill another human being,” David Livingstone Smith, author of a book on dehumanization called Less Than Human, told NPR (3/29/11). “When people dehumanize others, they actually conceive of them as subhuman creatures,” Smith said, allowing would-be genocidaires to “exclude the target of aggression from the moral community.”

Thus the Nazis compared Jews to an array of despised creatures, including spiders and parasitic insects. In Rwanda, the radio station RTLM paved the way for mass slaughter by repeatedly referring to the Tutsi minority as “cockroaches” and “snakes” (Atlantic, 4/13/19). In Myanmar, the anti-Rohingya agitator Ashin Wirathu compared Muslims to snakes, dogs and invasive catfish (Daily Beast, 10/13/17).

Surely editors at the New York Times are aware of this history. Given that the International Court of Justice recently ruled that it’s “plausible” that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza (NPR, 1/26/24), shouldn’t the Times avoid echoing the arguments that have historically been used to make genocide more palatable?

**************************

ACTION ALERT:

Please ask the New York Times why it allowed Thomas Friedman to use analogies that have repeatedly been used to justify genocide.

CONTACT:

Letters: letters@nytimes.com
Readers Center: Feedback

Go to Original – fair.org


Tags: , , , ,

 

Share this article:


DISCLAIMER: The statements, views and opinions expressed in pieces republished here are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of TMS. In accordance with title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. TMS has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is TMS endorsed or sponsored by the originator. “GO TO ORIGINAL” links are provided as a convenience to our readers and allow for verification of authenticity. However, as originating pages are often updated by their originating host sites, the versions posted may not match the versions our readers view when clicking the “GO TO ORIGINAL” links. This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


There are no comments so far.

Join the discussion!

We welcome debate and dissent, but personal — ad hominem — attacks (on authors, other users or any individual), abuse and defamatory language will not be tolerated. Nor will we tolerate attempts to deliberately disrupt discussions. We aim to maintain an inviting space to focus on intelligent interactions and debates.

74 + = 84

Note: we try to save your comment in your browser when there are technical problems. Still, for long comments we recommend that you copy them somewhere else as a backup before you submit them.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.