Unsurprisingly, representations of international intervention often include a world map or a globe. And since these representations are almost always dismissive of intervention (even though in theory intervention can be a good thing), you’ll also see some awful creature with tentacles grasping the globe. It used to be common to depict the communist threat in this way:
Even post-communist Russia sometimes gets the same treatment, deservedly or not:
The image of the globe-spanning octopus was also used to condemn the so-called global Jewish conspiracy:
Amazingly, this red herring is still in use today:
Images condemning international intervention were common during the era of colonialism:
If it’s not the globe that’s carved up by the imperialists, it’s some kind of pizza/cake thing:
China is well-known for its desire to intervene in Taiwan in order to undo the intervention of someone else:
The US as the “policeman of the world” is another famous anti-interventionist metaphor:
Actually, I want to focus here on the anti-Suffragette backlash. Around the turn of the
1920th century, women advocating for the equal right to vote and to get elected in western democracies were often depicted in a negative and derogative fashion by both male and female opponents of equal suffrage. Here are a few examples:
More images of capital punishment are here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. More on capital punishment in general here. Some data are here. And other collections of human rights images are here.
Depicting the enemy as some kind of animal is a time-honored method of dehumanization. And once the enemy is no longer human, a lot of our usual moral inhibitions fall to the wayside. Here are some examples:
More on animalization here.
Blood libel is an old and prominent theme in anti-semitism, and still in use today.
Blood libels typically allege that Jews require human blood for the baking of matzos for Passover, although this element was absent in the earliest cases that claimed (the contemporary) Jews reenacted the crucifixion. The accusations often assert that the blood of Christian children is especially coveted, and, historically, blood libel claims have been made to account for otherwise unexplained deaths of children. (source)
Here are some historical and contemporary images invoking blood libel explicitly or implicitly:
More images here.
There are many themes in anti-semitism. A prominent one, at least in contemporary anti-semitism, is nazism and the holocaust: Israel and the Jews in general are often depicted as imitators of the Nazis, with the Palestinians in the role of the Jews and the Jews in the role of the Germans:
And then there’s this image, inspired by an iconic photo of the Warsaw ghetto:
This is the original:
Conspiracy is a common theme in anti-Semitism. Hence the recurring use of the image of the octopus, often depicted spanning a globe with its tentacles, such as in this picture. The globe then represents the worldwide nature of the supposed conspiracy. This theme has of course some variations:
Sometimes also without animalization, as in this Nazi era image:
The tentacles image is still used today:
The conspiracy theme often has a capitalist or a communist subtheme. Antisemites often viewed the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, for instance, as inspired by the Jews. Trotski, a Jew, came in handy:
But, again, the Jews are not content with a conspiracy in one country only:
This post isn’t about maps in the geographical sense, as is normally the case in this blog series about human rights maps. Still, I think it’s interesting to have a look at the topography of the death penalty, given that few among us actually know a lot about the actual practice of an execution (it’s not done in public anymore, at least not in most parts of the world).
How nice of them to separate the two families. Let’s just hope that they won’t think that having a bigger room means having to use it more often.
An interesting setup is this one from Japan:
This is the execution room in the Tokyo Detention House. Notice the three buttons in the second picture, placed on the wall in a room adjacent to the actual execution room. The setup is designed in such a way that the executioner doesn’t have to come face-to-face with the convict. Moreover, the three buttons have to be pressed simultaneously by three officers, but only one button actually opens the trapdoor (red square on the floor, below the hook in the ceiling). None of the officers is told which button is the live one that will cause the prisoner’s death.
The red square on the white floor marks the spot in the windowless room where convicts stand with the noose around their neck, before a trapdoor opens below them and they plunge to their deaths. The noose is hung from the hook in the ceiling just above the trapdoor. I suppose the rings in the wall and floor are for restraining the prisoner temporarily.
Below is a floor plan of the execution room in the prison at Terre Haute, Indiana:
If you look carefully, you’ll notice that the viewing rooms have toilet facilities. I’m sure there’s a good reason for that.
Below is the hanging room in the Washington State Penitentiary (also called the Walla Walla State Penitentiary):
The curious thing here is that the viewing area seems to be positioned at a height that makes it possible to see the face of the convict after the drop. That’s not something I understand, or want to understand.
Between 1991 and 1998, Lucinda Devlin photographed in different penitentiaries in the U.S. She called the resulting series The Omega Suites, alluding to the final letter of the Greek alphabet as a metaphor for the finality of execution. The series includes numerous photographs of execution chambers. Here are a few:
Notice the air filter just above the chair. I imagine the rubber on the floor is there to protect the executioners. The same room viewed from the executioner’s booth (notice the large switch):
Some more from the same series:
There’s also this innovative approach in China.
More collections of human rights images are here.
It was and still is quite common to see non-whites depicted as dumb, evil, lazy, poor, cannibalistic, uncivilized and un-Christian savages with stuff sticking through their noses. Or as odd-looking servants, comical figures, dimwitted people scared of ghosts (and turning white out of fear). As overly joyous fools or overly sexual deviants, bare breasted, heavily hung or with fat buttocks. Such representations serve to signal, confirm and spread the conviction that blacks are inferior. This conviction in turn justifies all sorts of discrimination.
Very common is the caricature of funny looking big-lipped black folk:
The big lip stereotype is of course closely connected to the monkey stereotype:
And a monkey isn’t really that much different from a savage:
And just to show you that we’re not talking about ancient history:
The savage nature of blacks wasn’t believed to be limited to their jungle life and cannibalism. Often they were also depicted as being fond of bestiality:
It’s not just male blacks who are deemed to be sexually deviant. There’s also the stereotype of the oversexualized black female. Typical is the so-called Jezebel stereotype. The Jezebel, named after the Bible figure, is a loose woman who wants sex all of the time. Of course, the usual racist stereotypes are also included: big lips, funny hair…:
Apart from the Jezebel stereotype, there’s also the Sapphire and the Mammy stereotype, both quite common. A Sapphire is an overbearing woman who, often holding her hands on her hips and talking all the time, bullies her man:
The Mammy figure (also called the “Aunt Jemima stereotype”) is a domestic servant, good-natured, overweight, loud and a good cook, invariably wearing a headscarf:
Male blacks as well were often depicted as servants:
And then there’s the strange watermelon stereotype. The origin of the link between blacks and watermelons is unclear. Maybe it has something to do with slaves stealing food from the field:
Whatever the origin, the stereotype does serve to make them look stupid and childlike. And, of course, there’s the black athlete, again highly animalized:
(An older collection of images about child labor is here).
According to Time, Kazakhstan tobacco farms contracted by Philip Morris have allowed children to work alongside their parents. This practice is outlawed because of the hard nature of the labor, the harmful pesticides used to protect the tobacco, and the fact that nicotine is absorbed through the skin. Last year Human Rights Watch completed 68 interviews with workers, documenting 72 cases of child labor. (source)
Many of the people working in the tobacco farms are migrant laborers from neighboring Kyrgyzstan. They are accompanied by their children, who help their parents harvest the crops. Below a few pictures taken by Moises Saman/Magnum for Human Rights Watch:
There’s something particularly reprehensible about infantilization. With all respect to children, but when you treat another adult like a child you actually say that she isn’t really an equal human being. Maybe you want to imply that she doesn’t have moral agency, that she’s not responsible for her actions, that she can or should be easily dominated (which is perhaps why some infantilizing images also have a sexual character, see below). Or maybe you imply that she is somewhat stupid or uneducated.
And I’m using the politically correct female pronoun for the other adult on purpose here, because it is usually women who are infantilized in our culture. Here are a few examples of female infantilization (I guess I don’t have to point to the sexual nature of most of them):
However, since it’s not just women who have to be kept down, it’s not just women who are infantilized either. There’s blacks of course:
And Native Americans who, it seems, needed to learn to wash themselves:
And the Chinese, maybe because they’re sooo small:
And, surprisingly, even the occasional white male:
And then there’s the opposite deviancy of pretending that children are adults, often female children, and often – again – in a sexual light:
It’s all pretty sick.
Female animalization is the depiction of women as animals, or as hybrid human-animals. It’s in fact a subgenre of female objectification, which is itself a subgenre of dehumanization (see also here). Depicting a woman as an animal means taking away her human characteristics and can lead to gender discrimination. It’s easier to deny the rights of an animal than the rights of an individual human being.
And of course there’s this infamous example of Michelle Obama’s face turned into a monkey face:
Some time ago, this image was the first to appear when people googled for images of Michelle Obama. Because of this Google issued this statement:
Sometimes Google search results from the Internet can include disturbing content, even from innocuous queries. We assure you that the views expressed by such sites are not in any way endorsed by Google.
Search engines are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the Internet. A site’s ranking in Google’s search results relies heavily on computer algorithms using thousands of factors to calculate a page’s relevance to a given query.
The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results. Individual citizens and public interest groups do periodically urge us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Although Google reserves the right to address such requests individually, Google views the integrity of our search results as an extremely important priority. Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it. We will, however, remove pages from our results if we believe the page (or its site) violates our Webmaster Guidelines, if we believe we are required to do so by law, or at the request of the webmaster who is responsible for the page.
We apologize if you’ve had an upsetting experience using Google. We hope you understand our position regarding offensive results.
The Google Team
At this point, I should probably mention that men as well can be animalized, and have been to great political effect throughout history. Here’s one example:
More examples featuring hated outgroups here.
More on advertising.
Female objectification (male objectification also exists, but is much less common) occurs when you regard or treat a woman as a thing or an object, separate from her personal and human attributes or characteristics. It’s often but not always sexual objectification, the reduction of an individual to a sexual object or instrument with no other purpose than the sexual gratification of male subjects. Sexual objectification and female objectification in general are tools of gender discrimination. It’s easier to deny the rights of an object than the rights of an individual human being. Objectification is a concept that’s closely linked to dehumanization (see also here).
Here are a few examples of objectification:
From a human rights perspective, slums pose a variety of problems: the rights to housing and healthcare (art. 25 of the Universal Declaration) are only the most obvious ones. We can all imagine how the rights to education, standard of living, privacy, property etc. are violated as well in slum conditions.
Other collections of human rights images are here.
In the U.S., approximately 1.6 million persons experience homelessness and per year. This number only includes persons who used shelters or transitional housing programs at least once during a year). Almost 20% of those are chronically homeless (source). Almost half of the homeless population is African-American.
(Other collections of human rights images are here).
Approximately 250,000 children under the age of 18 are thought to be fighting in conflicts around the world, and hundreds of thousands more are members of armed forces who could be sent into combat at any time. Although most child soldiers are between 15 and 18 years old, significant recruitment starts at the age of 10 and the use of even younger children has been recorded.
Around the world, children are singled out for recruitment by both armed forces and armed opposition groups, and exploited as combatants. Easily manipulated, children are sometimes coerced to commit grave atrocities, including rape and murder of civilians using assault rifles such as AK-47s and G4s. Some are forced to injure or kill members of their own families or other child soldiers. Others serve as porters, cooks, guards, messengers, spies, and sex slaves.
More on the problem of child soldiers here. Here is a map pinpointing the places in the world where children are used as soldiers. And here and here are adverts that are part of a campaign against child soldiers. Something more general on children’s rights is here.
More on child soldiers.
Islamophobia is an interesting phenomenon from the point of view of human rights. The “fear of Islam” has many different causes:
(Click on the links above for more information). What you see in islamophobia is that certain elements of a religion that deserve criticism are blown out of proportion, become an obsession, eclipse other problems in other cultures or civilizations that deserve equal criticism, and are mixed with prejudice, racism and generalization. You end up with a “clash of civilizations” that is in fact a self-fulfilling prophecy. The targets of islamophobia see some of their own prejudices against the West confirmed and step into the roles written for them by the other side.
Here are some images depicting islamophobia:
The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons. Fyodor Dostoevsky
No matter how much we agree that putting people in prison is often necessary, we shouldn’t forget that in doing so we limit their human rights. Such limits are not impossible in the system of human rights, but should be kept to a minimum necessary for the protection of other rights or the rights of others. Hence, arbitrary arrest, or arrest for “crimes” which do not violate other people’s rights – such as political “crimes”, speech “crimes” etc. - is unacceptable. Moreover, in those cases in which imprisonment is an acceptable measure in view of the protection of the rights of others, there’s no reason to accept prison conditions that add human rights violations to the human rights limitations already inherent in the fact of incarceration itself.
Inhumane prison conditions are often the result of the general poverty of a country. A poor country will have poor prisons. But poverty doesn’t explain everything, as is shown by the problems in some of the prisons in relatively wealthy countries. Prisoners are often viewed as subhuman, deserving not only imprisonment but imprisonment under any condition. However, such a view is self-defeating: bad prison conditions create subhuman behavior. The ripple effects of bad prison conditions do not stop at the prison walls; they reach every corner of society. Not a lot of imagination is required to see what happens when prisoners leave the hell holes that are used as prisons in some countries. Or better, if they leave. If they leave, it’s often in a coffin, or at best with their mental and physical health destroyed.
More on prison conditions here (on overpopulation in prisons), here (prison conditions in Iran), here (prison rape), here (again on overpopulation), here (solitary confinement), here (juvenile incarceration). Here are some statistics. And here’s an collection of images on prison conditions, past and present:
Other collections of human rights images are here.