Photo by James Wheeler on

During yesterday’s post on monkey hate, I mentioned that many of the videos involved are made and uploaded to YouTube in Cambodia. However, merely accusing some people in that country of cruelty to monkeys without looking at it in a bit more detail is unfair. After all, England and Scotland are responsible for much of the state of the world today, invented the concentration camp and did all sorts of outrageous stuff, and still are, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to these countries or the people in them. It’s also simplistic and racist to think in terms of “those monkey-torturing Khmer bastards”. What actually led to this situation arising? What’s its history?

Nonetheless I am going to start from monkey hate and look at links to the state of affairs in the country, although I also want to talk about Pol Pot’s régime and the Khmer language and script. Apparently many people associate Cambodia with the Angkor Wat temple complex, but for whatever reason that isn’t what comes to mind first for me. As such, it’s easy for this to become quite negative, so I’m going to tak pains to avoid that.

Two aspects of the monkey hate situation seem to interact to make Cambodia the centre of this activity. One is the ecology of the country. Cambodia is particularly biodiverse, although it isn’t one of the seventeen megadiverse countries declared in 1988. Then again, neither is Italy and that’s a biodiversity hot spot. Tonlé Sap is a large freshwater lake which floods the surrounding area every wet season and has an associated river, a tributary of the Mekong. It has a maximum area of about 16 000 km2 and a minimum of 2 500. The name simply means “large freshwater river”.

© WWF / Zeb HOGAN, will be removed on request

It’s the home of the largest species of freshwater bony fish in the world, and in fact the Mekong has four out of ten of the largest such species, including the giant freshwater stingray, a cartilaginous fish, unusual for fresh water environments although there are a freshwater sharks in Australia.

By User:Lerdsuwa – Own photo (400D + 50/1.4), CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Giant Barb, up to three metres long and almost a third of a tonne in weight, is exceeded in size by the seven metre long Chinese paddlefish, a swordfish-like animal who may be extinct (and didn’t live in the Mekong):

The dog-eating catfish, however, does. Then again, these are also kept in a Staffordshire lake where they’ve eaten all the mink. The critically-endangered Irrawaddy dolphin also lives in the Mekong:

By Foto: Stefan Brending, Lizenz: Creative Commons by-sa-3.0 de, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,

As well as humans, Cambodian primates include the prosimian slow loris (three species), seven species of Old World monkey and two species of lesser ape (gibbons). Colugos and three species of tupaia are also found, all of whom are euarchonta and the colugo, or flying “lemur”, is even more closely related to primates:

By Lip Kee Yap. – Flickr: Colugo., CC BY-SA 2.0,

There are also pitcher plants, insectivorous plants which are also detritovores and used by tupaias as toilets. Gymnures, furry hedgehogs, are found there too:

Not to mention dugongs, Asian elephants, pangolins, rhinos and a total of 162 species of mammal, along with even more reptiles. Many species are also found in Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, and there are also likely to be many species of plant and animal still unknown to science.

Gambodge, which is also the French word for “Cambodia”, is a yellow pigment used to dye robes saffron taken from latex found in trees in the same order, but not family, as St John’s Wort and Rose of Sharon. It has been used medically but is a stimulating laxative, so it belongs in the heroic rather than the physiomedical tradition. It occurs in Cambodia but not uniquely so, and also produces a fruit which is used as a dangerous weight loss supplement. In that context the word “dangerous” is redundant. Show me even a relatively safe weight loss supplement and I will be very surprised!

The country is undergoing a period of very rapid economic growth, which has led to threats to these organisms’ habitats such as deforestation, overfishing and threats to mangrove swamps. As is usual in rainforest areas, the soil is of poor quality for growing crops and unsustainable agriculture leads to soil erosion. In spite of the availability of copious fresh water, there is actually a water shortage there, and it shares with Laos the presence of a very large number of land mines. There are more amputees per capita in Cambodia than anywhere else in the world and the number is rapidly growing due to the land mines.

Getting back to the ecology, the opportunity exists for exploitation of wildlife by individuals, and there’s also a motive in the form of the economic situation. There is very little regulation of industry in Cambodia. I know I own many garments which were made there, as clothing is one of the major business sectors along with footwear, and nowadays there’s also tourism. It’s common to see people set up petrol stations on street corners consisting of little more than a pump and a barrel of petrol, and there’s a culture of entepreneurship and innovation there of necessity. Unfortunately the lack of regulation also makes the country rife with child trafficking for illegal adoption. Poor parents often sell their children for a few hundred US dollars to gangs who then forge orphan certificates, and I imagine there are also a lot of orphans in Cambodia owing to all the land mines, and the children are often adopted by wealthy Westerners, and possibly become sex slaves. In view of this practice, it’s unsurprising that monkey hate has found Cambodia a fertile source of videos.

The impression I’m left with here is of a fairly desperate and poor population which is looking for opportunities to make enough money to live on, and presumably has a low degree of empathy for monkeys, and this is the result. I don’t think they are themselves sadistic. They simply know what appeals and gets views on YouTube, so this is what they do.

There are about five dozen macaques living in Angkor Wat who are famous for taking food from human tourists. They also bite and are a rabies risk, and they’re aggressive. Therefore it is possible that human attitudes towards monkeys among the Khmer themselves are quite negative.

Angkor Wat itself used to be the centre of the largest Asian city of pre-industrial times, the capital of the Khmer Empire, also known as  យសោធរបុរៈ or Yasodharapura, which may have had a population of a million, which is the same as Imperial Rome. Almost the whole population of the country is Theravada Buddhist, at least nominally. This is also referred to as Hinayana – the lesser vehicle. I presume you’re familiar enough with Buddhism not to need further exposition, although the practice and lifestyle of people following a particular faith may not adhere particularly close to the principles involved. Not a criticism of the Khmer, just an observation about the human condition.

Anyone who has memories of the 1970s will be aware of the reputation of Pol Pot. As I’ve said before, it is important not just to be negative about a far-away country, but his era can’t really be passed over without comment. Pol Pot was the nickname of the dictator whose birth name was Saloth Sar. Born in 1925 into wealthy conditions, Saloth Sar gained a scholarship to study engineering in Paris as a student, where he met up with other Khmer radicals and attempted to read Marx but couldn’t understand him, so he read Stalin instead and found him considerably more inspiring. He failed his exams and returned to Cambodia. I think it’s fair to claim that he was not truly communist because he didn’t understand Marx. However, he was an ally of nominally Marxist régimes, mainly because Mao Zedong regarded him as a useful tool against Soviet dominance in Southeast Asia. The French Indochinese era ended under the Vichy régime during World War II, when they allowed Japan to take control in order that Japan have easier access to China. In 1945, Japan ratified the King Norom Sihanouk’s (នរោត្តម សីហនុ – the order of the words is inverted like many other personal names which don’t use the “standard” Western order) independent kingdom. He abdicated after ten years and formed a political party, Sangkum Reastr Niyum (សង្គមរាស្ត្រនិយម), whose ideology was conservative Theravada Buddhism, monarchism, nationalism and conservatism. It claimed to be socialist but this was completely groundless by any estimation. The party won the election, all opposition party having been imprisoned. I mention this to put it in context. Pol Pot’s régime didn’t just appear on its own out of a liberal democratic social order. A policy of neutrality was adopted but during the Vietnam War, North Vietnamese troops moved supplies and weapons through the north, resulting in Richard Nixon secretly bombing Cambodia, as Laos had been a few years earlier. When this became publicly known in the States, it turned opinion decisively against the war and Pol Pot’s guerilla movement referred to as the Khmer Rouge took advantage of the anti-American outrage this generated to recruit the Khmer to their cause. This is roughly the point at which he started to refer to himself as Pol Pot, which seems to be short for “Political Potential”. Sihanouk was overthrown by Lon Nol while abroad and Pol Pot entered into an alliance with the king, with the result that many of the Khmer Rouge recruits saw themselves as fighting for the King rather than for the apparent communism of the movement.

Over the next few years, the Khmer Rouge managed to take control of large areas of territory, where the farms were collectivised, very much against the will of the peasants, many of whom slaughtered the animals rather than allowing them to be shared. The movement attempted to cast the whole population in the image of the peasantry, having them wear shoes made from car tyres and dress in black with a red krama, which is a multipurpose scarf eventually used by many Khmer to hang themselves when they found the social order unbearable. Rather than seeking to equalise by levelling up, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge chose to equalise down, executing many of the more educated and the clergy and emptying the cities to have the populace work on the collective farms. Many artifacts of modern technology and Western life were destroyed or abandoned as capitalist, and there were piles of banknotes blowing around on the streets of the deserted Phnom Penh because money had been abolished. Two and a half million people are said to have been killed by the new government in the second half of the 1970s, although to Cambodia the calendar was reset to Year Zero in 1975 as part of the rejection of all culture and traditions so that a new revolutionary culture be formed. The famous Killing Fields (វាលពិឃាត – veal pikheat) were mass graves of more than a million people, and about a third of the country’s population were killed by the government. The country was also de-industrialised. Pol Pot had studied the Reign of Terror and the French Revolution thoroughly and seems to have attempted to emulate it. Life expectancy in Cambodia in 1977 was just eighteen years. Many of them were also killed through forced labour. Even the hospitals were emptied of their patients, and they were forced to march out of Phnom Penh in the sweltering conditions, and of course many of them died too. There was no intermediate stage where former bosses played a part in constructing the society, even though the Chinese had warned them not to attempt this. Thousands of teachers were executed, as were medical staff, and anyone wearing glasses or a wristwatch.

Unemployment fell to zero although with the abolition of money, and incidentally therefore banks, this doesn’t mean paid work. A democratic assembly was elected, which would’ve been for a five-year term, representing only peasants, workers and members of the armed forces. Those deemed to be “New People” did not participate. Workers’ Coöperatives had administrative control in some locations. They maintained a close relationship with China and North Korea.

I don’t want to dwell too much on this time, although it was clearly notorious and can’t be ignored. I first learned of the situation in Cambodia through the ‘Readers’ Digest’ in 1977 and of course there was a famous ‘Blue Peter’ appeal in 1979 which achieved its target in less than a week. The appeal was possible because at the beginning of 1979, Vietnamese troops had taken control of Phnom Penh and imposed a more moderate government. The Khmer Rouge retreated into the forests and holed up in Thailand. After that, something complicated happened that I didn’t understand, involving a coalition government and government in exile, linked to Chinese disquiet at Vietnamese influence over the country, until 1993 when it became a kingdom again and appeared to have a democratic government with wider suffrage than previously. There was then a coup in 1997 and an election the following year which was probably marred by violence and intimidation. Today’s situation is described as “a competitive authoritarian régime”. This kind of governmental situation arose after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and consists of apparently democratic structures agreed to be the means of gaining power but the party in power abuses that power to undermine democracy. However, opposition groups are not subject to imprisonment or the need to operate in exile. They lack at least one of the three characteristics of a level playing field, free elections or civil liberties. Clearly Trump was trying to push the US further in this direction and the situation in this country also has elements of this, although it’s hard to assess to what extent.

One of the consequences of this seems to have been the current degree of corruption and laissez-faire, hands-off approach which has allowed the child trafficking to thrive, along with the monkey hate. Hence I think there’s now a fairly clear picture of how this has happened.

The Khmer Rouge have influenced the demographics of the country considerably. Half the population is now under twenty, mainly because of the murder of a third of the country. Technically, however, this mass murder was not genocide because it wasn’t based on ethnicity or religion. Although religion was persecuted, and the Christian and Muslim minorities in the country were killed on the basis of being a Western influence (which seems strange for someone living in Western Europe as Islam seems eastern for many non-Islamic White people here and is similarly the basis for persecution), the majority of the people killed were simply Khmer and nominally Theravada Buddhists like their killers and most of the rest of the country. The killing is therefore atypical in some ways. There is a potential legal problem here because it means that definitions of the crime of genocide miss out such events and provide a defence, so it may be quite important to recognise this crime for what it is or extend the scope in order to deter the chances of this happening again. It was, in a way, a different kind of phenomenon with different causes.

I want to turn now to the Khmer language. This is in the Mon-Khmer or Austroasiatic language family, a group of languages found in Eastern India and Indochina. Although it’s in the same family as Vietnamese, the two are far from mutually comprehensible but there is some mutual intelligibility with Thai and Lao due, I imagine, to shared vocabulary, suggesting that there’s a Southeast Asian Sprachbund, where languages in close proximity acquire each others’ characteristics. Khmer is unusual in the area for not being tonal. During the French occupation, there was an attempt to romanise the language, which was, however, abandoned and therefore the script now used is the traditional Khmer script, which is a Brahmi-based abugida related to the Devanagari script used for Sanskrit and Hindi. An abugida is an alphabet-like script but with an assumed inherent vowel following each consonant which is only omitted by using a cancellation symbol or a vowel diacritic or other addition to the consonant. It looks a bit like Thai and Lao but is more “crenellated”, like it has turrets at the top. The Khmer script came to my attention in 1977 when it was mentioned in the Guinness Book Of Records as being the “longest alphabet”, with six dozen letters, although more recent claims say that it has two more and others that it has fewer. This seems to be due to the probability that some of the letters are only used to write foreign loanwords but are pronounced identically to other sounds in Khmer. In its case, the inherent vowel is the long /ɑ/ found in all spoken languages (or something very close to it is), meaning that the script may be adaptable to other tongues but it is in fact only used for Khmer itself and Pali, the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism. Some consonants have an inherent “o” instead. Every consonant but one has a subscript form used in consonant clusters. In addition, there are ten consonants used in loanwords from French and Thai.

Cambodia is unsurprisingly the only country in which Khmer is the majority language. The other languages spoken there are also Mon-Khmer, but French and English are used in education. Transliteration of Khmer into Latin script is very inaccurate, so for example “Khmer” is pronounced something like “kumai”. Unlike some other related languages, Khmer has borrowed extensively from Sanskrit and Pali and is therefore not as unfamiliar to an Indo-European language speaker than might be expected from its Austroasiatic origin. Despite considerable attempts to do so, I’ve been unable to penetrate Mon-Khmer languages and get any kind of feel for them, which is unusual for a language family originating in the Old World or Oceania, but this may be due to the absence of Mon-Khmer languages from a global stage since none of them are internationally prominent beyond the immediate region around Indochina and east India. Like many Far Eastern languages, it has levels of respect, using kinship terms to refer to non-relatives. During Pol Pot’s time, this respect language was abandoned but has now returned. It’s an analytical language, that is, there are no inflections, so in that respect it’s very easy.

Cambodian food is quite well-known and eating insects deliberately is the norm in the country. Freshwater fish is commonly eaten, and is along with insects the main source of protein in the diet. The nutritional quality of the fruit and vegetables is particularly high compared to some other parts of the world. The fruits are conceptually organised into a royal court, with queen, king, princess and so forth, which are mangosteen, durian and milkfruit respectively. There’s also a lot of rice and noodles.

That, then, goes some way towards painting a rather more complete picture of the Kingdom of Cambodia than yesterday’s post managed to do. I just didn’t want to leave it looking like I had an irredeemably stereotypical and negative view of the country. Obviously the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot had a devastatingly negative impact on it, and this is probably what most of us know about the nation, so although this can’t be ignored, it isn’t all there is to it.

Monkey Hate

Major trigger warning for cruelty to members of other closely-related species and possible connections to human child sexual abuse.

I wanted to get that in first, before even the picture credit, but to give her her due, the above image is credited thus: Photo by Rachel Claire on

This is about something which currently manifests as an internet phenomenon but may have existed in human nature for longer than we’ve even been human. Before I get going, I’m going to become a bit “sciency”, but the bulk of this post isn’t about that. There is a point to this outline, relevant to the subject of this post.

Cladism is the classification of organisms into groups of genetically related populations with common ancestry. This has led to some confusing descriptions of animals in particular. For instance, there’s a sense in which all mammals, reptiles and amphibia are fish, because our common ancestor is a Eusthenopteron-like species of fish, so we form a clade with bony fish, and in which birds are reptiles because they’re dinosaurs and dinosaurs are descended from reptiles. Likewise, there is a sense in which all humans and other apes are monkeys, in particular Old World monkeys. It’s like matroshka dolls. There’s a large doll called “simians” containing two smaller dolls called platyrrhines and Catarrhines. The platyrrhines are native to South and Central American only. The catarrhines originated in Afro-Eurasia and include hominoids and cercopithecids. Hominids include gibbons and their relatives, and great apes including humans. Everything is inside the big doll called simians. In other words, we’re all monkeys. This doesn’t sound right because there’s a lot of insistence on distinguishing apes from other monkeys, for instance emphasising our larger bodies, less arboreal nature, lack of long external tails and dorsoventrally compressed trunks, but we are still monkeys, and there was a time when we were all competing on a level playing field, as it were. It’s enlightening to bear this in mind in what follows.

This is where it starts to get exceedingly distasteful.

There are a very large number of channels on YouTube dedicated to torture, accidental death and serious injury to various species of simian other than ourselves, and apparently also excluding other apes and New World monkeys. I’m having to do this by hearsay because if I seek out these channels or videos myself I will be rewarding them with views and advertising revenue and thereby boosting their profile. This, in fact, is in itself a major issue because it means that if one wishes to hear from a contrary viewpoint to one’s own, one risks boosting that for the general public without foreknowledge as to the nature of the content, which encourages one to stay in one’s own reality tunnel. Nonetheless I do have secondary sources for this and so far as I can tell it is uncontroversially extremely cruel.

It’s in the YouTube creator content guidelines that causing suffering or death to animals deliberately for purposes other than food preparation or hunting (because our society perversely considers that acceptable) is not admissible content and will lead to the channel uploading it to be closed and demonetised. Closure and demonetisation of channels by regular users happens very often for apparently minor infractions, in the latter case often without informing the user. These monkey hate channels are often old and still monetised. YouTube is also aware of them, since they receive numerous complaints about them, but they simply persist, in a similar manner to how they do with Elsagate videos. This is rather baffling, since the videos don’t seem to be submitted by any of the big players, so one would expect them to be held to the same standards. This, though, is not the focus of this post.

As far as online manifestations of monkey hate are concerned, this might be traceable to a site set up in 1996 CE called http://www.ifihаdаmоnkеу.соm (obviously not that but again, I’m trying to avoid page impressions – that’s kind of a phishing link). This was just a bad-taste humour website set up in response to PETA, and although I’m vegan I’m no fan of PETA because they are no friends of animals other than humans, have an anthropocentric view of animal liberation and aren’t above rather appallingly sexist campaigns, not to mention their startlingly crass approach to publicity. For whatever motives, the person who started the site was at first rewarded by various bad-taste jokes, which however rapidly got out of hand and were hard not to believe were actually serious. The search engine result brings up the description “the Best Source for Metaphorical Violence Against The Monkey You Don’t Even Have in the Whole Wide World!”, and I’m not sure whether that description has been there since the start or not, but it was there in 2001, which is as far back as the Wayback Machine goes with it. Even back then it was hard to tell whether or not to take the submissions as jokes or not, which is of course a common online problem. It’s also hard to discern the motivation for annoying PETA, since it could be similar to mine or it could just be carnism.

You needn’t be vegan not to be disturbed by these videos though. There’s a focus on adult monkey sadness and baby monkey suffering and death, all the victims seem to be Old World monkeys, and there’s a wider context of cruelty, as with fake animal rescue channels, where YouTubers endanger or injure dogs and cats in order to film themselves “rescuing” them.

I think at this point I owe it to Cambodia to post something more general, and I hope more positive, about the country because of what I’m about to say: a large number of monkey hate videos originate from that country. Some of the channels posting them from Cambodia also post dramatised videos about underage girls being raped, which suggests a possible link between child sexual abuse and monkey hate. However, the commenters on these videos are usually either bots or apparently White Anglophone males, whose profile pictures are unique to the channels. Hence there is a hypothesis that monkey hate is a proxy for child abuse and sadistic pædophilia. There’s a further hypothesis which I don’t accept that the videos use steganography, which I shall now explain.

Steganography is a method of hiding something in plain sight. One of the rookie mistakes in using ciphers is that they are not concealed and stand out as obvious codes. Guvf, sbe rknzcyr, vf na boivbhf pvcure. It makes a lot more sense to hide the message imperceptibly in something which looks routine and ordinary, such as a jpeg or online video. This is done by altering a small portion of the data slightly, resulting in a video which is indistinguishable from the original but contains encoded data. However, I don’t think this can be done on YouTube because I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. This was a few years ago now and things may have changed, but the videos are considerably altered by the time they’ve been uploaded, or at least they used to be, and I don’t think they could be relied upon to preserve the data. In fact I doubt they ever would. Therefore I’d reject this out of hand, and in any case it doesn’t make sense to submit videos which violate the terms of service to do this. It’d make more sense to submit innocuous videos with steganographic content, and for all I know it can be done now due to improvements in video quality. I might try it again soon on YT.

There could have been incidents of monkey hate before the internet became popular, but most people wouldn’t know about them and there wouldn’t usually have been much of an audience. As such, the phenomenon may have things in common with the Targeted Individual community, where people with a sensitive cognitive style and feelings of persecution find each other online and reinforce each other’s beliefs.

A number of hypotheses have been suggested regarding this. They include:

  • People who live in areas where monkeys are common regard them as pests and celebrate their suffering.
  • Germphobia.
  • Addiction.
  • Sadism.
  • Sublimated or encoded child sexual abuse.
  • Phobia.
  • Disgust.

The first hypothesis might explain how the videos appeared in the first place but doesn’t explain the fact that their audience largely consists of English-speaking White males. They also tend to use the kind of language employed by the American Right, such as calling people “snowflakes”. This suggests a further thought, which is that it’s sublimated or encoded racism.

Germphobia is similar to the first, and in this case one must be careful not to accuse people who are germphobic of being into this too. However, the species involved are not particularly unhygienic compared to others, such as bats for example, and although there is phobia of bats it doesn’t lend itself to sadistic videos of bats being tortured, although that might be difficult to achieve.

Regarding addiction, clearly the videos are likely to be addictive whatever the appeal is, because that’s a common happening on the internet, as with pornography for example.

Sadism is very likely to be involved in one way or another. It may also reflect a lack of legislation against cruelty of this kind in Cambodia and other countries from which these videos originate, or difficulty in enforcement if they do exist. Cultural relativism may also make the subject matter seem worse to Westerners than it does to people in Southeast Asia. Also, the chances are that the financial “reward” for getting views on such videos is a motivation for the people posting them, so they may themselves not be specifically sadist although they are likely to be sociopathic or psychopathic, and the former condition may have arisen due to their upbringing. The videos appear to divide into three categories: voyeuristic, home made and what I think of as “found footage”. Voyeuristic videos involve chance recordings of monkeys suffering from events not instigated deliberately by humans, such as predation or accidents. Home made is deliberate cruelty to captive animals, actually acquired for that purpose. This can involve attempts to instigate hostility between monkeys. Finally, found footage involves recordings made surreptitiously of humans being cruel to monkeys of other species, something which is obviously a lot easier nowadays than it used to be.

The question of encoded child sexual abuse is another matter, blending into sadism. It could be that the unacceptability of child abuse videos on the internet, not to mention the personal risk in viewing them, leads people to watch or make videos which don’t attract that kind of unwanted attention from the authorities. This is of course speciesist, and there could be popular support for clamping down on them to the same extent, but the situation may not be as black and white as it appears.

I’m going to deal with the last two together, as I think they may be the most significant. Monkey haters have been interviewed and for the ones who have come forward, these two seem to be the explanation. For some people, individuals of closely related species may occupy an uncanny valley between the utterly non-human such as cats on the one hand and humans on the other. This similarity seems to be interpreted by most people as cuteness, but for some it seems to evoke disgust and horror like the undead might do for many.

This is what was revealed, or at least reported, by monkey haters who have been interviewed. One of them recounts a visit to a zoo when he was eight. Up until that point, he’d considered monkeys to be cute and cuddly, but he found the actual experience of seeing them – he mentions mating in public as an example of what triggered him – disgusting and shocking, and this stayed with him into adulthood, eventually manifesting as monkey hate. Significantly, he not only has no urges to be cruel or watch cruelty to other animals, just monkeys. He admits he became obsessed and that it was an addiction, and he feels very guilty and disgusted with himself about it. He also specifically hates baby monkeys, the reason given being that they have tantrums, although this sounds like a rationalisation. His own theory is that it’s instinctive, and surfaces sporadically in some people, but used to be widespread, and also that it’s more common than it seems. It might, in his opinion, also be an outlet for people who have underlying violent tendencies towards humans.

I have to admit this makes a lot of sense. Back in the Miocene, our ancestors were one species of many apes, to the extent that palæontologists can’t identify who they were, but sometime between 24 million years ago in the Oligocene when the first monkeys came into existence from the tarsier-like omomyids and the emergence of Proconsul, the first known ape, 21 million years ago, we would have been monkeys surrounded by possibly competing other monkeys. Since Proconsul is close to the ancestor of all apes, not just us, this raises the question of whether other great apes, and also the various gibbons, also engage in cruelty to tailed monkeys in particular. The Gombe chimpanzee community in particular is known for its violence and this is sometimes manifested in the killing of tailed monkeys such as the red-tailed monkey, although they do eat them. Bonobos and orangutan would, at least prima facie, be considered less likely candidates but this is not scientific of course.

To most people living in European societies, the tailed monkeys are unfamiliar, unlike in the places where they’re likely to live. This unfamiliarity means there is no obvious “bridge” between them and the rest of nature, and this may lead to a sense of the uncanny to a greater extent than it would for humans who live alongside them. As such, the introduction of monkeys as a novelty may come across as an affront to their distinctive identity and might also constitute a threat if they are used to the idea of human dominion over the rest of the animal kingdom. I don’t think it can be mere coincidence that the main audience for these videos is White and English-speaking, and I wonder also if it’s a manifestation of xenophobia which extends to overt and active racism, hence the use of alt-right language. The people who live with wild monkeys from day to day might see them as an economic resource such as for food, tourists or these videos, but they don’t seem to bear them animosity. They’re just doing White people’s dirty work for them. On the other hand, I’m guessing here, but I would expect some of them to regard them as “tree rats”, as the term has it, similarly to how many people in cities see rock doves.

The interviewee thinks there are probably a few dozen hard core monkey haters, which makes it sound like a trivial matter, but there are also thousands upon thousands of casual monkey haters, who watch the videos for entertainment regularly without commenting or engaging. Some of them clearly do get sexual gratification from it, and interestingly despite their apparently homophobic attitudes are very zealous in their defence of their right to do so. There are also two kinds of target. Babies are one, and tend to mention the kind of characteristics often attributed to human babies, such as clinginess, dependence and spoiltness. The other target is the grief of the mothers who witness the death and injury of their children. The former is particularly reminiscent of child abuse and the latter, I think, gives a clue as to the possibility of it being to do with opposition to feelings of tenderness and love. Some fans go so far as to say they’d like to kill all humans who feel positively towards monkeys in any way, and a link is also made between monkey behaviour and neurodiversity as a “justification”.

I want to close by making two observations. Most of the videos are made in Cambodia in spite of the fact that non-human primates are found all across Asia and Afrika, and also in South America. Old World monkeys are more closely related to us than New World monkeys are. In fact, cladistically we are Old World monkeys. These would’ve been the monkeys, or similar ones, with whom we would’ve been in conflict in the Oligocene and Miocene, but this fails to explain why Cambodia specifically would be the source. Could it be that in that country in particular, the terrible trauma seen as inflicted by Pol Pot has brutalised the populace and led to this tendency? Or is it more a question of economic necessity: people in particularly severe hardship will seek any source at all to support their dependents and themselves? One thing this has brought home to me is how little I know of Cambodia, and I would like to explore this on here in the near future.