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 Pexels.com

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.

The Best And Worst Pressure Group

I’ve been involved in various pressure groups since I was a teenager. After graduation, I decided to perform a kind of “rotation” where I would dedicated time and work to one group for a while, then move onto another and keep going. Of course the issues are more important than the group itself because an organisation tends to develop its own momentum and to exist for its own sake, and this has made me rather cynical. Also, this process only continued until 1991, because at that point I’d got to CND, which was not doing well at the time and the Gulf War had broken out, so I got stuck. I will say this of all organisations: the ones which seem okay are the ones about whose internal workings one knows little. Something about large organisations seems to lend them to a kind of ethical entropy and I have my own ideas about this, but that’s not today’s issue.

There is a conservative Christian pressure group out there in Britain called the Christian Institute, and for me it’s as if the term “deeply ambivalent” had been invented to refer to my feelings about it. Its world view is at base utterly opposite to mine own in so many ways, but oddly it sometimes manages to come up with stuff with which I passionately agree.

I linked to a pamphlet of theirs in yesterday’s post about Gnosticism, so it’s probably worthwhile starting there, but this will involve me breaking my principle of avoiding talking about stuff I cover on other blogs as it centres on a gender identity issue. If you find this triggering, skip to the row of purple asterisks at the end of this section.

Here’s the landing page for their pamphlet on Gnosticism and the trans gender debate (I won’t go into why I use two words rather than “transgender” here but there’s a reason). In a way, this does a good job of encapsulating my issue with the group as I am very much against Gnosticism, but completely disagree that gender identity has anything to do with it for most people. There will always be exceptions of course. To repeat their view here, they consider that the heresy of Gnosticism denies the incarnation of Christ and views the material Universe as the evil creation of the Demiurge, and see trans and gender incongruent people as adopting the view that God made a “mistake” in creating us the wrong sex, thereby adopting a dichotomy between body and mind which is alien to the Judaeo-Christian tradition. This is their take on the tired old “trapped in the wrong body” narrative, which is largely an inadequate description of the gender incongruent position resulting from philosophical naïveté on the part of the people saying it, or perhaps as a not very good shorthand for the phenomenology of the situation. It does express the emotional impact, and deserves a greater focus for that reason, but it needs to be recognised that it isn’t a semantically valid expression, certainly for me, of how things are. God did not make any kind of mistake in making me as I was born, and I was not trapped in the wrong body. I would say that, if anything, my body is a courageous ally, battling against the onslaught of maleness by my side and its devastating assault on my physical form, and therefore my psyche. The quest for transition is the quest to achieve greater embodiment, and is very much not Gnostic – agnostic?

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This view of course links into larger agenda which attempt to apply homophobia to gender incongruence when it doesn’t constitute a good fit. They’re also, as might be expected, homophobic. It isn’t looking good is it? But wait. Anyway, one of the most prominent actions by the group is in the area of civil partnerships. In the ‘noughties, they supported Lillian Ladele’s case against Islington Borough Council to refuse to process the paperwork for civil partnerships, which were at the time restricted to same-sex couples. Although they won, the decision was overturned and they were refused leave to appeal. Unsurprisingly, this case was brought on religious grounds. This again, I think, is thoroughly misconceived. Insofar as the existence of government and the legal system is a good thing, there is a problem with the clash between homophobic religious practices and the legal institution of marriage. Marriage as a legal practice is a solution to issues such as custody, pensions, next of kin and probate, but is also sullied by its history as a means for men to enslave women. Civil partnerships provide a solution for the legal problems of relationships where people are not married, and that includes such situations as two friends who happen to live in the same house or a parent and child living in the same accommodation, whom I hope everyone would agree should not marry! They can naturally also be applied to homosexual couples. At the same time there are religious organisations who claim that only marriage carried out by priests of those faiths are valid, and of course these often refuse to marry same-sex couples, as is their legal right as non-governmental bodies (this is blurred by the Church of England of course). The solution seems clear: abolish the existence of marriage as a legal convention and convert all existing marriages to civil partnerships, and continue to allow the ritual of weddings as practiced by religious institutions. They would, after all, regard the law of God as superceding that of humanity. Problem solved, surely? Marry if you want, and attend the register office if you also want your alliance to have legal force. At this point I have to confess a degree of confusion. My understanding was that the Christian Institute were in favour of the idea that non-sexual civil partnerships were a good thing, but I haven’t found any reference to this. If so, that would constitute a positive.

Here’s a quote from their mission statement:

The Christian Institute is a nondenominational Christian charity committed to upholding the truths of the Bible. We are supported by individuals and churches throughout the UK.

We believe that the Bible is the supreme authority for all of life and we hold to the inerrancy of Scripture. We are committed to upholding the sanctity of life from conception.

This is actually a contradictory position. The Bible is not “pro-life“. A historical-grammatical approach to the Bible, which the wording of that statement clearly implies, also entails support for abortion in many circumstances. The Hebrew Bible even includes instructions for a ritual aimed at procuring one. The Institute, however, seems to have adopted the absurd position taken by many Christians who claim to be “Bible-based” that God forbids abortion. There is a major problem with the Biblical attitude towards reproductive rights, but it has nothing to do with preventing abortion and is more to do with the idea that men have control over women’s bodies and own the fetus, and therefore have the right to interfere with a pregnancy regardless of the interests of the pregnant person. It isn’t even necessary to go with higher criticism to work this out because it’s set out extremely plainly and clearly in the text.

That said, there is something positive in the Institute’s approach to reproduction, because it opposes termination on grounds of disability. There are limits to this position, for example I don’t know but suspect it would be against the ending of molar pregnancies where there is no viable embryo but considerable risk to the person carrying one. However, there is some emphasis on what might be called ableism in decisions to terminate a pregnancy. This contrasts, for example, with the Autism Speaks attitude towards people on the autistic spectrum portraying them (us?) as a burden on parents and society and generally portraying the people concerned as in some way defective rather than valuing and showing respect. Hence in this area, and I’m aware of the anti-Christian agenda the Christian Institute is pursuing here, I am in that area more in favour of them than certain charities involved with disabled people which seek to portray their lives as tragic and of lower value than others’. That said, it should be acknowledged that this is a bit of a “wedge” argument on the Institute’s behalf to pursue their opposition to the Biblical position on abortion while claiming, rather startlingly, that Scripture supports that “pro-life” position. It’s clearly tackling these “soft” positions on the edges of the issue without addressing more usual circumstances, but it does have the fallout of a positive result, even if this result is liable to be used manipulatively.

It also seems that once these precious children are born, it’s okay for parents to inflict physical violence upon them. They’re against the smacking bans imposed in Scotland and Wales. I don’t think it’s necessary to explain why the corporal punishment of children is a bad thing, and there is a separate issue of intervention with family life and decisions here, but in some circumstances there should be some kind of intervention. Authoritarian parenting, while causing life-long psychological harm to its survivors, also fosters a society easier for authoritarian politicians to exploit. It honestly isn’t clear to me that the Institute would be against such a régime.

Again, though, the situation is ambiguous. In 2009, New Labour sought to destroy the ability of families to educate their children otherwise than at school and there were even suggestions that it constituted a greater risk of child abuse than schooling, so the government was using the tired old “think of the children!” thought-terminating cliché to foster conformity with global capitalism and ecocide. Again, this is an issue covered in enormous depth on another blog. The pressure group was in our corner at that time, and this was a most welcome situation. Clearly their interest in the situation was to protect parents who wanted to bring their children up homophobic and fundamentalist, but those are not the only Christian values and the likes of creationism and intolerance can be the opposite of what motivates most people, including Christians, to parent more extensively than those whose children attend school. After all, Jesus advised people to sell all they had and give their money to the poor, and early Christian communities were communist, as is mentioned in the Book of Acts 2:44, 45:

Παντες δε οι πιστευοντεσ ησαν επι το αυτο και ειχον απαντα κοιωα και τα κτηματα και τας υπαρξεις επιπρασκον και διεμεριζον αυτα πασιν, καθοτι αν τις χρειαν ειχεν.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

If Babylon wants to interfere with that they can sod right off, and the Institute would support us in that. This is an entirely positive thing for Christians and non-Christians alike.

For some reason I don’t really understand, the group also supports the extension of abuse of trust laws to cover sports coaches and religious ministers. Again, this would seem to be quite positive. Abuse of trust is where an adult in a position of trust has sexual relations with a minor over the age of sixteen, so this would cover, for example, the many cases of sexual abuse which have occurred in churches over many years, perhaps even millennia. I’m glad they’re supporting this but also wonder if there’s hidden agenda here. I don’t really get this as it doesn’t seem to be one of their core issues. They seem particularly concerned about closing the loophole which lets religious institutions off in this area, and again that’s fine, but is there something else going on here?

A successful campaign involved their opposition to the Scottish Named Person Scheme, which was shelved. This would have involved having a named person charged with safeguarding the well-being of each Scottish child. Examples of the people involved would be senior teachers or health visitors, and it would require an enormous amount of trust in governmental authority. This can be illustrated by pointing out the flaws in the statement “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”. This only works if you assume the government’s values are entirely positive, and since they support mature capitalism, environmental damage, animal abuse and so forth, this is clearly not true and is becoming steadily less so, and even if they were entirely in accord with one’s values the system would have to work perfectly, and since it’s run by human beings it obviously won’t. Again, the group’s motives for opposing the Named Person Scheme are probably connected to such issues as parents continuing to be able to assault their children and condemn them for being gay, but ultimately, given that parents have positive values instead of this oppressive and authoritarian approach, it’s better not to have this scheme, which is apparently about not trusting people with their own children.

More bad stuff. The Institute opposes no-fault divorce. Since marriage as a legal institution is clearly a bad thing, it needs to be easier to get out of it and basically having to manufacture the belief that there is an issue such as cruelty, infidelity or something else, and perhaps lie to the authorities about this and internalise that belief is not conducive to a positive relationship after divorce. No-fault divorce has an odd history in this country by the way. It was approved in 1996 but no action was taken to implement it and we therefore do not currently have it at all here. It’s supposed to be introduced in autumn this year. The idea behind it is to reduce conflict and allow couples to focus on the needs of children and finances. Since I’m completely opposed to legal marriage, as it’s a form of slavery and I don’t think there’s any need to justify my opposition to such a disgusting practice, I’m not interested in why the Institute would make it harder for people to be freed from it. This is similar to the use of the New Testament to justify slavery in the past, when it might be thought that moral intuition would convict people that it was plainly wrong, and in fact it did, even at the level of the English court system in the eighteenth century and before. It’s a very negative aspect of the group that they should oppose no-fault divorces.

Another deeply negative aspect of the group is their support for so-called “reparative therapy”, which is where homosexual activity is stigmatised and suppressed. It’s been shown not to achieve its aims, and this is another area in which one might hope that moral intuition would prevent them from being so hateful.

To conclude then, the Christian Institute leaves me in a quandary. I can actually enthusiastically support some of their aims, but others are quasi-fascistic. There are oppressive agenda behind many of their campaigns, but the way they’re presented and separated from the specifics of those agenda makes them worth supporting in some cases. It also raises the issue of what counts as Christianity, because my understanding of Christian values is that they include pacifism in most circumstances, communism and of course tolerance of the queer community, and in current circumstances at least also veganism in its broadest sense. It’s just so difficult to get a clear view of them.

Next time I’ve decided to talk about ethical intuition. I’ve mentioned it a few times on here and have had to refer to it twice in this post and there are clearly some issues which need to be cleared up.