Stop Calling People Animals

Almost two years ago I read about twenty-one Coptic Christians whom ISIS beheaded. One of my Facebook friends shared the list of the martyrs’ names, and, as I read through them, I noticed that one of them, Samuel Alham Wilson, happened to have the same first and last name as one of my closest friends. Somehow that coincidence strangely humanized these brave Christians for me. I wrote on my own Facebook wall, “I work full-time trying to help people humanize the unborn, and yet until I read their names, I didn’t exactly think of them as human. They were mere statistics.”

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes.

Screenshot from CNN story.

Unfortunately, there’s an ugly side to this story that I didn’t even realize until recently. I was so appalled at the evil of the people who killed the twenty-one Coptic Christians, I referred to them multiple times as “animals” and “monsters.” I consciously humanized the Christians, and then turned around and subconsciously dehumanized their murderers.

I’ve seen many others make the same mistake. We have to stop doing this.

President Trump made the same mistake in a recent interview with Sean Hannity: (clip starts at 22:39)

Hannity: One of the problems that we have is evil in our time. Winston Churchill dealt with evil in his time. Roosevelt dealt with evil in his time, my father fought in World War 2…

Trump: But they had evil with uniforms on.

Hannity: That’s true, this is different.

Trump: We have evil that lurks around the corner without the uniforms. Ours is harder. Because the people we’re going against, they don’t wear uniforms. They’re sneaky, dirty rats. And they blow people up in a shopping center. And they blow people up in a church. These are bad people. When you’re fighting Germany and they had their uniforms, and Japan and they had their uniforms and they had their flags on the plane and the whole thing. We are fighting sneaky rats right now, that are sick and demented. And we’re gonna win.

He said, “They’re sneaky, dirty, rats.”

If you oppose dehumanizing fetuses, you should oppose dehumanizing anyone. Call them evil people. Never call them animals. [Tweet that] They are valuable human beings that are doing deeply, deeply evil things.

I don’t think I’m bothered by positive phrases like, “He’s brave like a lion,” or “She’s graceful and elegant like a cat.” There’s an animal comparison being made, but it’s an attempt to be uplifting.

I’m also not necessarily bothered by negative animal comparisons that are genuinely descriptive and not dehumanizing. For instance, if Trump had said, “It is so frustrating to deal with ISIS because they’re so good at hiding in plain sight, it’s like fighting against an army of chameleons,” that wouldn’t have bothered me. What bothers me is statements that imply, intentionally or unintentionally, that the person is subhuman. When you call someone you disagree with an animal or a monster, you are implying that they are subhuman.

When you refer to a group of human beings as animals, you train your mind to be unempathetic towards them. When you train your mind to be unempathetic towards a group of people, you make it much easier to mistreat those people. [Tweet that] If you dehumanize pro-choice people, it becomes easier to mistreat them when you interact with them. Most of us won’t interact with members of ISIS in person, but if you dehumanize ISIS, it becomes easier to rationalize unspeakable actions towards them. Whatever your views on waterboarding are, you must admit that it’s awfully uncomfortable that President Trump started to justify waterboarding terrorists immediately after he dehumanized them: (clip starts at 23:29)

Humanity has a very dark history of dehumanizing people and then mistreating them.

It is wrong to dehumanize people. It is bad for your soul to dehumanize people. It is dangerous for you to dehumanize people because then it becomes easier for you to mistreat them. [Tweet that] Make a decision right now that you won’t do it anymore.


Please tweet this article!

  • Tweet: Stop Calling People Animals
  • Tweet: If you oppose dehumanizing fetuses, you should oppose dehumanizing anyone. Call them evil people, but never animals.
  • Tweet: When you train your mind to be unempathetic towards a group of people, you make it easier to mistreat those people.
  • Tweet: It is wrong to dehumanize people.
  • Tweet: It is dangerous for you to dehumanize people because then it becomes easier for you to mistreat them.

The post “Stop Calling People Animals” originally appeared at the Equal Rights Institute blog. Subscribe to our email list with the form below and get a FREE gift. Click here to learn more about our pro-life apologetics course, “Equipped for Life: A Fresh Approach to Conversations About Abortion.”

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Former Director of Training

Timothy Brahm was formerly the Director of Training at Equal Rights Institute. He is interested in helping pro-life and pro-choice people to have better dialogues about abortion through 1) taking care to understand what the other person means, 2) using more carefully-constructed arguments, and 3) treating each other with care and respect. He graduated from Biola University with a B.A. in philosophy and is a perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute.

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