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  • Writer's picturePiotr

Post Pest Post

American anti-Japanese poster from WWII

Die mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, ticks, bedbugs, spiders, worms, amphibians, reptiles and rodents! We hate you and we will kill you all! How is a propaganda poster dehumanizing the enemy different from pest control product advertisements? They are not in any way different!

In both cases we are dealing with an anthropomorphic representation of rodents, insects, reptiles, amphibians and even some mammals. In the former, it is depicting humans as pests, in the latter pests as humans.

Bug spray logo

Mosquitoes and other pests remind us that we didn't really break free from the yoke of the food chain. If they don't drink our blood, they threaten our hard earned possessions.

No! We will not let it go! For centuries, arachnophobia, entomophobia, batrachophobia, and reptiliophobia, have been an effective tool of dehumanizing propaganda aiming at a selected group of perceived enemies. These fears are an acquired, culturally dictated reflex and our aversion to these creatures has been and still is a gateway to xenophobia and manipulation. “You don't mind people with freckles? We will help you with that!" Here is when the selected victim group is usually compared to any chosen pest. This tool is only effective because we are afraid, superior to or don’t understand other species.

Anti-Prussian poster. Russia, 1916

Propaganda tricks comparing groups of people to insects certainly will not have the same effect on entomologists who devote their entire lives to these wonderful creatures. A comparison to a cockroach would be most likely taken by them as a compliment. After all, cockroaches are a group of very clever and extremely resilient insects! Knowledge removes fear and aversion. Without fear, there would be no dehumanization propaganda, because bigoted prejudices behind any such comparison would end with a dud.

In the post pest world, the world of knowledge and understanding, the following conversations could take place: "You pig!" "Oh thank you! Likewise!” “Don’t mention it! Pigs are wonderful and wise creatures, aren't they!" “Cows too. Especially the older ones." "You old cow!" “Aww, you’re too kind ..." and so on…

Pest control logo

Pest anthropomorphism It was 1989. Before the great explosion of capitalist enterprises, the first real commercial appeared on Polish television after a few decades of communist rule. It was an advertisement for a measure against roaches called "Prusakolep". I must mention that the name "prusak", which in Poland is used interchangeably with the name "karaluch", comes from the tradition of dehumanizing the enemy, in this case the Prussians. The insects presented in the short video were not human looking, but their image was enlarged, sharpened and threatening. To this day, I remember my father, who immediately interpreted the Prusakolep advertisement as a symbol of the victory over communism. This reaction was certainly the aim of the ad creators. “Roaches are communists. Communists are pests that must be banished!"

The pest control advertising is a kind of reversal of the dehumanization propaganda but we don't mind it. We think it's funny and cute. Just as the fear of certain species of animals helps us develop an aversion to a selected ethnic group, in fighting against "harmful" representatives of the fauna, our own misanthropy aids us in return. In the marketing of traps and sprays, the most effective advertisement turns out to be the representation of pests as people: a mosquito or a cockroach as a stereotype of an annoying intruder, someone who somehow got under our skin: a nosy neighbor, an offensive coworker, a swarm of mosquitoes as an enemy military unit. In most advertisements pests are characterized by stereotypical humanity, they possess human mannerisms, wear human clothes, speak with a human voice and, after using the insecticide, they die a completely human death. Some ads even resort to hiring human actors to play the insects. Moreover, the destruction of these pesky human archetypes fills us with a shameless genocidal satisfaction.

Why does it not concern us? Why are we not worried about the fact that our sense of superiority over other animal species and our general ignorance about them expose our minds to the tricks of dehumanization propaganda? Why are we not worried about the fact that, through the same arrogance and ignorance, the insects on the entire planet are gradually going extinct? Perhaps soon there will be no more insects, which will ultimately lead to our own extinction and the subsequent tragic decline in the demand for bug sprays.

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