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Far-right trolls use coronavirus meme to spread subtle anti-Chinese racism

Anti-Chinese sentiments are on the rise amid the coronavirus outbreak.


Felix Kalvesmaki

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 30, 2020   Updated on Jan 27, 2021, 5:01 am CST

Far-right Twitter and 4chan users have found a new meme amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

On 4chan, users are Photoshopping hazmat suits onto everyone, from Pepe the Frog to Alex Jones, in response to coronavirus, a disease that is believed to have originated in the now-quarantined Wuhan, China. On Twitter, users are doing the same thing with their own avatars.

Twitter user @EyesOnTheRight posted a compilation of several far-right figureheads with hazmat suits Photoshopped onto their avatars and referred to the act as racist.

“A good way of spotting racist dickheads is by looking for the people who photoshopped hazmat suits on their avatars,” EyesOnTheRight wrote. 


In response, some are claiming the meme is simply a “joke,” not racist.


Paul Joseph Watson even tried to troll the idea of hazmat suits being racist. 


The first instance of the hazmat suit meme, per Know Your Meme, came in a Jan. 22 4chan thread about coronavirus. In the thread, there are racist, xenophobic posts, with some calling for the quarantine of China and Chinese people—or worse.

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“If I have to check in anyone from China tonight I’m gonna make a big scene,” one 4chan post reads. “They should quarantine the whole dam country.”Unrecorded
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“Let the ch*nks hit the floor.”
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“Can we please start posting/making more memes to tap some of that sweet sweet memeagic to kill all ch*nks off, please?”

Furthermore, even the post directly under the source material is rather violent.

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“All Chinese in Western countries must be put into quarantine camps.”

However, through looking at the ID of the meme’s creator, it is apparent that they have not posted any verbal examples of racism. 

Yet, in the past few days, anti-Chinese sentiments have flooded social media and comment sections.

One tweet from user @jackiehluo highlights some vicious racism on behalf of New York Times repliers.

“Filthy, godless people spreading their disgusting diseases via their lust for foul foods… no wonder it took them 1,000 years to (almost) join the modern world,” one replier wrote in response to a Times story on coronavirus. 

Other Twitter users are sharing the racism and xenophobia they have also witnessed recently. 

One user shared how her partner, whose of Asian descent, was “hassled at a grocery store about potentially carrying coronavirus in New York.” Another user shared an email documenting how their teacher’s assistant was asked to put a mask on while in class–despite her not having visited China in “many years.” 

“Y’all are so fuckin xenophobic it reeks,” the Twitter user wrote, along with a screenshot of the email. “Asking someone to put a mask on when you don’t even know their situation is ridiculous. I hope you know the TA probably feels like shit now. Unbelievable”


So, taking into consideration the influx of xenophobia seen in the past few days as well as its use by known racists and far-right trolls, the hazmat suit meme could very well be seen as an act of subtle racism. 


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*First Published: Jan 30, 2020, 7:38 pm CST