Right-Wingers Push Absurd Lie About Haitian Cannibal Invasion

In their long-running quest to sow xenophobia among the American populace, some on the far-right have accused migrants of every imaginable crime. Trump declared them rapists and falsely claimed that the violent street gang MS-13 was invading the country on a massive scale. GOP legislators have argued, with scant evidence, that the fentanyl crisis can be blamed on drug smugglers entering the U.S. illegally. There are bogus claims about noncitizens committing voter fraud, and the outbreak of war in the Middle East last fall even led to speculation that Hamas militants might cross over the southern border from Mexico.

These frequently debunked warnings all serve to prop up the same age-old moral panic: that hordes of foreign evil-doers are overwhelming communities, imposing their culture and wresting control of institutions. But the latest supposed threat right-wingers have trotted out in support of tougher domestic security is the most absurd yet: cannibals.

The nation of Haiti is currently experiencing a bloody upheaval, with gangs seizing control of areas in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and forcing the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry as they vie for power. The bloody struggle has refugees trying to flee the chaos; many are turned back at the border with the neighboring Dominican Republic. The U.S. Coast Guard is also intercepting migrants in boats, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week deployed extra law enforcement and the Florida State Guard to stop a “potential influx” of immigration.

It’s a real and tragic humanitarian crisis that Republicans have predictably used to stoke fear and anxiety over border issues. However, since destitute people hoping to escape a civil war aren’t scary enough, far-right commentators are focusing on unverified rumors that the gangs responsible for the collapse of Haiti’s government practice cannibalism. Malaysian influencer Ian Miles Cheong has repeatedly tweeted that cannibal gangs are not only roving Port-au-Prince but “illegally entering the U.S. en masse.” Podcaster and Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh told his audience that “according to reports circulating all over social media, the violent gangs terrorizing Haiti have even resorted to cannibalism.” Elon Musk, who consistently frets about the border and falsely asserted that voting noncitizens swing elections for Democrats, shared Walsh’s video on Monday, commenting, “Cannibal gangs.”

When NBC reported that these allegations of cannibalism were false and appeared to stem from the gangs’ efforts at intimidating rivals with propaganda about their cruelty and bloodlust (a former vigilante group active in the early 2000s was known as the “Cannibal Army“), Cheong, Walsh, and Musk all fired back. “They are such liars,” Musk complained. He and Cheong doubled down on the racist canard that any group of Haitians attempting to travel to the U.S. includes cannibals, with Musk indicating that he’s in favor of screening immigrants “for potential homicidal tendencies and cannibalism.” (It’s not clear how this would work.) White supremacist Nick Fuentes was characteristically brazen in his assessment, streaming an episode of his podcast that blared “Cannibal Savages PLOT IMMINENT Florida Invasion.”

There’s a long, shameful history of white westerners baselessly accusing Haitians of cannibalism and human sacrifice, often connecting them to Haitian Vodou, a heavily stereotyped African diasporic religion. In this instance, Musk and others also implied that American liberals would be tolerant of cannibalism. An image of a fake column headlined “Dear Racists, Cannibals Are People Too” made the rounds on the conservative side of X (formerly Twitter). The anonymous author of the account @EndWokeness, meanwhile, posted footage from a 2017 CNN documentary series in which sociologist Reza Aslan talks to a member of the Hindu Aghori sect, which includes post-mortem cannibalism among its religious practices. The years-old interview was recorded in India and has nothing to do with the situation in Haiti but sparked comments ridiculing mainstream media as naively accepting of purported cannibalism among Haitians.

In attacking NBC for their coverage of his tweets, Musk even shared what he believed to video evidence of cannibalism occurring in Haiti posted by a different X user. The graphic, unverified footage violated X’s guidelines, however, and was removed by the company. While the U.S. State Department has not received credible reports of cannibalism amid the unrest in Haiti, misleadingly captioned images on social media have been widely accepted as proof that Haitians are eating each another. One video said to show two corpses being roasted in Haiti, viewed nearly half a million times on an X account, actually depicts Halloween decorations at a Chinese theme park in 2018, per the fact-checking website Snopes.

So the prospect of “wild cannibals” invading the U.S. is overblown, to say the least. Even if Haiti’s gang members were consuming human flesh — and there’s no evidence that they are — these are not the individuals trying to leave the country. If anything, Americans might want to worry about the potential cannibals already living next door: conspiracy kingpin Alex Jones, who lives in Texas, has lately posted a string of tweets describing how he will feast upon his political enemies when apocalyptic food shortages make cannibalism a necessity. “I will eat your leftist ass like corn on the cob,” he tweeted on Thursday, seeking to further clarify a meme of himself that many had interpreted as a sexual in nature.

Tellingly, it’s only those public figures known for credulously accepting and spreading misinformation who predict any kind of cannibal takeover, most of them with the clear objective of demonizing migrants as a whole. It’s not a particularly compassionate response to those displaced by a deadly insurrection, but that’s never given conservatives pause when they want to ramp up election-year rhetoric around the Democrats’ border policy. When it comes to scaring themselves, this crew simply can’t be outdone.