• Refuting Refugee M&M Meme

    The current battle in America’s Culture War is over the Syrian refugees. Many on the political Right are opposed to foreigners from the start, but when those foreigners are Muslims, the Religious Right really lose their shit. Recently, I have seen the far right spread this M&M meme across social media:
    M&M Refugee Meme
    The meme states: “If I had a bowl that was filled with 10,000 M&M’s But I told you that 10 of them were deadly poison would you eat a handful? This is how I feel about Syrian refugees.”

    Wow, that sounds pretty scary… except for a few things.

    1.    “You” could be lying your ass off or even perhaps mistaken and none of the
    M&M’s in the bowl were “deadly poison.” This is significant because it assumes that at least some of the people running away from ISIS are secretly working for ISIS. There is no evidence or reason to believe that. Sure it is possible, but it is also possible that your neighbor down the street is secretly working for ISIS… or worse, is a radicalized Christianist or just some redneck who thinks he is an action hero and takes his gun to the movie theater in case there is trouble and then shoots you by accident while reaching for his popcorn. In fact, that is far more likely than people running from ISIS actually being members of ISIS.

    2.    Assuming it is true, you can eat multiple handfuls of these 10,000 M&M’s and it is statically unlikely you would get to any of the 10 poisonous ones. Now that doesn’t really translate well to what the metaphor is trying to say except that it is statically unlikely that an ISIS member would be able to hide not only from the 9,990 other Syrian refugees who HATE ISIS way more than you do and then continue to hide from the nearly 2 year vetting process for these refugees and then continue to acquire the materials they need to stage a terrorist attack without being detected by the FBI, CIA, NSA, and local law enforcement.

    3.    That brings me to the third reason this analogy fails. The fact that we have experts examining each and every one of these M&M’s specifically to make sure they are not “deadly poison.” Yes, there is a nearly two year vetting process here. We aren’t just letting anyone who claims to be fleeing ISIS into America. No, we are carefully examining each and every person. In fact, we are examining them way more than we should considering that there are much easier ways to get into this country with far less scrutiny. All an ISIS member would have to do is pretend to be an oil tycoon and offer a congressman a boat load of money and they could probably get in with no scrutiny. And if it is a Republican congressman, he might even throw in a free firearm or ten.

    4.    M&M’s are not people! We went through this once before during WWII. Back
    then, Jews who were refugees from Nazi Germany were suspect. If they had social media memes back then, this meme would have been making the rounds. The rhetoric was exactly the same. How can anyone know whether or not a Jewish refugee was really a secret Nazi? That sounds almost preposterous today since we all pretty much know that a Jewish refugee would almost certainly be the last person to be a secret Nazi, but that is what people thought at the time and apparently still believe. Syrian refugees are people running from ISIS, they are not going to be the “deadly poison” M&M.

    Category: featuredIslamMemesPolitics


    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.


    1. In WWII, Jews weren’t killing Americans in Yaweh’s name. There wasn’t a billion Jews who had sworn death to America and the infidels. Jews weren’t killing homosexuals and establishing Sharia Law where ever they went.

      1. And Syrian refugees aren’t either. But German Jews were suspected of being secret Nazis because Nazis were German and German Jews were German. The Syrian refugees are Muslims and Syrians, but they are NOT part of ISIS. If they were, ISIS wouldn’t be trying to kill them and they wouldn’t be refugees.

        1. Thanks for that response. It blows my mind that the religious “right” is willing to let literally hundreds of people die because “one” might be bad. If there’s ever anything UN-religious, it’s that.

          1. I don’t think that is un-religious at all and that is the problem with religion. We have to stop playing into their propaganda that religion=good. It doesn’t. Religion is bad and it causes people to do bad things.

      2. Yawn. More boring nonsense falsely equating everyone from the Middle East and the Muslim world of being in league with Daesh or otherwise Wahhabi-takfirists like Daesh is.

        You are, quite simply, a dangerous cretin. In reality, it’s the Muslim Middle East that’s been doing the most to fight the likes of Daesh. These are the people who have the most reason to hate the Wahhabi-takfirists, and here you are shitting on them like a coward.

    2. You should probably change your wording a bit, “people running from ISIS…being members of ISIS” is clunky at best and a bit confusing as to what you mean. When most people (saying things like this) are saying something akin to “there are ISIS members among the people running from ISIS” which is much more direct and clear. It doesn’t really change your points against the notion, but, in my eyes, is a lot clearer.

    3. 1 – The ‘Syrian refugees fleeing from ISIS are not ISIS’ is not merely peotically wrong it is down right misleading. Genuine Syrian refugees fleeing from ISIS are by definition not ISIS members. That’s totally not the point. That’s merely ‘red M&Ms are not blue M&Ms’. The US has a half-century of espionage against Russia under its belt, and and to say no ISIS members would not try to get into the US (or Europe) disguised as genuine Syrian refugees is just practically inconceivable – sorry, but it is. In Europe it’s near impossible to distinguish Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS direct from Syria from other groups: Syrian refugees in no immediate danger that merely prefer Europe; non-Syrians riding the wave; and when they ditch their identity they still get into Europe. They are re-profiled, and some will eventually become European citizens. The US has no plans to overly vet visitors. It’s easy to visit the US from Europe and once in the US to get lost among sympathisers.

      2 – Totally wrong. The bowl of M&Ms is all Syrian Muslims, and the handful are the refugees. By your faulty 1, the handful DOES contain a few poisonous ones.

      3 – This is your best shot. But terrorists are already slipping in and out of countries because controls are difficult to implement. Carry on with the checks. Some will fail.

      4 – M&Ms are not people, and the victims of terrorists are not M&Ms. This is a fatuous point that has nothing going for it other than appeal against dehumanising people. The Jewish analogy is totally screwed. Nazis did disguise themselves as Jews after the war – either as a means of escaping with camp victims, or as a means of escaping detection generally. And of course some Jews escaped by disguising themselves as non-Jews.

      “Syrian refugees are people running from ISIS, they are not going to be the “deadly poison” M&M.” You are already dehumanising the members of ISIS. They may be deluded and violent, but they are humans, not poisonous M&Ms. You are using the rhetoric you denounce in that very point 4.

      So, just to be clear: it is highly likely that a number of ISIS supporters or activists will be among the refugees, disguised as Syrian refugees, or disguised as other migrants pretending to be Syrian – just think about that: you are an ISIS agent and have no have no Syrian ID, so pretend you’re an economic migrant pretending to be a Syrian refugee, and you get found out for being an economic migrant, and processed by other means, but not immediately taken to be an ISIS agent. So far so good.

      Anyone would think espionage was beyond these crazy Muslims. Not a little racism inherent in that.

      The M&M comparison is right in some respects. Where it actually fails is that it compares one eater of a near guaranteed poison: the eater of a handful of M&Ms will die. Here’s a better analogy:

      A handful of red M&Ms contains some poisonous ones (let’s say 100,000 M&Ms and 100 poisonous ones) and they are going to be tossed into a population of 300,000,000+ M&Ms of all colours spread over 10,000,000 square km, which already contains some poisonous ones of various colours (Hint: see damion’s Graph of the Week: http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/2015/12/08/graph-of-the-week-gun-homicide-and-mass-shootings/). Now, what’s the chance of being poisoned by one of those red M&Ms you just tossed in, compared to all the other existing threats?

      ISIS infiltration through Syrian refugees is a real threat. But not that much greater than other means of entry, and a far smaller threat than others. One to be guarded against, by your point 3. But it isn’t as little a threat that your post implies.

    4. If putting a pause on accepting any Muslims into the USA…. “until we figure out what is going on” ( as Trump would say) makes sense to you, then I propose this: we should detain all Southern males “until we figure out what is going on” with Charleston mass shooter Dylan Roof and Planned Parenthood mass shooter Robert Lewis Dear.
      If putting a pause on all Muslims entering the USA makes sense to you, it shows your ignorance and bigotry. The Syrian refugees who are FLEEING AWAY from ISIS are not the same as ISIS. If you can’t see the difference, then the detaining of all Southern males should make sense to you too.

    5. I completely agree. These arguments are a defense of moral cowardice of the worst sort, and of judging a group by what a small minority does. It’s the definition of prejudice.

      But you were aware that this “poisoned M&Ms” meme wasn’t originally started as an argument against refugees? It was started by a man called Benjamin Grelle, who’s blog is called “The Frogman”, and he used it to argue that women were entitled to be afraid of men, during the #notallmen debacle. He’s since deleted it, because he got relentlessly ridiculed for it by people who pointed out that the exact same form of argument could be used to justify fear of black people, Roma, Muslims, poor people, women etc. (He never admitted that the argument was bad, however.)

      Some people are seen as “entitled” to prejudge others based on fear, others are not. That’s probably why Zimmerman got acquitted for killing Trayvon Martin, for instance. Is it prejudice itself we have a problem with, or is it just prejudice against the “good guys”? If it’s the latter, there’s no real moral high ground to be had here. Then we’re just quibbling over various self-serving ways to define who the good guys are.

      1. I’m sure there are Christian refugees too. In fact there are probably atheist refugees too. But most of the refugees are Muslims and that is why we are talking about that aspect.

    6. Sunni muslim as well as Shiite muslims teach, there is NO god (or law) but allah. 80% of those polled said they condone violence against those who speak against mohammed. One video recorded at a mosque showed 99%! If 80-99% do not want American freedom but swear allegiance to sharia, why would YOU want them to infiltrate and change our wonderful country? To all the women I say, wear a hijab and turn in your car keys like women in Saudi Arabia. You are dogs and goats. No jews there either. So who are the real bigots and racists?

      As for the foolish arguments listed above, we do not have the ability to distinguish between the good M&Ms and the poisoned ones. The number of poisoned M&Ms is extremely high according to independent polls, I challenge you to google them. You do not have to be a member of ISIS to harm peace loving people. Almost every terror attack around the world is Islamic whether it be Sunni or Shiite- Hamas, Al Qaeda. I for one would not invite people into my home that believed in such violent ideologies. Nor would I want them in my community. You cannot hide behind the title of religion because Islam is a political, economical, personal ideology. My pastor friend from Egypt fled the country because 10 of his church members were beheaded including one pregnant woman. At this point it does not matter if it is a religious or political ideology. The results are always consistent. I wish I could find something positive to embrace but it’s hard to embrace murder, hatred and lies.

      1. The problem is with your thinking. You think that these “evil” Muslims will come here an change us. I think if any of these “evil” Muslims come here, we will change them! You see, I believe in the ideals of America and you don’t. I don’t believe America is great because it is ‘Merica. I don’t believe our differences are a weakness. I believe our differences are our strength and that they are what makes America great. Let them come! Let them see the America I see.

        But the fact is that those who flee religious extremism are not going to be the religious extremists. These are the same arguments people made during WWII. How do we know that the Jewish refugees aren’t secret Nazis? Now we can look back at that and laugh. Of course the people the Nazis wanted to throw into ovens weren’t going to be secretly working for the Nazis. It is the same thing with the Syrian refugees.

      1. It did not come up for moderation. I checked all the comments since September. I can look further back, but I didn’t see it. Comments only come up for moderation if they violate the comment policy or are from a new reader. Follow the rules and your comment will post automatically.

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