The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: #WWIII jokes privilege views over humanity

Within a few minutes on the video-sharing app TikTok, finding an offensive, rude or hurtful joke would not be difficult. The app, with at least 500 million users, lets creators record minute-long videos to speak, dance or joke in any way they would like. 

Naturally, this can become problematic quite fast, especially now that the popularity of the app has skyrocketed. Both creators and viewers on the app should be conscious of the content they support and who may be affected.

With the amount of creators and viewers, jokes, ideas and memes can spread like wildfire across the app. It is no surprise then that jokes about “World War III” rose in popularity amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. 

Content creators on TikTok quickly made jokes about being drafted, bombing Iran and pretending to be on the front lines. Disrespectful videos like these became a trend, and like any trend on TikTok, people replicated the jokes adding their own take.

In order to rise in the ranks of TikTok, creators need to enter the “For You” page. This is where videos are shown and viewers on the app can like, share and follow creators. Getting onto the “For You” page on the app is the first step to making it big on TikTok, so people often hashtag trending topics or copy videos with trending themes to get onto the page. 

It is no surprise then that problematic or disrespectful jokes, like ones regarding “World War III,” are made to gain clout online. In the nearly ten days since the conflict between the U.S. and Iran began, the hashtag #worldwar3 has over 349.5 million views on TikTok. 

This surge in jokes regarding World War III is an example of the privilege embedded in American military dominance. In times of rising conflict, people in the United States actually revel in the destruction and loss of life and culture that war could bring. 

While people in the U.S. joke about being deployed to Iran, 176 people died after a plane was shot down in Iran, and military bases where Americans are stationed were attacked. 

The conflict and fear are real; capitalizing on them for likes, shares and views is distasteful and disrespectful. People in the Middle East have been surrounded by war and conflict with the U.S. for years, and their lives have been changed dramatically by U.S. military involvement. 

For them, the fear of another war means further destruction and lives lost. “World War III” jokes neither take into account nor respect the U.S. lives that have been affected by this conflict. These jokes and memes are not specific to TikTok, they are also popular on other social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

It’s not the place of administrators of apps like TikTok and Instagram to delete content and prevent the creative process. We as consumers and viewers have the choice to support or not support problematic content. 

While younger people might not fully understand the full context of the military conflict-based jokes they are sharing or replicating, they still know that it's inflammatory enough to benefit themselves and their status on social media. Youth is not an excuse for promoting this content.

Ultimately, social media’s response to the events in Iran is telling. American elitism and military complex has been on full display. The humanity at the foundation of this conflict has been disregarded for online views and cheap laughs. 

Let’s do better and not joke about war and destruction. And, please, think about the human costs that will disproportionately burden Iran before you make jokes online.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.