Discord’s April Fools’ Loot Box Video: A Blatant Disregard for Ongoing Genocide in Gaza by Archit Mehta

Three images are displayed in a trifold: first image shows Discord cartoon mascot Wumpus on a field of grass. Second image shows humanitarian airdrops in Gaza. Third image shows Wumpus engulfed in flames. Text reads: Discord's April Fools video: A blatant disregard for ongoing genocide in Gaza

Posted in 2024 The Gnovis Blog  |  Tagged , , , , ,

By Archit Mehta

This April Fools’ Day, Discord — an instant messaging and social media platform — uploaded a 17-second video that “obliterated a YouTube view count record.” The video is about Discord’s new feature — Loot Boxes. It offers in-game rewards, perks, and badges. (Mashable, Fossbytes

The video shows an object fired from outer space towards the Earth. In the next frame, the object is revealed — a loot box — when it falls on Discord’s mascot, Wumpus. The video’s fuzzy pig mascot (Discord Twitter) is the only character. The video shows multiple loot boxes falling into the nearby territories surrounded by greenery, including trees that look similar to palm trees. The video ends with Wumpus giving a thumbs-up despite the fatal airdrop. (Discord YouTube)

Screenshot of Discord’s Loot Box video. The image shows the airdrop striking Wumpus.
Fig 1: Screenshot of Discord’s Loot Box video. The image shows the airdrop striking Wumpus.

The video racked up over 1.4 billion views in less than 24 hours, meaning Wumpus the pig has been struck by the airdrop at least 1.4 billion times. Software developer Marvin Witt claimed that the company [Discord] accidentally “managed to create a working YouTube view bot in 2024 by playing their loot box announcement trailer on loop in the background…”. Since then, YouTube has re-calibrated the number of views to 3.5 million. (Marvin Witt’s thread on X)

The video was released as an April Fools’ prank — which means there was an element of pre-planning involved, and the result of the video production involved a certain amount of deliberation. Most comments on YouTube relate to how Discord managed to rig YouTube views, but one comment stands out. On April 4, user @connormacmillan2803 commented — “I didn’t really get the joke the first 500,000 times I watched this, but now I think it’s finally starting to hit me.” The comment got 6,500 likes and 27 replies — out of which ten comments mentioned garlic. Most of them had tagged an anonymous user @GarlicIsGood.

Screenshot of the comments section on YouTube. A blue box highlights two comments showing the “@GarlicIsGood” and “garlic” replies.
Fig 2: Screenshot of the comments section on YouTube. The blue highlight shows the “@GarlicIsGood” and “garlic” replies under one of the most liked comments.

As per the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Garlic is a vegetable that has long been associated with Jews… However, Jews’ affinity for garlic had negative connotations as well. The ancient Romans derogatively called Jews “garlic eaters,” and the smell of garlic was widely associated with Jews.” As of April 2024, the time of writing this article, the glossary of anti-Semitic terms by the Anti-Defamation League does not list garlic as anti-Semitic. The readers should note ADL has categorized pro-Palestine activism as “antisemitic.” (The New Republic 2024; The Guardian 2024)

What does “garlic” have to do with the alleged joke in the video? Your guess is as good as mine. But I reckon there is little room to interpret the lack of awareness or sensitivity exhibited by Discord’s team, who produced and/or approved the loot box video. 

About three weeks prior to Discord’s video, five Palestinians were killed, and 11 were wounded by humanitarian airdrops carried by the US and Jordan (The Times of Israel, The Telegraph). Around the same time, Refugees International reported that the actions of the Israeli government have consistently and without justification hindered the progress of aid operations in Gaza, obstructed lawful relief efforts, and shown reluctance in adopting measures that could truly improve the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the region. As early as December 2023, New York-based nonprofit Human Rights Watch had reported that the Israeli government has been using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in the Gaza Strip — which is a war crime.

Screenshot of Al Jazeera report with the footage of airdrops in Gaza. 

Headline in screenshot reads: Aid airdrop kills five people in Gaza after parachute falls

Subheading in screenshot reads: As famine stalks enclave, aid workarounds criticised as a distraction from Israel's blocking of aid through land routes.
Fig 3: Screenshot of Al Jazeera report with the footage of airdrops in Gaza.

On April 14, X account Quds News Network reported, “The Palestinian child Zain Orouk survived the bombing of his family’s home in Gaza by Israeli warplanes but was killed this morning when an airdropped aid box fell on him.” Journalist at The Intercept Prem Thakker, who has been covering ongoing genocide in Gaza, wrote, “How have we allowed this sentence to be written.”

Riley Tinlin, CCT 2023-25,  said, “The first time I saw this ad, I was honestly bewildered. I am interested in Discord’s response explaining the joke in the video. What is so funny about a person expecting aid being literally crushed by said aid? Was it funny when five starving Palestinians were killed by malfunctioning humanitarian aid boxes?” 

Another first-year CCT who studied Global Cyber Policy, on request of anonymity, said, “Discord has a responsibility, as a global organization, to be aware of how the content it releases affects people in reality. Even if the video reflected a long production process or an opportunity to capitalize on an ad, it should have been screened by people aware of world events before it was published.”

The ongoing genocide (The Lemkin Institute, United Nations Meetings Coverage and Press Release) of Palestinian people in Gaza by the settler-colonial state Israel (US Department of State, Al Jazeera) has led to over 33,000 deaths and 76,000 injuries (Time, The Times of Israel). After months of the killing of civilians and systemic cultural erasure (Bellingcat, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace), on April 10, Samantha Power, the director of the US Agency for International Development, told lawmakers that people in parts of northern Gaza have begun facing famine. (Axios)

After the deaths due to airdrops, the US Central Command said, “Contrary to some reports, this was not the result of U.S. airdrops”. Tinlin, who studied Critical Discourse Analysis in Fall 2023 and Misinformation in Spring 2024, added,  “The Al-Monitor reported that the Jordanian military stated that they carried out the mission without any glitches. If the malfunctioning packages came from U.S. aircraft, the claim that these deaths were “not a result of U.S. airdrops” needs to be investigated.” 

On March 13, The New Humanitarian reported, “Israel’s allies aren’t willing to, or able to, exert the pressure that’s needed to provide for more efficient means of delivering humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza.”

Screenshot showing a map of the Gaza Strip. Caption in screenshot reads: A breakdown of the Gaza aid situation by land, sea, and air.
Fig 4: A breakdown of the Gaza aid situation by land, sea, and air by The New Humanitarian.

As of writing this article, there is no criticism or outrage against the video. I have contacted Discord for queries related to the video on X (April 2) and via email (April 15). The article will be updated if Discord responds.

Like most people, first-year CCT student Bryan Murphy did not see why the video was problematic. He said, “When I first saw the video, I could not connect the dots. After being presented with the context of killing in Gaza because of airdrops, I couldn’t help but think what Discord was thinking. This ad inadvertently normalizes subhuman conditions in Gaza, and I believe that such content can have a Dog Whistle Effect in certain online echo chambers. I think Discord’s failure to address or take down the ad should be historicized and criticized.”

Murphy added, “Take Zara’s ad in December of 2023. It was deemed “insensitive to [the] Israel-Hamas war.” Zara quickly responded with a statement and took it down. Public outcry, in this case, was more important than the fact that the ad was shot before the conflict began. A similar mea culpa manifested after H&M released an ad with a little black boy wearing a hoodie that read “coolest monkey in the Jungle.”  Outcry ensued, the tone deafness was addressed, and the ad was removed. There seems to be a pattern here, one that Discord either is unaware of or deliberately ignores. Both are extremely problematic.” (The Guardian, 2023; NYT, 2018).