Friday, May 03, 2019

Cartoon: Political or Anti-Semitic, or Both?

I posted on two Baptist discussion boards (one conservative leaning and one liberal leaning) this question.

The New York Times published and later apologized for the following cartoon.

 What is your take?

On these two discussion boards, those Baptists on the Left consistently accepted it as a normal political cartoon, while those on the Right consistently ascribed to it anti-Semitism. I am a biblical conservative and politically libertarian (with a strict constructionist view of the Constitution). I took it as an anti-Trump political cartoon, without reading anti-Semitism into it (I had no idea who drew it). Whether sincerely for ethical reasons or pragmatically for financial reasons,[i] The New York Times eventually labeled it anti-Semitic.[ii] Some of their comments include:
“We are deeply sorry for the publication of an anti-Semitic political cartoon last Thursday in the print edition of The New York Times that circulates outside the United States, and we are committed to making sure nothing like this happens again.”
“The image was offensive, and it was an error of judgment to publish it.”
“The appearance of such an obviously bigoted cartoon in a mainstream publication is evidence of a profound danger, not only of anti-Semitism but of numbness to its creep, to the insidious way this ancient, enduring prejudice is once again working itself into public view and common conversation.”
António Moreira Antunes,[iii] the Portuguese cartoonist who created it, defended his product, saying, “It is a critique of Israeli policy, which has a criminal conduct in Palestine, at the expense of the UN, and not the Jews.”

It is nothing new that political cartoons offend people! They are pointed and often mean-spirited. They intend to oppose and even ridicule politicians, practices, and points of view. Political cartoons commonly offend those on the side being roasted. I find only a small portion of political cartoons ubiquitously humorous. A few achieve the Larry the Cable Guy award, “That’s funny, I don’t care who you are.”

My take. I understood it as a political cartoon that was “anti-Trump.” Donald Trump is the blind schmuck led around by Benjamin Netanyahu. I can accept as sincere the cartoonist’s explanation that he critiques Israeli policy. I can also accept the fact that Jews could be offended by it. Ultimately, I see it as a political cartoon like most political cartoons I see – a dull tiresome critique of politicians, practices, and points of view. (Some are creative and entertaining; most are not.) However, I think the visceral reaction against it affirms the “perpetually offended” nature of Western Society. Many people are walking around looking for something that will offend them. If they cannot find it, they will create something. Further, I see it as the Right copying a page from the Left’s playbook – play the race card when it gives an advantage, whether there is anything substantially racial or not.

Lighten up, boys. Ask the bandwagon to stop and let you off. If most Jews were not offended, as this article suggests,[iv] perhaps the rest of us need to just mosey along.

[i] Whether anti-Semitic or not (which many have labeled The New York Times), they seem fairly certainly anti-Netanyahu.
[ii] In a Times column, editorialist Bret Stephens wrote that the cartoon was “an image that, in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer.” Der Stürmer was a Nazi newspaper.
[iii] According to The Jerusalem Post, António’s editorial cartoons have been published since 1974. He is stranger to neither controversy nor success. He won first prize at the 20th International Salon of Cartoons in Montreal in 1983 with a cartoon depicting “Israeli soldiers tormenting Lebanese women and children.” Ten years later, he angered Catholics and sexual abstinence advocates with a cartoon of Pope John Paul II wearing a condom on the end of his nose.
[iv] The author writes “that most American Jews, while ethnically Jewish, are ethically leftist.”

No comments: