History of visual propaganda, stereotypes should not be neglected

CAMPUS ISSUES: A recent editorial cartoon stoked valid criticism.

Kelly Baird/Staff

The historical trail of anti-Semitism is long and patterned with violence. When The Daily Californian published an editorial cartoon Oct. 13 streaked with visual reminders of this history, it normalized what should be long-gone stereotypes.

The responsibility of any opinion section is to provide a space for dialogue, critique and reflection. But in order for productive conversations on a variety of topics to occur across differences, opinion pieces must fundamentally acknowledge the humanity of opposing parties. Otherwise, no productive conversation can take place. That means building from a foundation of informed, historical context, including an awareness of harmful and hateful tropes and stereotypes.

Civil liberties lawyer Alan Dershowitz wrote in a letter to the editor that the cartoon depicting him resembled “grotesque anti-Semitic blood libel propaganda” similar to material printed in pro-Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer in the 1930s. Blood libel refers to false allegations of Jews’ ritualistic murders of Christian children.

And readers have noted that the form of Dershowitz’s body in the cartoon recalls Nazi-era depictions of Jews as spiders and insectlike or as other types of creatures perceived as malevolent vermin.

The co-presidents of Bears for Israel wrote in a letter to the editor that “The two elements of the cartoon, with Dershowitz’s face in the front and the black body in the back, plays into the anti- Semitic trope of Jews as shape-shifting, sub-human entities using deception and trickery in order to advance their own agendas.”

Other time-worn, malicious stereotypes draw Jews as two-faced and deceitful, manipulative and operating in the shadows, often achieved through the depiction of Jews as puppet masters. Propaganda playing on these stereotypes was distributed to rationalize the systematic murder of Jewish people.

Readers voiced that the cartoon played into tropes that are still damaging and pervasive today, indeed seemingly on the rise, which robbed them of the right to feel welcome in the Berkeley community.

The past has a strong, ever-present hand in contemporary anti-Semitic sentiment. It is easier to view an image in a vacuum — to ignore the power of context. But without being cognizant and vigilant in understanding a storied history, one weakens the force of their argument and operates to erase certain forms and histories of oppression.

When a writer picks up a pen, or an artist their paintbrush, they must also pick up a history book.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

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  • Killer Marmot

    Universities are forever going on about “diversity”, but diversity of thought is scarce on the ground. Uniformity is actively enforced, with conservative and libertarian professors and students made to feel unwelcome. Their speakers are protested and sometimes shut down, and they are told their ideas have no place on a modern campus. And all of this is encouraged by, of all institutions, the student newspaper.

    It’s easy to lose one’s moral bearings in such an environment. With everybody thinking the same, one naturally assumes that one’s thoughts and actions are correct. There’s no left to say “Well hold on a minute…”

  • Todd

    I have not seen any news about Joel being fired for his hate speech. The apology was a first step for the board, but no apology from Joel should mean one thing.

    • Killer Marmot

      Meh, I’m tired of people demanding that those they disagree with be fired. Learn to disagree without trying to punish your opponent.

      • Todd

        This is not about a disagreement. I actual find that I agree with some of his cartoons. This is about hate speech not being acceptable.

        • Killer Marmot

          “Hate speech” is actually acceptable in that it is protected under the First Amendment.

          Both of us found that cartoon loathsome, but only you want to strike out and punish the cartoonist.

          • Todd

            This is not a first amendment issue. I agree that Joel has the right to speech. However, the paper has no obligation to have on their staff a bigot. If you feel this paper should hire bigots that is your 1st amendment right to say so

          • Killer Marmot

            No it’s not. But you used the vague word “unacceptable” without saying what that meant, and I fleshed it out a bit.

            But the hatred has to stop on all sides. Forgiving someone rather than turfing them is not a bad place to start. It might teach Joel what class means.

          • Todd

            Killer, your point is far, but that is not the facts here. I have no hatred for Joel, I don’t know anything about this person. I hate haters. I see this as a crime. You wouldn’t treat a raper and a victim as the same. Try to think of this as sexual harassment, you are removing the harasser.

        • zzz

          “Hate speech” is an idiotic meaningless set of words.

          • Todd

            I define it as speech that comes from a place of hate. It is actionable when it goes against protected classes. For example, someone might say they hate Denver football fans. However, if they said the same thing against blacks that would be actionable.

        • SecludedCompoundTTYS

          what do you agree with? how many times have you been to the middle east or just Israel? Just curious?

          • Todd

            Not this cartoon, I liked his bait and switch for financial aid. I have been to multiple Middle East locations

  • Cam

    Joel Mayorga is either an anti semite, or tragically naive. Since he’s a among the student body of “The #1 public university in the country” I’m going to assume he isn’t naive. Joel has been coddled and groomed by members of the left since elementary school. (Steve Bennett, Supervisor, Ventura County) It wasn’t until he began attending UCB that he found his affinity for the hard left. Wake up Joel, you aren’t on the Hillside anymore.

    • zzz

      Also he’s a terrible artists.

      the uni-mind of the soft science types don’t have a real world perspective on things.

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS

      He’s just naive, young and dumb like everyone else writing on the Daily Cal. They do not even know what writing a factual article is.

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