June 11, 2006

Caricature Witness

I'm not one for politics, the topic usually makes my eyes glaze over ... unless it is being presented on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. But a good smear campaign can be somewhat entertaining, especially when one party is accusing the other of anti-Semitism. Such is the case with Webb vs. Miller, two candidates for US Senate in the Virginia 2006 elections.

The matter came to my attention today when I received an e-mail from a supporter of the Webb campaign, who forwarded me a PDF flyer in which Miller was depicted as hooked-nosed, pockets full of money, and "the anti-Christ of outsourcing". The problem? This seemingly innocuous cartoon was perceived as an anti-Semitic slam against Miller. Quelle suprise.

The supporter who contacted me sought my expert opinion because of my involvement in cartoons and Judaism. He explained that, first of all, the Webb campaigners who designed the flyer didn't even realize Miller was a Jew. Also, even though the caricature of Miller has a crooked nose, that is what Miller actually looks like in real life.

So is it anti-Semitic to portray a real-life wealthy, stereotypically hook-nosed Jewish politician by distributing cartoon flyers containing a fairly accurate caricature of the candidate, complete with crooked nosed and money-stuffed pockets?

I say "no", the cartoon seems fine to me.

But then again, as I explained to the Webb supporter, I have a high threshold for offensiveness, so I may not be the best person to ask. In fact, I've been known to offend with my cartoons, without even trying. (Who is more racist, the cartoonist who draws a slanty-eyed, buck-toothed, straw hat-wearing Chinese food delivery boy, or the person who complains based on the assumption that the character is Chinese?)

But I did point out that it probably was not in the campaign's best interest to describe the candidate as "the anti-Christ of outsourcing". Mentioning Christ in a political campaign, especially in the context of a "Christ Killer", is never a sound tactic.

Anti-Semitism has nothing to do with it.

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