Yesterday, the Hamilton Spectator published a cartoon that was indistinguishable from neo-Nazi propaganda.
We will not be reproducing the cartoon here, because Bent Q has standards that most definitely include not publishing neo-Nazi propaganda, whether it is produced with the intention of being neo-Nazi propaganda or is incidentally and unintentionally indistinguishable from neo-Nazi propaganda. If you wish to look at the cartoon yourself, it can be found on the artists page here: https://mackaycartoons.net/2017/08/21/tuesday-august-22-2017/ . It would appear that The Hamilton Spectator does not share this standard.
If you are not interested in looking at a mediocre editorial cartoon that is indistinguishable from neo-Nazi propaganda here is a description: the cartoon in question depicts an angry crowd, mercilessly beating a Nazi. He is unquestionably a Nazi, the man is wearing a Nazi uniform, complete with a swastika armband, and weakly attempting to make a roman salute. This is not a Godwin’s Law Nazi, where he is simply a racist or ‘just’ protesting the removal of a statue being arguably falsely equated with a neo-Nazi, he is an Actual Unquestionable Nazi.
He is also linked to the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ demonstrations by way of a Tiki torch prop. He is centred as a sympathetic character, defenseless against the much bigger and stronger crowd. The crowd is beating this man with protest signs declaring messages of peace and love, which appears to be the ‘edgy, ironic’ twist and point of the piece. Graeme MacKay, the cartoonist responsible for producing this piece, seems to be attempting to say that anti-fascist organizers are hypocrites, because they claim to be hippy peaceniks, while also behaving violently towards unquestionable Nazis.
There is a lot to unpack here.
We do not believe that the artist set out to create neo-Nazi propaganda. Looking at his body of work, it rather incredibly is clear that he thinks of himself as some kind of liberal.
We also do not believe that his intentions matter. Regardless of his intentions, he created a piece of commentary that centres an unquestionable Nazi as a sympathetic focus. Even the most noxious and overt alt-right propagandists do not generally go so far as to centre an unquestionable Nazi as a sympathetic focus.
To add insult to injury, The Hamilton Spectator, when sharing this (seemingly unintentional, but nevertheless still at best indistinguishable from) neo-Nazi propaganda on their social media, they captioned the link with the words “Education is the Answer”.
Okay The Hamilton Spectator, ‘Political Satirist’ Graeme MacKay, and anybody who can look at this and not see what is fundamentally unacceptable about it, here is some education for you.
- Six million Jews were murdered by Nazis. In living memory, six million people were killed by this toxic and dangerous ideology, and that is not even counting the Roma, queer people, other religious minorities such as Jehovahs Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists, disabled people and other ‘undesirable’ groups that met their end at the hands of the Nazi state. Modern believers of Nazi ideologies argue that this attempted extermination is exaggerated or didn’t happen at all, while paradoxically also calling for similar measures to be taken in North America. Depicting an actual Nazi (not a ‘free speech’ demonstrator or whatever other guise the so-called ‘alt-right’ uses any given moment, but an unquestionable Nazi) as a sympathetic figure is repugnant and reprehensible, and goes farther than even the most noxious alt-right propaganda generally does.
- Anti fascist organizers do not now and have not ever claimed to be pacifists. Rather, anti-fascist organizers believe in confronting the murderous ideology of white supremacists by any means necessary, which can include the use of physical confrontation. This piece will not be making arguments as to whether or not that is appropriate, because that is a much larger conversation, and irrelevant to the point at hand. Violence is an inescapable part of life in this country, and there are different opinions as to who has a right to wield it and when. But whether you believe it is rightfully a monopoly force of the state via its military and police forces, or whether it is acceptable to only use it personally in self defense, or whether it is appropriate to use it against groups actively campaigning for the death or violent removal of minority groups, it is clear that this cartoon fundamentally misunderstands (or is willfully ignorant as to) whom it is depicting.
- Regardless of how you feel about the use of force when confronting Nazism, the fact remains that it is disingenuous to draw a comparison between self-identified fascists and groups that oppose them. Regardless of what tactics you personally think are appropriate or useful, the fact remains that neo-Nazis call for the violent removal of marginalized people from land on which they can build a white-only ethno-state, and groups in opposition to that can not ever be reasonably considered the moral equivalent. That equivalency has been designed and is drawn by Nazis as a part of their own propaganda. Propaganda that as mentioned, is indistinguishable from the piece published in the Spectator yesterday.
- The connection of the ‘sympathetic Nazi’ figure to Charlottesville by including a Tiki torch in hand is egregious. The neo-Nazi’s and their sympathizers/enablers who marched with them in Charlottesville were not outnumbered and outgunned, they arrived with the protection of heavily armed militias and were not shy about putting that force on show, attacking, surrounding and threatening smaller groups in many well documented instances. They also killed Heather Heyes, and seriously injured 19 others. It has been a matter of weeks since the death of an anti-fascist demonstrator at the hands of a white supremacist terrorist. This cartoon is making a bad point badly, but regardless of that fact, the timing of its publication is entirely and unforgivably crass.
This cartoon has been shared many times. It has already been spotted in the dark recesses of racist social media groups here and abroad. Whatever Graeme MacKay’s intention, he has made a piece of Nazi propaganda, and The Hamilton Spectator gave it a platform. The Hamilton Spectator has a lot to answer for, to the marginalized people of Hamilton and to the international community, for contributing in any way to the further emboldening of far right populism, for contributing to the false-equivalency ‘alt-left’ narrative put forward by President Trump and disavowed by every credible politician and community leader on all ends of the political spectrum, for failing to see inappropriateness, crassness and legitimate danger of ever portraying a Nazi in a sympathetic way.
The people of Hamilton, particularly the marginalized people to whom Nazism poses an immediate existential threat, deserve better than this failure of integrity, and are owed an apology.