More on Sharon, anti-semitism and Saturn
has posted as response to my last post
in which he says this:
I don't follow Raznor's argument here; because the image is based on Goya, he is saying, it can't also be anti-Semitic. Why not? It's as if Raznor believes that it is impossible for a work of art to reference two things at once; the cartoon draws from Goya, therefore (Raznor concludes) it cannot also draw on the anti-Semitic blood libel myth.
My guess is that Raznor is confusing the cartoonist's intent with the cartoon itself; if the former isn't anti-Semitic, then the latter must not be anti-Semitic either. But I don't think this is always how things work.
This is the problem with posting late at night, my thoughts aren't fully explained. Whereas I wrote that noting the original Goya painting made the cartoon seem not anti-Semitic, I didn't really explain why. So I will here.
I started out with my gut-instinct with this. As a Jew, I wasn't offended by the comic, so I conjectured that it wasn't anti-semitic. But if I was to go beyond conjecture to argument, my whole point is that Sharon's religion/ethnicity here is incidental, so I have to concede my being a non-offended Jew is similarly incidental.
Also I'm refraining from discussing the quality of the piece. I like it, others don't, but lot's of stuff win awards that don't deserve it - Dontrelle Willis won Rookie of the Year over Brandon Webb, Roberto Benigni won Best Actor and Best Foreign Language Film for Life is Beautiful
(aka a bar bet that paid off big time), and Christina Aguillera (Britney clone #1A) won a Grammy for best new artist. I'm just saying there's always a level of abitrariness to who wins an award, if "arbitrariness" is indeed a word. Besides, people criticizing this cartoon aren't too concerned with the quality, rather the content. So I'm going to do a simple analysis of content.
Also, as Amp goes on about author's intent, I don't think anyone is arguing that Dave Brown is himself anti-semitic, only the cartoon is. So I'm going to take that as a given, and argue based on the image alone.
First, consider the mythology about Saturn (in Greek, Kronos: I'm refering to Greek names here since I don't know all the corresponding Latin names). Uranus (the sky) has children with Gaea (the Earth), but is constantly afraid of his children destroying him, so when Gaea begets a child, Uranus eats them. When Kronos is born, Gaea wants revenge on Uranus and hides Kronos, and when Kronos is old enough he castrates Uranus, and kills him, freeing all his brothers and sisters. But then Kronos starts having children with Gaea (these are Titans, incest is no big deal for them) he is afraid of suffering the same fate as his father so he too eats his children. But because he is so concerned about suffering the same fate as his father, he seals his own fate as Zeus then rises up and destroys him. (mind you it's been since Freshman year since I read Hesiod's "Theogony", so I'm a bit rusty on this. No, not that Hesiod
So the central theme of the cartoon is that Sharon is Saturn. He has suffered some injustice to be sure, as have all Israelis who have had to live with terrorism for far too long. But once he has his power, he no longer concerns himself with what injustices exist, but rather on maintaining that power at any cost, and the result is a further devastated Palestinian people and the further suffering of the Israeli public that elected him. This is the central theme of the cartoon, the greedy Sharon in the center maliciously devouring a person as pro-Likud propaganda spouts around him.
As for the anti-semitic interpretation, you have the fact that the cartoon seems to show Sharon eating a Palestinian baby, hence bringing up the too-old, too-common blood libel myth that has been used as justification to persecute Jewish people for centuries. Notice I said "seems to" and I say that because Sharon isn't eating a baby. It doesn't look like a baby. The arm is too thin, the torso is too wide, and those two details override the stumpy legs. The only real indication that it's a baby is the unfortunately placed word bubble of Sharon saying "What's wrong . . . you never seen a politician kissing babies before?" The only reason I can see for the cartoonist adding this line is because of the prejudice that cartoons have to be funny, as opposed to just haunting. The intended joke, I think, is that Sharon is simply equating eating his own children to ensure his continued power with cliched and standard political practices. But this is unnecessary, we already see enough of the image with the Apaches calling out "Vote Sharon" and Sharon's nudity covered with a "Vote Likud" ribbon. And all the word bubble does in the long run is invite the anti-semitic interpretation of blood libel.
But thinking about this intellectually, should we let the one detail override the remainder of the cartoon? I don't mean that rhetorically, this is the major problem I have in interpreting the cartoon. As I've already made clear, I don't find that the detail makes the cartoon anti-semitic, but at this point, I can't argue in more detail than that.