I haven’t posted anything about the current Brexit debate, and that was quite on purpose. Not that I don’t have an opinion on it (I definitely think that the UK should stay in the EU), but simply because I do not have the know-how of the current inner workings of the British economy and political climate, the time nor the energy to give a post the depth it deserves, nor to continue a heated debate in the comments section.
But then this cartoon crossed my path. It has left me torn between amusement at it’s ridiculousness, and disgusted by it’s racism.
A superficial glance at it makes it seem like an unimaginative, old-fashioned cartoon. But go ahead and focus on the EU ship for the juicy bits.
Some of it is obvious, referring to debt, taxes and regulations. But ho, there is some very potent racism entwined in there. Notice the “waves of immigration”, the “diversity” canon shooting a hole into the ship and, the crowning jewel, a swarthy bearded scimitar-wielding man making Sweden walk the plank right into the jaws of a… political correctness shark.
Really? A political correctness shark? That’s what you’re worried about, that’s what you’re fleeing. Diversity and political correctness. That’s embarrassing.
I’ll let Andrew Brown deliver the final smackdown on why this cartoon is particularly vile.
Two swarthy, bearded figures, one carrying a scimitar and one a bag of money, would have been immediately familiar to my father, except that in the cartoons of his captivity they would have been Jews. Here they appear to represent Muslims. The one with the scimitar is forcing a blond Aryan young man carrying a Swedish flag to walk the plank while the one with the money bag holds it excitedly. At the front of the boat another of these figures attempts to grope the figurehead.
These tropes are not just racist. They are callbacks to the particular style of nationalist antisemitism that we thought had been purged from Europe for ever in 1945. The figures in those cartoons are drawn from the same stock as those that populated Nazi papers.
It may seem absurd to conflate the fear and hatred of Muslims with the fear and hatred of Jews when the two groups are united in the popular imagination only by their fear and hatred of each other. But they both appeal to the same dark archetype in the European imagination: swarming, sinister, lecherous, and dirty. Both are supposed to have subverted the elites to strike at the common people. Both are supposed to constitute an existential threat to civilisation.
We were supposed to have gotten passed this. I guess not.