Cartoon: New Recruits’ Vow

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I’m not sure that I’ve ever done a cartoon about ICE before, and I’ve really wanted to, but it’s been hard for me to think one up.

ICE is genuinely one of the most evil branches of the U.S. government; they’re needlessly martial, needlessly cruel, and far overfunded. If you pay attention to ICE in your newsreading, you’ll hear of outrages virtually every week. It’s one of those topics that gets me so enraged that I just see red and then it’s really hard to make up a cartoon, and so I end up doing a cartoon about something else.

(But what would we do without ICE, you might ask? Remember that ICE is a relatively new agency, created in the panic following 9/11. Before that we had the INS, and as bad as the INS was, its culture didn’t seem as combative or as dismissive of the humanity of the immigrants it dealt with.)

(“Not as bad as ICE” is, admittedly, not a high bar.)

I think the art for this one is decent. I’m definitely leaning hard into the “bighead figures” drawing this year. It’s not necessarily the most fun style for me to draw, but something about the contrast between the horrible things my cartoons are about, and the extreme cuteness of the drawing style, adds an extra punch to the cartoons. Or that’s the theory I’m working from for now. :-)

Transcript of Cartoon

This is a four-panel cartoon.

PANEL ONE shows two women, one wearing a long open-front sweater and a polka dot skirt, the other wearing pants and a long-sleeved v neck shirt. The woman with the polka dot skirt is reading aloud from something on her smartphone. The woman in the v-neck shirt is listening, hand on her chin.

DOTS: Listen to the vow this group makes new recruits take! “I swear I will have no mercy for brown people…”

A close-up of Dots as she continues reading from her phone. She looks a bit angry.

DOTS: “I will throw them into prison without due process. I will pull their crying children from their arms.”

A shot of the two of them. Dots continues to read from her phone. V-Neck interrupts, looking horrified, her eyes wide and her hands on her cheeks.

DOTS: “I will spread fear and desperation. I will…”
V-NECK: What nightmare group is this? The Klan? The Nazis?

A middle-aged man with a mustache and wearing a suit, stands behind a podium, talking to a crowd of people. The front of the podium has the Department of Homeland Security seal, and the word “ICE.”

MAN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to ICE!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Immigration, Migrant Rights, etc, Institutionalized Racism | 6 Comments  

Comic: Why Some Jobs Are Illegal

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Sex work is, for me, in the same category as smoking pot or (until recently) not legally recognizing same-sex marriages, a category I’d describe as “there’s just no logical reason this should be illegal.”

This cartoon focuses on how little sense the arguments against legalization make. But the most important line, for me, is in panel 2: “Wouldn’t that make things worse for maids?” It seems clear that 1) no law will ever succeed in wiping out sex work, and 2) laws making sex work illegal inevitably hurt the sex workers themselves.

When the government outlaws something, it’s going to lead to people being hurt.

And sometimes it’s worth it. Lowering the speed limit to 20mph in a residential zone will harm some people. Some people will be made late, some people will have to pay speeding tickets, etc. But in exchange for that, we get a big gain – pedestrians hit by cars will have a much higher chance of surviving. The gain, in this case, seems worth the loss.

But outlawing selling sex makes it much more likely that sex workers will be assaulted, hurt, even killed, and makes it much harder for them to go to police for help. And the more marginalized a sex worker is (for instance, because of race, or because of being trans) the more endangered they are. This doesn’t seem to be a case where the gains justify the losses.

Artwise, this strip looks good to me, although I wish I had inked with bigger, meatier lines – the lines in this one look a bit too thin and controlled to my eyes. But that’s the sort of thing I notice a lot more than readers do, I think.

There are a bunch of things I think came out well. The clothing is better than usual for me this strip. The hardest thing to draw here was the maid’s cart, but I think it came out well (by which I mean, I think readers will immediately recognize what it is without having to think about it). And I think some of the body language looks good (especially the woman in the plaid shirt in panels 3 and 4).

Transcript of cartoon

Panel 1
In the foreground, a young woman with her head shaved on the sides and sunglasses is walking three dogs. In the background, standing on a grassy hillside, two women, one in a polo shirt, the other in a plaid shirt, are talking.
POLO: No one could want to be a dog-walker. It shouldn’t be legal.
PLAID: Some people like it.

Panel 2
In a hotel hallway, in the foreground, a maid pushes a cleaning cart. In the background, the same two women are talking.
POLO: Many maids are exploited or even trafficked. We should outlaw being a maid!
PLAID: Wouldn’t that make things worse for maids?

Panel 3
A hilly park again. In the foreground, a man with a knit cap and one of those orange “I work for the city” vests is picking up trash off the ground with a trash-picking stick. In the background, the same two women talk; Polo looks disgusted, and Plaid is facepalming.
POLO: Picking up trash for a living is gross. It shouldn’t be allowed.
PLAID: You’re being ridiculous.

Panel 4
In the final panel, we see only Polo and Plaid, talking to each other. Polo has a forefinger pointing up, making a point, and Plaid responds fervantly, leaning forward and smacking her fist into the palm of her other hand.
POLO: And for the exact same reasons, we should outlaw prostitution!

Posted in Cartooning & comics | 16 Comments  

Claiming the Feminist Politics of My Survival

Author’s Note: In March of this year, I was invited to give a talk about being a male survivor of sexual violence during my campus’ Sexual Harassment/Assault Awareness Week. Uncharacteristically for my campus, where panel presentations on topics like this tend to be the norm when faculty and/or students are involved, the person who invited me offered me the chance to be the only speaker. What follows is the text of the talk I gave. The title is kind of a mashup of titles of two posts I’ve written that address this subject in a much more fragmentary way: Towards a Feminist Politics of Male Survivorship and My Students First Taught Me to Claim the Politics of My Survival. This talk—which is long, about 7,000 words, and which contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence—presents a much more fully fleshed-out version of the thinking in those posts. I’ve divided it into chunks that I hope will make for easier reading.

Good afternoon.

It’s not often that men like me, men who have survived sexual violence, get to tell our stories in the way that I have been invited to tell you mine: not just at length, but as part of a program like Sexual Harassment/Violence Awareness Week, which usually focuses almost exclusively on men’s sexual aggression against women. There is good reason for that focus, of course. Women and girls are the targets of men’s sexual aggression more frequently and more systemically than men and boys are targeted by sexual aggressors of any gender.

Nonetheless, as revelations about Kevin Spacey, about the well-known conductor James Levine, and the fashion photographer Bruce Weber have shown—not to mention earlier revelations about, for example, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Dennis Hastert and former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky—men and boys are also targets of sexual aggression, and we do not deserve to be left out of these conversations just because our numbers are smaller.

This is not the first time I’ve spoken publicly here at Nassau Commuinty College about the fact that I am a survivor. About twenty years ago, I was teaching an independent study in creative nonfiction with two women of color, each of whom was also a survivor of sexual violence. How we came to work together is a longer story than I have time for here, but what we worked on were personal essays they each wanted to write and publish as a way of breaking the silence in their lives and in their communities about sexual violence against women.

In order to get independent study credit, my students had to present their work at an end-of-semester colloquium in front of an audience that would include, among others, the college president and the vice president of academic affairs. When the time came to start planning for this presentation, however, my students got really scared. They were concerned they would not be taken seriously. The other students at the colloquium would be presenting conventional, research-based projects in traditional academic disciplines. My students, on the other hand, had done little or no research, at least not in the traditional sense; they had no facts other than the facts of their own stories to substantiate what they had to say; and they worried that what they had to say—which dealt, sometimes explicitly, with the most intimate parts of their lives—would be considered inappropriate, and even insulting.

They feared they would be seen as nothing more than stereotypical women of color: emotional, traumatized, and not smart enough to cut it at the intellectual level of their more scholarly white peers. To alleviate their concerns as much as possible, I offered to introduce them with a statement about how meaningful it had been for me to work with them, to have been for them the kind of mentor who simply did not exist for me back in the 1980s, when I was starting to come to terms with my own experience of sexual violence. This way, I told them, anyone who had a problem with what they said, would have to come through me, not just as a white male faculty member, but also as a white male survivor.

So that’s what we did. I read my introductory statement and then my students read their essays. Each one, when she finished, received a standing ovation, and everyone who came to speak with them afterwards—from the president of the college to the families of the other student presenters—was warm and supportive and even thankful.

With one exception.

A white colleague whose student had also presented came over to say that he was angry and disappointed. I had, he said, failed in my responsibility as an educator and an academic. First, I’d treated as serious intellectual work writing that was sensationalizing at best and, at worst, salacious and titillating. It was none of those. Second, I’d allowed my students to present that writing at the colloquium, lowering the level of discourse at what was supposed to be a celebration of student intellectual achievement to that of a trashy women’s magazine. Third, I had inappropriately introduced my own personal experience into the colloquium, turning that portion of the evening into a kind of group therapy session.

I don’t remember very well what I said in response, but my response isn’t the point right now. I’ve told you this story because I want to you to understand that even though this event is not a scholarly colloquium, even though my talk is perfectly in keeping with the theme of this entire week, once I agreed to give the talk, I also agreed to stand before you in much the same position as my students were back then.

You will walk out of this room today knowing things about me that even some members of my family don’t know or that, if they do know, they choose to pretend they don’t. What this means, whether you realize it or not, is that you will walk out of this room knowing things that you could use against me. Because no matter how confident and unashamed I may be as I stand here telling you that I was sexually violated as a child, to have been sexually victimized in our culture is still a mark of shame, and we all, if we are honest with ourselves, know how to use that shame, as my colleague tried to do, to silence and dismiss those survivors who choose to speak out.

In speaking to you today, in other words, I am choosing to trust you—both those of you who are my colleagues and those of you who might one day be sitting in a class I am teaching; and I am making this choice knowing full well that some of you might choose to violate that trust. I believe the risk is worth it, however, because being able to say out loud what I’m going to tell you has made the difference for me, as it has made the difference for others who have similar stories to tell, as it could make the difference for some of you here today who have not yet told your stories—being able to say out loud what I am now going to say to you has made the difference for me between living the life I have wanted to live and feeling like the only life I deserve is the shame-filled half-life that the men who violated me tried to force me into. Continue reading

Posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Men and masculinity, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues, sexual assault | 17 Comments  

Cartoon: Is Marriage A Magic Wand?

If you enjoy these cartoons, please support them on my Patreon. A $1 pledge really matters.


Panel 1
This panel shows a reporter standing in a back yard, taking notes in a little pad, as a woman in a lawn chair speaks to him.

WOMAN: Marriage wasn’t a magic wand that got me out of poverty. I worked really hard, and I lucked into a good job. I didn’t get married until after all that.

Panel 2
The same reporter, now standing in an academic office (we can tell it’s academic because there’s a bookcase in the background). A woman wearing glasses and holding up some papers is talking to him.

WOMAN 2: As a social scientist, I know marriage isn’t a magic wand. Evidence shows that what matters most is having a full-time job, and that’s not always under people’s control.

Panel 3
The same reporter is talking to a man wearing a suit and tie; they’re standing in front of an office building in a city.
MAN: At our think tank, we don’t have real-world experience, or the best evidence. But we do have a simple narrative that blames poverty on single mothers.

Panel 4
This panel only shows a newspaper’s front page. The newspaper, which is called “Daily Opiate,” has a big headline, a sub headline, and a photo of the man from panel 3, with a pull-quote next to the photo.
PHOTO PULL-QUOTE: “It’s just common sense!”

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments  

Cartoon: Medicare For All Is Idealistic But Unrealistic

If you enjoy these cartoons, please support them on my Patreon. A $1 pledge really matters.


This cartoon has nine panels.

Panel 1
A woman in a business casual outfit – she’s a politician – is speaking directly to the viewer, looking cheerful. We’ll call her “Dem.”

DEM: “Medicare for all” is idealistic, but unrealistic. We Democrats need to compromise, because that’s how policy gets done.

Panel 2
The same woman, now looking serious, gestures towards a small table. On the table is a HUGE stack of paper.

DEM: Take the “Affordable Care Act.” It’s not everything Democrats wanted for health care.

Panel 3
The shot shows the woman, now partly hidden behind the huge stack of papers, continuing to speak.
DEM: We worked hard to get many players to the table. The ACA incorporates Republican ideas, insurance company ideas, doctors’ ideas…

Panel 4
The woman continues speaking cheerily.
DEM: And because the ACA has so many compromises, it’s something everyone can live with.

Panel 5
A balding man in a suit and tie, smiling and carrying a bomb with a lit fuse, walks into the panel. The woman gestures towards him without really looking at him, still looking cheery.
DEM: Because we compromised, in time our Republican colleagues will work with us to make the ACA better.

Panel 6
The man, still smiling, tosses the bomb at the huge stack of paper. The woman looks startled.

Panel 7
The panel shows a huge “BOOOM” sound effect.

Panel 8
The woman stands, eyes hugely wide, staring out at the viewer, while tiny bits of paper rain down around her. The balding man walks off the panel.

Panel 9
The woman talks directly to the viewer again. She looks messy, and there’s a hunk of paper in her hair, and her eyes are still huge, but she’s trying to smile again.
DEM: Um… As I was saying, “Medicare For All” is idealistic but not realistic.

Tiny Kicker Panel At Bottom Of Cartoon
Dem talks to a protester who is carrying a “Medicare For All” sign.
DEM: Why can’t you be realistic?
PROTESTOR: Look who’s talking!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics, Health Care and Related Issues | 10 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Melting Butter Edition

  1. Amia Srinivasan · Does anyone have the right to sex? · London Review of Books
    A long read, but interesting. “The question, then, is how to dwell in the ambivalent place where we acknowledge that no one is obligated to desire anyone else, that no one has a right to be desired, but also that who is desired and who isn’t is a political question, a question usually answered by more general patterns of domination and exclusion.”
  2. The Media Must Stop Taking ‘Incel’ Agitprop Seriously
    “The proposition that sex is ‘unequally distributed,’ which is taken for granted in all of these chin-stroking arguments, is a highly contestable claim. Being outside of hegemonic beauty norms does not inherently deny you love or sex; your place in that hierarchy instead shapes other things untethered to your actual sex life.”
  3. It’s 2018, and people are suddenly screaming at each other about 85-year-old comic strip character Nancy
    The new “Nancy” – or at least, the strips that currently exist to be read – seems fresh and funny. I hope she can keep it up.
  4. State of Conflict: How a tiny protest at the U. of Nebraska turned into a proxy war for the future of campus politics
    Excellent, nuanced, a bit long.
  5. McInnes, Molyneux, and 4chan: Investigating pathways to the alt-right | Southern Poverty Law Center
    Basically they just compiled some numbers from a thread on an alt-right board about how people found the alt-right. They say something that strikes me as very foolish right at the start – “Respondents recount a transformation that takes place almost entirely online,” which seems like something that might be meaningful, but might also be just because the only people in their “sample” are people who participate in online communities – but there’s some interesting stuff here, too.
  6. Upstate NY farmer says ICE officers stormed his farm without a warrant, cuffed him, threw his phone |
  7. CIA Discrimination Against Disabled Officers Is Hurting the U.S.
  8. Why Is Charles Murray Odious? | Current Affairs
    Lots of stuff here I hadn’t know, from his teenage cross-burning (he says he had no idea it could be taken as racist) to his theory that virtually no Black musicians have made notable contributions to culture.
  9. For Survivors of Prison Rape, Saying ‘Me Too’ Isn’t an Option – Rewire.News
    Content warning for descriptions of rape.
  10. Emailed exchanged between Ezra Klein and Sam Harris
    A bit of a train wreck, but fascinating anyhow. As Harris comments, “Judging from the response to this post on social media, my decision to publish these emails appears to have backfired.” This exchange of emails eventually led to a podcast debate, which you can read and/or listen to here.
  11. The Woman Who Accidentally Started the Incel Movement
    “I can’t uninvent this word, nor restrict it to the nicer people who need it.”
  12. How White American Terrorists Are Radicalized – Pacific Standard
    “When hundreds of ‘lone wolves’ are reading the same websites, talking to each other, consuming the same stories, picking up easily accessible weapons, and killing the same targets, they have become a pack.”
  13. She Tried To Report On Climate Change. Sinclair Told Her To Be More “Balanced.”
  14. Trump to cancel TPS protections for Hondurans who’ve lived in US for decades – Vox
    All these folks are in the US legally.
  15. Teenager’s Prom Dress Stirs Furor in U.S. — but Not in China – The New York Times
    Definitely one of those “I’m embarrassed for the left” moments. But also an example of how the internet makes us worse off by turning what should have been a controversy for the school paper, into a national story involving tens of thousands of people criticizing a random teen for her prom dress.
  16. ICE held an American man in custody for 1,273 days. He’s not the only one who had to prove his citizenship
    The Obama administration deserves a great deal of blame for this.
  17. Sexual Assaults in Immigration Detention Centers Rarely Get Investigated, Group Charges
    Content warning, obviously.
  18. DNA blunder creates phantom serial killer | The Independent
    “The only clues that “The Woman Without a Face” left behind at 40 different crime scenes were DNA traces. These were collected on cotton swabs, supplied to the police in a number of European countries. Now police investigators have established that in all probability the DNA had not been left by their quarry but by a woman working for the German medical company supplying the swabs…”
  19. How the Border Patrol Faked Statistics Showing a 73 Percent Rise in Assaults Against Agents
    “Tomsheck said that during his more than three decades of police work, he has never heard of any law enforcement agency multiplying assaulted officers by the perpetrators and the weapons. When I asked Franklin Zimring, a criminologist at the University of California, Berkeley and author of When Police Kill, if he’d ever heard of such a method, he burst out laughing.”

Posted in Link farms | 83 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Helicopter Bug Edition

  1. Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult | Aeon Essays
    “Where an epistemic bubble merely omits contrary views, an echo chamber brings its members to actively distrust outsiders. … They are not irrational, but systematically misinformed about where to place their trust.”
  2. Why I’m suing for my right to flip off the president – The Washington Post
  3. Evaluating the One-in-Five Statistic: Women’s Risk of Sexual Assault While in College: The Journal of Sex Research: Vol 54, No 4-5
    This 2017 article, while focused on the 1-in-5 statistic, is also a useful summary of much of the current state of sexual assault prevalence research.
  4. Revisiting “The Breakfast Club” in the Age of #MeToo, by Molly Ringwald | The New Yorker
    “How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it?”
  5. A new law intended to curb sex trafficking threatens the future of the internet as we know it
  6. SESTA Is Already Having Devastating Impacts on Sex Workers—Just Like They Predicted – Rewire.News
  7. Why Open-Plan Offices Don’t Work (And Some Alternatives That Do) | ArchDaily
  8. Jordan Peterson Resource Page | Noah Berlatsky on Patreon
    A list of links to various articles critiquing Peterson’s output.
  9. How Women See How Male Authors See Them | The New Yorker
    “Whit Reynolds ripped open a Pandora’s box of secondary sex characteristics when she challenged her Twitter followers to ‘describe yourself like a male author would.'”
  10. How the Quakers became unlikely economic innovators by inventing the price tag
    This is a three-minute video from Planet Money.
  11. What I learned about masculinity behind bars in Texas | Aeon EssaysContent warning for abuse, imprisonment, and self-harm. “When US media paints portraits of prisons, they always focus on the gangs, the violence, the rape and the racism. All of that is there, to be sure, but those events exist as lightening-like fissures in the slow cyclone of fatigued tedium.”
  12. For Trans Women, Beauty Standards Are an Impossible Balancing Act | Allure
  13. Fossil fuel supply: why it’s time to think seriously about cutting it off – Vox
  14. MuckRock’s guided tour of lesser-known DEA patches • MuckRock
    My jaw literally dropped. (And I’m using the word “literally” to mean “literally,” not “figuratively.”)
  15. The Case For Prisoner Voting Rights
  16. Publication Selection Bias in Minimum‐Wage Research? A Meta‐Regression Analysis
    Apparently there’s a publication selection bias in favor of studies which find the minimum wage raises unemployment.
  17. How to Stop Reliving Embarrassing Memories
    An interesting, but lengthy, article about the (still up in the air) science behind “cringe attacks.” Interestingly, the only people who don’t have this happen to them, are people who literally never forget anything.
  18. The photo on top shows three of the creations of Noah Deledda, who carves these sculptures out of soda cans with his bare hands. Here’s an animated gif showing his process.

Posted in Link farms | 138 Comments  

A PSA About Male Survivors of Sexual Trauma from 1in6

I think it speaks for itself. 1in6 is an organization worth knowing about in this regard. So is MaleSurvivor.

Posted in Rape, intimate violence, & related issues, sexual assault | 22 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Kingfisher Pisher Edition

  1. A New Reality? The Far Right’s Use of Cyberharassment against Academics | AAUP
    A dryly written, fascinating first-hand account.
  2. In 2016, a 10-year-old boy got decapitated while riding a Schlitterbahn water slide in Kansas City.
    Some jaw-dropping quotes from the indictment.
  3. How Trump favored Texas over Puerto Rico – POLITICO
    “Nine days after the respective hurricanes, FEMA had approved $141.8 million in individual assistance to Harvey victims, versus just $6.2 million for Maria victims.”
  4. The case for disarming America’s police force — Quartz
    “…an estimated one-third of Iceland residents own guns, making the country 15th worldwide in gun ownership per capita. Nonetheless, police in Iceland routinely patrol unarmed.”
  5. Norman Mailer Was Never Violent Towards Women, With Notably Rare Exceptions – Lawyers, Guns & Money
  6. Sex Workers Explain Why Congress’ Online Sex-Trafficking Bill Is Bulls**t
  7. As a sex historian, this is what I want you to know about the buying and selling of sex – iNews
    “I can categorically tell you that no attempt to abolish either the selling or buying of sex in the whole of human history has been effective. Not one.”
  8. Group That Opposes Sex Work Gave Money to Prosecutors’ Offices — and Got Stings Against Johns in Return
    This is troubling, to say the least – prosecutors have no business accepting money from private organizations. The organization bought not only stings, but the ability to make editorial changes to the prosecutors’ public statements.
  9. “…colleges and universities have four main revenue streams: state appropriations, research funding, gifts and endowments, and student tuition. The first three come with serious restrictions regarding their use. Generally speaking, state appropriations can only be used for educational expenses, research funding is largely spent on specific research projects, and endowments go toward the pet projects of wealthy donors. Only student tuition can be used for anything university administrators want…
  10. The five kinds of reactions to the ‘Roseanne’ reboot, across the political spectrum – The Washington Post
    I watched the first two episodes, and enjoyed them – it really did feel a lot like the original show, but also acknowledged how much the characters have aged. Roseanne Barr as a celebrity is an awful awful person, but she and her collaborators are nonetheless good at making this sitcom.
  11. The conspiracy theory behind a curious Roseanne Barr tweet, explained – The Washington Post
  12. Roseanne: ABC is about to announce Season 2 of reboot – Mar. 30, 2018
  13. Man freed after wrongful conviction, only to be taken into custody by immigration authorities – Chicago Tribune
    To be clear, the only reason he had lost his legal residence status is that he was convicted of a felony.
  14. Stephon Clark police shooting in Sacramento: autopsy released – Vox
    Surprisingly, I haven’t seen many people even attempt to argue that Clark is to blame for his own death. I really think it’s time to think about not allowing most cops to carry guns on duty, instead leaving guns to an elite group that goes through significant extra training and is only called in when guns are clearly necessary.
  15. The unwelcome revival of ‘race science’ | News | The Guardian
  16. A Spark Of Hope For Climate Change Reality : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR
    14 GOP House members – out of 238 – have joined a caucus to try to mitigate climate change. That’s 6%. Yay?
  17. “I finally compiled all my sources in one place and wrote some pre-made replies so now transphobes have the ability to shut the fuck up even more readily available to them.”
    Here’s the document; here’s their twitter.
  18. After 6 Years And 720,000 Attempts, Photographer Finally Takes Perfect Shot Of Kingfisher | Bored Panda

Posted in Link farms | 3 Comments  

A Blood Libel Against Muslims? It’s Not as Far Fetched as You Might Think

This woodcut, made in 1493 by Hartmann Schedel, depicts the so-called martyrdom of Simon of Trent, a boy whom the Jews of Trent were accused of murdering in 1475 so that they could use his blood during their Passover seder.

The blood libel, the myth that Jews ritually sacrifice and use the blood of Christian children as part of our religious practice, has been one of the most consistent tropes of antisemitism since the earliest known accusation was lodged in 1144 against the Jews of Norwich, England. Indeed, the staying power of this patently absurd notion has been remarkable. Even in the 21st century, when you’d think people would know better, blood libel accusations have been used to dehumanize Jews and justify violence against us, most recently—at least according to Wikipedia—on August 22, 2014, when Sheik Bassam Ammoush, a former Jordanian ambassador to Iran and a member of the Jordanian Senate, gave a sermon on the official Jordanian TV channel in which he said the following:

In Gaza we are dealing with the enemies of Allah, who believe that the matzos that they bake on their holidays must be kneaded with blood. When the Jews were in the diaspora, they would murder children in England, in Europe, and in America. They would slaughter them and use their blood to make their matzos…They believe that they are God’s chosen people. They believe that the killing of any human being is a form of worship and a means to draw near their god.

Ammoush’s concluding assertion, that Jews believe we draw near to god through the killing of other human beings, bears a striking resemblance to what Laurent Murawiec says about what he calls “contemporary Islamic terrorism” in his book, The Mind of Jihad:

Gruesome murder and gory infliction of pain are lionized and proffered as models, as exemplary actions pleasing Allah and opening the gates of paradise. The highest religious authorities sanction or condone it, government authorities approve and organize it, intellectuals and the media praise them. From one end of the Muslim world to the other, similar reports abound. (21)

The Mind of Jihad purports to be an intellectual examination of quote contemporary Islamic terrorism unquote. Even in the above, very short passage, however, which conflates the ideology behind such terrorism with the ideological entirety of “the Muslim world,” Murawiec’s flawed assumptions are prominently on display. These assumptions, evident throughout the book, led at least one serious reviewer to call the volume racist.

Nonetheless, precisely because Murawiec’s thinking seems to parallel the logic of blood libel accusations brought against Jews, it’s worth looking a little more closely at what he says. “Islamic terror,” he writes, for example, “in its use of human sacrifice [by which he means things like the beheadings committed by ISIS], has strayed farther and farther away from…the prohibition [of that kind of practice] enshrined in the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Horeb.” As a result—and note the conflation of “Islamic terrorism” with the entirety of Islam—”Islamic practice or, in a way, contemporary Islam [has been reshaped]” (20-21).

Contemporary Islam, in other words, at least according to Murawiec, has become the antithesis of Judaism and Christianity, religions which, if only through their prohibition of human sacrifice, value the inherent humanity of all people. The origin of this transformation, Murawiec argues, can be traced to a moment of literal bloodthirst in November 1971, when Jordan’s Prime Minister Wasfi al-Tell was assassinated by members of the Palestinian group known as Black September. This was how Time magazine, in its December 13th issue, reported the incident that Murawiec finds so significant, “Before security forces could drag him away, one of the assassins knelt beside Tell’s body and sucked up some blood. ‘I drank until my thirst was quenched,’ he said later in a statement to Egyptian police” (Time, “Rancorous Road to Peace,” 45).

It does not matter to Murawiec that Black September was a secular and nationalist organization, not a religious one, or that the assassination was in direct retaliation for al-Tell’s alleged torture and execution of Fatah commander Abu Ali Iyad in the aftermath of the military conflict fought between the PLO and Jordan in September of 1970. Murawiec, in other words, does not even consider the possibility that the assassin’s literal bloodlust was specific and personal and had nothing to do with “pleasing Allah and opening the gates of paradise.” For Murawiec, the moment that assassin drank his victim’s blood is the moment that “the idolization of blood, the veneration of savagery, the cult of killing, the worship of death” become “[i]nseparable from contemporary Islamic terrorism,” reshaping what it means to be a Muslim today into the antithesis of what it means to be a human being (21).

Murawiec, of course, does not put it quite so bluntly, but the people who rely on his ideas certainly do. One of those is our former National Security Advisor, Lt. General Michael T. Flynn, who, in a book called Field of Fight, refers to al-Tell’s assassination, quotes Murawiec, and then writes these three sentences:

Do you want to be ruled by men who eagerly drink the blood of their dying enemies? Such questions are almost never asked. Yet if you read the publicly available ISIS documents on their intentions, there’s no doubt that they are dead set on taking us over and drinking our blood. (158)

The publicly available document to which Flynn refers here—as far as I’ve been able to tell there is only one—is a video posted online in 2014, in which a self-proclaimed ISIS militant declares that “we are a people who love drinking blood.” That lone video, however, especially in the absence of any concrete evidence that the soldiers of ISIS are in fact drinking the blood of their enemies, hardly qualifies as a declaration of an ISIS-wide practice. Nor does it qualify as anything even remotely resembling a religious justification. Indeed, given that there is no concrete evidence to the contrary, it’s hard not to see this militant’s reference to drinking blood as anything other than propagandistic hyperbole. That Flynn would take it literally speaks to how deeply-seated and all-encompassing his hatred of Muslims actually is.

Flynn had to resign as National Security Adviser almost as soon as he was appointed, and so the potential for his ideas to have an obvious and immediate national impact is much diminished; and—as far as I can tell—the same is more or less true for Murawiec’s book, which has been pretty thoroughly discredited. Nonetheless, the fact that the ideas are out there means that they are available for someone to use, and it’s here that the history of the origin of the blood libel against Jews offers an important, and perhaps cautionary, point of reference. Continue reading

Posted in Anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia | 6 Comments