Cartoons, Anti-Semitism and the “Aestheticisation of Politics”

Pratyush Chandra

The way the European press and politicians behaved on the issue of the publication of “anti-Islamic cartoons” can really be interpreted as, a Haaretz journalist puts, “a new breed of anti-Semitism. But the Semites, in this case, are not Jews.” (1)

It is worth pondering, why did these European “cartoonists” choose to indulge in this sort of “freedom of expression” at the time when they knew it would be volatile to do so. Either it was an act of sheer cheap commercialism, or it had a political meaning – a journalistic contribution in the hegemonist World ‘War on terrorism’. This “contribution” serves one major purpose – to provide an ideological sustenance to this war, by creating and homogenising “the enemy”, and of course its mirror image – a homogenised West, the land of the “advanced” people terrorised by the “backward” Orient. What is happening now seems to evidence the designs.

There might have been wider underlying international political economic reasons that brought Hitler to power, but the ideology of anti-Semitism was essential for its sustenance. Today’s Western mode of dubbing all movements of self-determination in the Middle East (which goes against the interests of the Western Powers) as “Osama’s conspiracy” is not very dissimilar to “the Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. The myth of “Osama” (if we separate it from Osama the man, if he is really one) itself can sustain the Western militancy and its regional cohorts throughout the globe for a long time to come, not only against the “Islamic” forces, but also, and more so, against any “rogue” states and movements (leftists or nationalists).

For example, already, now and then ‘journalists’ report about Osama’s “shadows” emerging in different places in the Indian subcontinent. One was sighted in Sri Lanka with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) just after 9/11.(2) Moreover, the Indians have traditionally found Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)’s involvement in every uncomfortable movement of ‘self-determination’ within its territory, and after 2001, it has become synonymous to Al Qaeda’s involvement. Interestingly, nowadays ‘reports’ regularly come about ISI’s role in the radical left movement of India too. It has already been ‘spotted’ in Nepal’s communist upsurge. And of course, through ISI, it’s Al Qaeda that operates!!! So the target is set and reasoned!

In the case of Hitler, anti-Semitism of one sort (with the ghost of “the Elders of Zion” and their protocols) could enable him to invade regions with negligible Jewish population or influence, and to be on continuous war. Now, it is anti-Semitism of another sort (with the ghost of Osama and his audiovisual tapes) that provides reason to the global ride of the international ‘security guards’ to wage their ‘crusades’. The time is not far when we will find Osama’s shadow roaming in Latin America too. Or, may be it has been already spotted, and the “investigative report” is awaited.

The timing of the publication of these cartoons is very important to understand their significance – the ongoing war in Iraq and the ensuing discomfiture, continuing embarrassment of the Europeans over their ineffectiveness in the Middle East (lately on the Iranian issue), humiliation in their efforts to outrun the Americans throughout the globe, the Hamas victory… The First World rulers have many reasons to be upset. Their anxiety is heightened by their inability to completely monopolise critical information, whose unhindered transmission despite all kinds of borders and boundaries erected through international negotiations, intellectual and material property rights have virtually recreated an alternative world of commons. The ‘ dynamic’ reproduction of the ruler’s real self in its ever-changing forms by the immense ‘horde’ of ‘commoners’ is bound to make him anxious, and this is what forces him time and again to aestheticise politics – to occlude critique. And what else is the ‘official’ function of the media? What else can be the function of these cartoons? To force the readers, viewers and listeners to “think with one’s blood’. And that’s what they are doing.


(1) Bradley Burston, The New Anti-Semitism, cartoon division, Haaretz (February 6, 2006)

(2) Osama hand in glove with LTTE, The Times of India (September 22, 2001),