Smith : UA cartoons no laughing matterby Jeff Smith on Oct. 19, 2007, under Opinion
Student’s feeble attempt at satire really just crudely drawn anti-Semitism
It’s been 65 years, more or less, since the Holocaust – and now many of the generation poised to inherit the mantle of leadership seem ready to observe this customary anniversary and retire the burden, declare the statute of limitations has expired and move on.
It’s not healthy to dwell on what’s over and done, right? Let’s lighten up.
Of course, there always are those who hang on to past misery as though this is all that defines them: You can spot them sitting alone by the wall as the upbeat and energetic laugh and dance, enjoying life and getting the most out of it.
These opposing modus vivendi met head-on last week after the Arizona Daily Wildcat, the University of Arizona’s student newspaper, ran a cartoon by Joey Topmiller that conveyed a satirical, if abstruse, message to the minds of the cartoonist and the Wildcat editors, but an anti-Semitic, racist and uncomfortably reminiscent picture to others, including some directly touched by Nazi Germany’s “final solution.”
The sketch replicated a generic check from a generic café for the specific sum of $78.73, followed by a specific tip of $5.27 paid with a generic credit card by a diner identified as Mark Goldfarb. Five twenty-seven translates to a 6.6 percent tip, and Goldfarb translates to Jew.
But lest the point elude a dim reader, Topmiller’s caption read: “Attention all crappy tipping Jews!!! Just because you’re ‘screwing’ the server . . . does not mean that it’s a Mitzvah.”
And humorous, Editor-in-Chief Allison Hornick added to the official assessment of Topmiller’s piece of poesy when we chatted day before yesterday.
She said she and three or four of her staff of editors agreed the point was satirical, humorous and in keeping with the tone of Topmiller’s oeuvre.
I read all of the oeuvre that was fit to print on the Wildcat Web site, and I have to agree with the part about the tone.
Since late August, Topmiller’s cartoons have taken similar “satirical” head-shots at the retarded, stroke victims, gays, blacks, midgets in wheelchairs and, once more for good measure, the retarded.
Conspicuous by their absence from Topmiller’s targets of opportunity are the powerful and the dangerous – Muslim terrorists come to mind – because they have been known to cap or de-cap a smart-mouth “satirist.”
Think of the opportunities lost: A guy could have said “When the Shi-ite hit the fan . . .”
When it hit the fan, the Wildcat folded, the cartoon was pulled from the Internet version of that edition, and faculty adviser Mark Woodhams said the matter was over and done with, essentially, nothing further could add to better understanding of the issue.
After talking with Hornick (who celebrates her birthday today, Happy happy: She’s 20), I tried to reach Topmiller but was told he was out.
I left word for him to call me, and 15 minutes later got a call back from Hornick, who told me staffers are not allowed to talk to the press: All questions are kicked upstairs to their editors.
Clearly the Wildcat is schizophrenic over the concept of a free press. They’ll publish editorial content that isn’t fit for Hustler magazine, then tell their staff they can’t talk to other members of the press. And when the fit hits the Shan, they yank the controversial material and go ostrich.
Since I couldn’t ask Joey how he felt about crappy-tipping Jews now, I asked the birthday girl, and she said if she had it to do all over again, she wouldn’t.
I had said that her earlier comments sounded as if she still was convinced the cartoon was humorous, satirical and appropriate for the Wildcat. (It ran on the cartoon page, incidentally, not among the editorial or op-ed features.)
She said she still felt she had made the right call, as far as standards and practices (my terms) went, but that the ensuing flap was more trouble than it was worth. (Don’t you just adore a crusading editor?) She said almost all of the unfavorable reactions she heard were from people “who just didn’t get it.”
Yeah, there’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this whole Holocaust thing. Hopefully now that it’s reaching retirement age, it’ll all blow over.
Until the next time.
For it to happen again, the good guys have to forget that what the bad guys did was bad. I’d say we’re a good two generations ahead of schedule. A good two generations . . .
Even jeffyboy, arguably the most tasteless and offensive writer doing business in these parts, cannot bring himself to see “the lighter side” of killing 6 million Jews. He may be reached at 520-455-5667 or email@example.com