Cartoon: Farrakhan in the Nest


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Like many progressives – especially Jewish and queer progressives – I’ve been pretty unhappy with the Women’s March organization this week.

For those of you unfamiliar with this story, this Atlantic article offers a recap. It’s a story that I felt I HAD to comment on. I expect this kind of behavior from the right, but not from allies.

All of the things “Louis” says in this cartoon, are close paraphrases of things Louis Farrakhan has actually said; making the characters into bizarre bird creatures is my way of making his cartoonish bigotry into comedy. At least, that’s what I’m attempting.

I’ve been a fan of the women’s march organization in the past. But I don’t think their goals are compatible with their leadership accepting, and praising, the left’s most prominent antisemite, homophobe, and transphobe.

I don’t believe that the Women’s March is beyond redemption. With luck, the pressure and criticism they’ve been getting from the left will convince them to make needed changes; I’m hoping this cartoon can be a small drop in that larger torrent.

“Jewbird out!” is one of those punchlines that I just can’t explain. The line cracked me up, but will other humans find it funny? I can’t tell until I put the cartoon out there and see how people respond.

You’ll notice the lack of colors; I wanted to get this cartoon out quickly, and skipping the color seemed like a reasonable place to streamline my process for this cartoon. That aside, and despite being drawn in a rush, I think this cartoon looks pretty good.


Transcript of Cartoon

Panel 1
Two anthropomorphic birds are standing and chatting in a nest. They have human bodies (and clothes) but bird heads. A third bird, wearing a suit with a bow tie and rectangular glasses, flies in from the right side; this bird, we will find out, is named Louis.
BIRD 1: This is our nest! I hope you find it welcoming.
BIRD 2: It looks great! I’m really–
LOUIS: JEWS!

Panel 2
BIRD 1: Have you met my pal Louis? He’s such a great bird.
BIRD 2: Uh…
LOUIS: Jews are the mother and father of apartheid!

Panel 3
BIRD 1: I don’t agree with everything Louis says, but…
BIRD 2: I’m Jewish and queer. I’m really not comfortable in this nest.
LOUIS: The wicked Jews promote filth lebsianism and homosexuality!

Panel 4
Bird 2 is flying away from the nest as she speaks.
BIRD 1: But you’re safe and welcome in this nest. We oppose ALL bigotry.
LOUIS: Degenerate Hollywood Jews are turning men into women and women into men!
BIRD 2: Jewbird OUT! Bye!

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39 Responses to Cartoon: Farrakhan in the Nest

  1. 1
    David Schraub says:

    Have you read Rachel McKinnon’s “Allies Behaving Badly”? Very, very resonant with respect to how this debate has played out, I think.

  2. 2
    RonF says:

    Farrakahn has been going on like this for years. You’ve got sitting members of the House that STILL won’t denounce him. He’s a leading example of why I think that so many people on the left figure the ends justify the means. I can’t help but think that the reason why this is coming to the fore now is not because his views or statements have changed – they haven’t – but because he’s viewed as either no longer useful or no longer needed.

  3. 3
    Harlequin says:

    I can’t help but think that the reason why this is coming to the fore now is not because his views or statements have changed – they haven’t – but because he’s viewed as either no longer useful or no longer needed.

    Or–I think more likely than either of the options you proffer–the rest of society has changed and gotten more progressive, such that the leaders of a modern movement aren’t given a pass on associating with people with problematic views in a way they might have before. (And also such that Farrakhan has fallen even further behind on these issues, but I think it’s the expectations on his associates and not on him that are the main driver here.) As I think Amp’s cartoon portrays–there’s no real interaction between the Jewish bird and the Louis bird; she speaks only to the host bird, and it’s his failure to get rid of the Louis bird or even address his comments that is the apparent reason she leaves.

    EDIT: I realized, rereading your comment, that this kind of fits the “no longer useful” bit–but I still think the relevant dynamic is the followers vs the leaders, not the followers vs the problematic person the leaders are associating with.

  4. 4
    Joe in Australia says:

    The “Jewbird out!” line didn’t work for me; it’s the sort of thing I would have expected from the Farrakhan stand-in. Aesthetically, I liked it, but the Jewish bird’s beak in the second panel doesn’t look right to me – all the other beaks open way wider than that, so it’s hard to see how that expression would “work”.

    Now on to politics.

    I saw a lot of responses to this event claiming that these women were not really the leaders of the march and had basically hijacked it. I don’t know if that’s true, but I don’t think it should excuse people from action.

  5. 6
    Ben Lehman says:

    Tamika Mallory comes off really poorly in that article. I’m honestly shocked at her level of ignorance and self-justification, and her unwillingness to even vaguely address her level of internalized anti-semitism. She comes off, at best, like a racist uncle insisting he’s not racist.

  6. 7
    Ben David says:

    Are you referring to the Jewbird of Bernard Malamud’s short story?

    That would be richly ironic, since the Jewbird of your cartoon is from a very different American-Jewish generation.

    http://www.101bananas.com/library2/jewbird.html

  7. 8
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Damn.

    I lurk twitter at times, and Jake Tapper is one of my favorites. When I saw his tweetstorm concerning Farrakhan and the Women’s March, my initial reaction was to feel bad for Tamika. I figured there was room for a nuanced POV concerning the NOI, even if the group holds some evil (and silly) beliefs. The truth is, if I had nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon, and a friend was like, “hey, let’s go listen to Farrakahn.” I probably would- and I’d hope no one would assume I’d attend because I agree with the man, because I definitely don’t. I just think that one way or another I’d learn something by being there.

    But now I’ve seen that Atlantic piece, and her views don’t sound nuanced at all. She seems caught of guard by the criticism, but how? How could she not see this coming?

  8. 9
    Gracchus says:

    ” She seems caught of guard by the criticism, but how? How could she not see this coming?”

    I think a lot of people internalise the “punch up/punch down” dichotomy with the assumption that they are, by definition, never on the top, so they can’t possibly punch down as long as they are, well, themselves.

    Unfortunately I don’t think there’s anybody in the world, no matter how strongly they identify with an oppressed group, who isn’t “above” someone, and if one’s discourse style is “punch all the time”, you’ll eventually hit somebody beneath you just based on the law of averages.

  9. 10
    Ampersand says:

    I thin the article I linked to provides a much better explanation than that.

  10. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Ben David, I wasn’t consciously referring to that story, but that’s kind of amazing!

  11. 12
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    So this may be a terrible take, but here goes:

    I’ve thought about it more, and I have to wonder if this whole issue is being blown out-of-proportion by a more organized American right-wing.

    I know it sounds conspiratorial- but it isn’t. I think recently, the right finally started using Saul Alinsky’s tactic of forcing their enemy to live up to their own ideals. I’m seeing this more and more. I’ve seen reactionary types call for this because it really is effective. People just react really strongly to hypocritical behavior, but in a world where political power is about coalition building, there will be coalitions of people with different priorities and some members of the coalition won’t do a good job of living up to the values supposedly embraced by the coalition as a whole. That’s Tamika. She represents a part of the coalition that has a problem with anti-semitism, and she isn’t willing to risk alienating them.

    What Tamika said is painfully tone-deaf. Linda Sarsour has a similar penchant for dying on dumb hills. But these are just two women in a sea of women who consider themselves part of the Women’s March. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the prominent marchers, but I’m willing to bet most of these women are having great nuanced discussion after this incident. I’m willing to bet the values that define the movement are alive and well. I’m willing to bet most black civil rights leaders and leading intellectuals have a more nuanced opinion of the NOI. Singling out loud hypocrites is just a really good way to play politics, so it’s in the interests of some players to keep Tamika and Linda centered. Which is why they should probably be pushed out, and why self-policing is so important.

  12. 13
    Gracchus says:

    @Jeffrey: So, a couple of things. While this kind of critique may originate from the right, in a sense, this is actually a positive thing. Groups -should- live up to their ideals, and if it’s their opponents who prompt them to do so, so be it. In the long run, it’s bad for the right for the left to become a more effective coalition, so they are really scoring short term points at the expense of long term losses.

    Secondly, I feel your “coalitions of people with different priorities” is similar to the male bird’s apology in panel 3, trying to elide blatant hate speech by talking about diversity of opinions. This is not a matter of people having different priorities or different emphases. This is a matter of somebody blatantly promoting hateful ideology. Farrakhan and his numerous Farrakahan-ites aren’t arguing for a deemphasis of fighting antisemitism, or even saying that foregrounding fighting antisemitism is problematic for other groups. They’re actually practicing antisemitism. That’s more than just a diversity of opinions and priorities.

  13. 14
    RonF says:

    Jeffrey Gandee:

    I think recently, the right finally started using Saul Alinsky’s tactic of forcing their enemy to live up to their own ideals.

    Yup. That is something I have seen stated explicitly.

    From the cited article:

    “Fear would soon become a daily companion in the short walk to and from school every day,” Swinson told me, until “a host of clean-cut, friendly, polite, and ramrod straight, bow-tied young men from the Masjid took up daily residence on every street corner from 7th Street to 1st Street.” They were from the Fruit of Islam, the Nation’s paramilitary wing. “I will never forget how they calmed the fears of so many mothers and children, just by their mere presence,” Swinson said.

    Yeah, and Mussolini made the trains run on time. I understand that when you live in a war zone anyone who can restore order looks good. But the bottom line is that this man preaches hate. He’s been doing it from the very beginning of his career and he’s done it constantly from then until now. Every time he opens his mouth it discredits not just himself but anyone who voluntarily associates themselves with him. My guess is that if he was attacking any other race but whites or any other religions but Christianity and Judaism the left would be screaming condemnations of him to the heavens. If a political or social movement cannot disassociate themselves from him without problems then they need to seriously re-examine their principles.

  14. 15
    Jake Squid says:

    My guess is that if he was attacking any other race but whites or any other religions but Christianity and Judaism the left would be screaming condemnations of him to the heavens.

    Sure! Because the left is well known for giving a pass to people who attack Islam.

  15. 16
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    If a political or social movement cannot disassociate themselves from him without problems then they need to seriously re-examine their principles.

    I think people can and will disassociate from Farrakahn. It’ll happen faster if people try to come to a charitable understanding of why people follow him in the first place. A shame campaign where the NOI is boiled down to nothing more than a hate group makes it really hard for people to change their minds with dignity.

  16. 17
    Gracchus says:

    “A shame campaign where the NOI is boiled down to nothing more than a hate group”

    Is that what we’re seeing here?

  17. 18
    RonF says:

    No, Jake, the left is well known for claiming that any condemnation of Islam is “Islamophobia” – which is my point.

  18. 19
    Jokuvaan says:

    The left/islamist alliance obiviously comes at the cost of women’s/LGBT/atheist rights…
    Or well not necessarily if it makes people on the right more sympathetic to their cause.

  19. 20
    Gracchus says:

    “left/islamist alliance”

    Oooookay

  20. 21
    Jokuvaan says:

    “Oooookay”

    Well its not like its a official alliance but I can’t really think of a better word for their cooperation.
    Left/Islamist friendship?

  21. 22
    Ampersand says:

    Well its not like its a official alliance but I can’t really think of a better word for their cooperation.
    Left/Islamist friendship?

    I’d reply, but it seems so unlikely that we’ll even find enough mutually-acknowleged reality to even form a basis for discussion.

  22. 23
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Jokuvaan,

    I’m guessing your definition of “Islamist,” is different than mine, because I can’t think of any significant population in the USA that supports “Islamists.” I doubt a significant proportion of Muslim Americans feel allied to Islamists as I understand the meaning of Islamist. Can you maybe give an example of what you’re talking about?

  23. 24
    RonF says:

    My belief is that when most people hear the word “Islamist” on the news or see it in print this definition would fit what they think. Do you agree?

    From The Online Oxford Dictionaries:

    Islamist
    NOUN
    An advocate or supporter of Islamic militancy or fundamentalism.

    ‘radical Islamists’
    More example sentences
    ‘This has given new urgency to the hunt for its editor, an unknown Islamist who goes by the name “Yahya Ibrahim.”’
    ‘The territory’s economic woes intensified after this Islamist was toppled in a military coup in July.’
    ‘He is depicted as an idealistic, fanatical Islamist prepared to die for his beliefs.’
    ‘He is an Islamist who preaches the virtues of sharia law.’
    ‘The deal was allegedly brokered by their president, a moderate Islamist who visited Downing Street in 2010.’
    ‘On Friday, security officials arrested an Islamist who leads a small opposition group.’
    ‘Foremost amongst these was an Islamist who had previously supported the Green Party.’
    ‘The group is named for the Islamist who died in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets in the late 1980s.’
    ‘He was a moderate Islamist who was skilled at weathering the vicissitudes of Somali politics.’
    ‘He was banned from entering the country on suspicion of having links with a certain Algerian Islamist.’

  24. 25
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I agree with that definition and it’s the one I was thinking of.

    I just don’t think the left is allied with militant Islam.

    I do think the left places a lower priority of condemning militant Islam than the right does, though. This has become a tribal marker, I think. Sometimes this causes people to act strangely. I’ll encounter people on the right who never ever care about feminism, or middle easterners generally, suddenly posting inspiring pictures of Iranian women ditching their hijabs. On the flipside, my feminist cousin who frequently criticizes “rape culture,” had never heard of the Rotherham Scandal.

  25. 26
    Gracchus says:

    “I do think the left places a lower priority of condemning militant Islam than the right does, though.”

    I think that’s the correct stance. To many, indeed I’d say a majority on the right, ‘militant Islam’ is the number one threat facing the western world. Saying that’s not the case is just… telling it like it is.

  26. 27
    Jokuvaan says:

    I’d reply, but it seems so unlikely that we’ll even find enough mutually-acknowledged reality to even form a basis for discussion.

    In that case I don’t see why not as it should be easier to show where I’m wrong about objective reality than subjective opinions/ideas.

    I’m guessing your definition of “Islamist,” is different than mine, because I can’t think of any significant population in the USA that supports “Islamists.” I doubt a significant proportion of Muslim Americans feel allied to Islamists as I understand the meaning of Islamist. Can you maybe give an example of what you’re talking about?

    That might very well be correct, however are you implying that the vast majority of US muslims are part of the postmodernist left?

    I just don’t think the left is allied with militant Islam.

    The left support islamists/jihadists by:
    – Supporting uncontrolled muslim immigration.
    – Spreading disinformation for their benefit.
    (Example; Islam is a religion of peace.)
    – Silencing critics of islamists/jihadists.
    – Turning a blind eye to their actions.
    – Insisting on disarming their opposition.
    – Putting political pressure on their opposition, especially Israel.

    Islamists/jihadists support the left by:

    – Killing their opposition.
    – Fighting the Western Civilization they oppose.
    – Providing training, though recently the left is not so eager to use this option.
    – In the past there has been joint OPS like the hijacking of Flight 181.

    I’m not saying that a winning strategy does not sometimes necessitate sacrifice or that it won’t succeed but only if you are willing to go all the way with both eyes open.
    Nor should it come as a surprise that this will strengthen your opposition in our resolve.

    Or you could call it off before there is no turning back.

  27. 28
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I think militant Islam is a big threat in many Majority Muslim countries. I think it’s somewhat of a threat in some European countries. I believe that the threat of militant Islam is overblown here in the US, but the black swan that was 9-11 makes it really hard to convince conservatives that they have little to worry about. My conservative family members say “what about 9-11,” like it’s some sort of ultimate trump card. It’s hard to respond to that. I can present facts, stats, and poll results all day, but the person I’m talking to is playing this horrifying movie in their head.

  28. 29
    RonF says:

    “… but the person I’m talking to is playing this horrifying movie in their head.”

    Don’t forget that the movie in question is not a drama, it’s a documentary.

  29. 30
    Gracchus says:

    Well this thread went downhill fast

  30. 31
    Jokuvaan says:

    I think militant Islam is a big threat in many Majority Muslim countries. I think it’s somewhat of a threat in some European countries. I believe that the threat of militant Islam is overblown here in the US, but the black swan that was 9-11 makes it really hard to convince conservatives that they have little to worry about. My conservative family members say “what about 9-11,” like it’s some sort of ultimate trump card. It’s hard to respond to that. I can present facts, stats, and poll results all day, but the person I’m talking to is playing this horrifying movie in their head.

    Why should a second 9-11 be considered something little to worry about?

  31. 32
    Kate says:

    Why should a second 9-11 be considered something little to worry about?

    Because, as Jeffrey Grande said, it is a black swan – a remarkable but very rare occurrence. We should focus on far more serious and pervasive dangers, such as:
    homicide: The number of people killed in homicides in the U.S. dwarfs the number killed in terrorist incidents year after year – even in 2001.
    firearms deaths in general: More generally, tens of thousands of more people are killed by firearms in the U.S. than by terrorism.
    cyber attacks by hostile foreign governments: Putin’s cyber war on the U.S., which includes hacking election systems, electrical grids and nuclear facilities is far more of a threat. A threat which is being ignored by Trump and the Republicans in congress.
    lack of healthcare: Tens of thousands of preventable deaths which are likely to happen if Republicans were able to fully repeal the ACA.

  32. 33
    Gracchus says:

    @Kate: You can’t really put cyber attacks, no matter how severe, on par with teh other dangers you listed. Not a single person has died due to Russian cyber hacking. Of course you can talk about less concrete stuff, damage to institutions etc etc – but that’s the same argument used for why 9/11 is such an enormous deal despite not killing nearly as many people as shitty healthcare.

  33. 34
    Kate says:

    Not a single person has died due to Russian cyber hacking.

    Yet. That we know of. Why do you think Russia is hacking our electrical grid, and nuclear plants? Have there been small scale crises that were the result of undetected hacking by a hostile state? Given how compromised our systems are, it can’t be ruled out.

    You can’t really put cyber attacks, no matter how severe, on par with the other dangers you listed.

    I hope this continues to be true. Done right, hacking major infrastructure systems, like nuclear facilities, damns and so on, could essentially turn these assets into bombs that could be set off to destroy entire neighborhoods, and we might not even be sure whether it was an accident or not; or who to retaliate against if we suspected sabotage.

  34. 35
    Jokuvaan says:

    Because, as Jeffrey Grande said, it is a black swan – a remarkable but very rare occurrence. We should focus on far more serious and pervasive dangers, such as:

    It is a very rare occurrence due to several overlapping layers of defence and the focus on preventing said danger.
    Also the rest is a bunch of whataboutism. By the same logic you could argue against the threat of firearms due to the deaths of heart diseases and diabetes or american’s having unhealthy lifestyles.

    And this conflict is not reduced to the US. Its global and as on this day you have forces abroad fighting in it.

  35. 36
    Kate says:

    By the same logic you could argue against the threat of firearms due to the deaths of heart diseases and diabetes or american’s having unhealthy lifestyles.

    This is a straw man. I recognize that terrorism is a threat and that we need to take it seriously. I merely think that the U.S. has far larger problems and that people are blowing the threat of Islamic terrorism out of proportion, in large part because of xenophobia. The safeguards we have put in place since 9-11 are doing their job, and may even be overreach in some cases.
    That being said, I do think that funding healthcare is more important than regulating fire arms precisely because it would impact so many more lives.

  36. 37
    Gracchus says:

    “Done right, hacking major infrastructure systems, like nuclear facilities, damns and so on, could essentially turn these assets into bombs that could be set off to destroy entire neighborhoods”

    Yes, -could-.

    A lot of things -could- turn into massive drivers of deaths. ISIS -could- deploy bombs destroying entire neighbourhoods too. Why is the hypothetical death toll of Russian hackers a cause for urgent action, and the hypothetical death toll of ISIS not? Or are there gradiations of likelihood between the two?

  37. 38
    Kate says:

    Why is the hypothetical death toll of Russian hackers a cause for urgent action, and the hypothetical death toll of ISIS not?

    Well, for starters, the President isn’t inviting highly placed members of ISIS into the Oval Office and giving them top secret intelligence. Republicans in congress aren’t taking the threat seriously either.
    That’s not to say that ISIS doesn’t continue to be a problem. But, Trump’s rhetoric and policies will do nothing to decrease that threat, and may well make matters worse. Anything ISIS is likely to do is paralleled by right wing, racist extremists. In both cases, I don’t think we can bring attacks to zero without violations of civil liberties that I’m not willing to live with. It doesn’t make sense to be so terrified of one, while accepting the other as inevitable. I believe in moderate, measured approaches to both which protect us as much as possible while still respecting essential civil liberties.

  38. 39
    Jokuvaan says:

    Well, for starters, the President isn’t inviting highly placed members of ISIS into the Oval Office and giving them top secret intelligence. Republicans in congress aren’t taking the threat seriously either.
    That’s not to say that ISIS doesn’t continue to be a problem. But, Trump’s rhetoric and policies will do nothing to decrease that threat, and may well make matters worse. Anything ISIS is likely to do is paralleled by right wing, racist extremists. In both cases, I don’t think we can bring attacks to zero without violations of civil liberties that I’m not willing to live with. It doesn’t make sense to be so terrified of one, while accepting the other as inevitable. I believe in moderate, measured approaches to both which protect us as much as possible while still respecting essential civil liberties.

    ? ISIS has been taking a beating in Syria&Iraq.
    Also ironically the Trump administration has despite of its rhetoric a harder stance on Russia than the Obama administration.
    Assad got cruise missiles for breakfast in response to using gas, Ukraine is now getting weapons, military presence in the Baltics has increased, the military cooperation with Sweden&Finland is well underway, ect.
    Now I don’t know how much this is due to hawks doing what hawks do best.

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