Cartoon: Do We Blame the Chinese or the Jews?


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I wish I could say that I’m making up these conspiracy theories, I really do. But I’m not. I’m really not. The “secret Chinese weapons program” myth was even spread by Senator Tom Cotton.

This cartoon doesn’t have suggest any deep underlying analysis; I was just reading an article about the “Jews invented COVID 19” conspiracies and thought about proponents of competing racist conspiracy theories fighting it out, and the cartoon, as they say, wrote itself. The last line actually made me snort aloud when I thought of it.

The cartooning challenge here was making a conversation taking place entirely through Zoom work. I could have just used the panel 1 layout for all three panels – a monitor with three equal-sized subwindows, and three tiny heads in each panel – but I was worried that wouldn’t be interesting visually, and would give no way to focus on specific characters. So I decided on a shot of the monitor to set the scene, and then flipping to different characters’ homes for a couple of panels, to bring in more visual variety.

(My friend and frequent collaborator Becky Hawkins has been playing with the same thing in some of her theater cartoons, although she’s taken a different approach – and I might swipe her approach for a future cartoon).

In my first sketch, all three characters were drawn from straight on. Then I realized that it would be incredibly unrealistic to have a Zoom meeting without us looking up at at least one person’s nostrils. :-)

I had a lot of fun drawing the characters and I think the drawings came out well. There are little bits here and there – like the thick and thin of the line of the cheek of the guy wearing glasses  – that I’m really pleased with. (I spend so much more time thinking about thick and thin lines than anyone really should.)

But what really makes the cartoon work, visually, is the colors. When I gave this to Frank Young to color, I told him I’d like each of the three environments to have their own color palette, while sticking to the sort of desaturated colors I usually prefer in my cartoons. But that’s all I told him; the specific colors used, and the modeling and the shadows on the walls, were all Frank’s contribution, and I’m so happy with how they look. My favorite thing about working with collaborators is not knowing exactly what they’ll do, and so getting to be surprised.

Seeing it in color made me notice that the big wall behind the character in panel three was too sparse, so I drew  one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite comic strips. I drew Lucy freehand, rather than tracing. Drawing Schulz’s characters is actually a bit tricky – they’re deceptively simple, but just one line out of place and it’ll look “wrong.”


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels.

PANEL 1

A shot of a computer monitor on a desk or table of some sort. (I just noticed that I forgot to draw any cables or anything coming from the monitor. Oops!) There’s a coffee mug, with a spoon in it and a smiley face on it, on the table in front of the monitor.

The screen is divided into three windows, each of which shows a different person; in other words, this is a Zoom conversation. The upper left window shows a guy wearing a black tee shirt under an open plaid shirt. The upper right window shows an extreme closeup of a man’s face, shot from below; he’s wearing rectangular glasses. And the bottom window shows a fat man with nice-looking fluffy hair, who is wearing a button-up collared shirt with a necktie.

PLAID is waving his arms with a distressed expression; GLASSES is sneering; and FLUFFY is smiling silently.

PLAID: Coronavirus was caused by Jews! God’s punishing them for rejecting Christ, and it’s spread to the rest of us!

GLASSES: Ridiculous! Everyone knows the virus was created in a secret Chinese weapons lab!

PANEL 2

We’re now looking at Plaid in profile, as he leans forward a bit to yell angrily at his monitor, shaking a forefinger at the monitor. On his monitor, distorted because it’s in perspective, we can barely see Glasses angrily yelling back, and Fluffy smiling as he talks.

PLAID: A secret Chinese weapons lab controlled by Jews!

GLASSES: Chinese!

FLUFFY: Hey, fellas, come on!

PANEL 3

A shot of Fluffy, in an upper-middle-class-looking living room; there’s an armchair, a window with curtains and a potted plant on the windowsill; a coffee mug on a table with an open book beside it. Fluffy is standing and speaking at a tablet in his left hand, still smiling pleasantly. We can now see that he’s not wearing pants, and his boxer shorts have a little hearts pattern.

FLUFFY: A pandemic is no time to be divisive. More than ever, we need to compromise and get along. What do you say, Bob?

PANEL 4

Almost the same shot as panel one, showing the monitor with three windows on it. PLAID has picked up the smiley face coffee mug and is looking more sedate as he talks. Fluffy and Glasses are both agreeing cheerfully.

PLAID: All right… But can the next pandemic be about Jews?

FLUFFY: Absolutely!

GLASSES: I’ll be there with swastikas on!

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18 Responses to Cartoon: Do We Blame the Chinese or the Jews?

  1. 1
    Eva Schectman says:

    Normally I don’t relish looking up someone’s nostrils, but you made me spurt with a snort of laughter when I had to look up the nose of the fellow in your cartoon today. Also, uh, I really wish Jews being blamed for covid-19 wasn’t a thing, so thanks for easing the pain of it with laughter. Your fan, Eva

  2. 2
    Petar says:

    I had not heard about the Jews. I had heard Bill Gates, deep government, Russians, 5G cell phone towers, and obviously Chinese, but not Jews.

    ———-

    OK, I read the article, as much as the site let me read without subscription, and did not see any link to anything that supported the theory. All searches, including an image search through a proprietary engine all came back to Flora Cassen.

    Yes, I even looked around Judaism.IS and am a bit dumber for it.

    If the “Jews created Covid-19” theory is only supported by anonymous postings on ‘the Anti-Semitic Dark Web’ and memes that cannot be tracked via any search engines… it is not very popular.

  3. 3
    Petar says:

    Ah well. I stand corrected.

    I managed to find two strains of propaganda linking Jews and Covid-19. One started in Iran, on a private TV (Press TV) where an ‘expert’ said that Zionists developed the virus to use against Iran. The other in France, of all places, where some right wingers (Henry de Lesquen and Alain Mondino) accused Jewish people, from what I can see of, traveling and speaking too much.

    The former spread to Islamic outlets in coutries like Turkey, Spain and France, the latter to Francophone countries like Switzerland and even Canada, but only to Neo-Nazi sites. Bonus points to a borderline fascist newspaper in Turkey for combining both.

    There is no limit to human idiocy.

    I also learned that there is an much more popular theory in Eastern Europe that Gypsies have become the primary spreader of Covid-19, due to disregard of social distancing orders. And that some outlets in my home country of Bulgaria report that US government officials blame the US high death rate to African-Americans’ poor health and hygiene habits. Took me a while to find out how that one started.

    Well, Ampersand, if I’d had any faith in the human race in general, and in our Health and Human Services Secretary in particular, this cartoon took me places that would have dispelled any illusions.

    By the way, English lacks in the subjunctive area. Badly.

  4. 4
    Grace Annam says:

    Petar:

    By the way, English lacks in the subjunctive area. Badly.

    Word. Ah, were it otherwise…

    Grace

  5. 5
    J. Squid says:

    It’s interesting to me how Bill Gates has become Jewish since the start of this pandemic. He couldn’t be evil enough for the nazis and right wing conspiracy theorists without that?

  6. 6
    Gracchus says:

    “…The other in France, of all places”.

    France has a very rich history of anti-semitic thought, that is still very much alive today. (Of course, it also has a very rich history of philo-semitism, but that’s not really relevant here). Nobody should be surprised by the idea of anti-semitism in France.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    It’s interesting to me how Bill Gates has become Jewish since the start of this pandemic.

    Wait, what? I’m not sure what you’re referring to here.

  8. 8
    J. Squid says:

    The right wing conspiracy freaks now talk about Gates using the exact same terminology and phrasing that they’ve been using for Soros for years. The code words for Jew. It’s truly weird.

  9. 9
    hf says:

    I do think blaming the Chinese is vastly more popular. I’m not sure I’ve even seen that one from a source other than Fox News, but they seem to have gotten worse. The first clip compilation I saw showed them tiptoeing up to the line of delusional conspiracy theories (about people who might well be overthrown if the USA didn’t buy Chinese goods and employ their workers). Then I think Jeanine Pirro said it outright with only the thinnest fig-leaf of deniability.

  10. 10
    hf says:

    I think a comment of mine got lost.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    HF – thanks for letting me know. I found the comment. :-)

  12. 12
    nobody.really says:

    This cartoon is so sad. And so unnecessary.

  13. 13
    nobody.really says:

    By the way, English lacks in the subjunctive area. Badly.

    Word. Ah, were it otherwise…

    SS: Come on up and use the subjunctive mood and be a winner. You, sir–
    GK: Yes, ma’am.
    SS: Did you hear what I said?
    GK: Yes, you asked that I speak in the subjunctive.
    SS: So you know the subjunctive….
    GK: If I didn’t, I would not be talking like this.
    SS: Two out of two, very good. Do you have time to go for three?
    GK: If I should, who would care?
    SS: Three. (DING)
    GK: It is time I should go home, but I can stay.
    SS: Excellent. Four.
    GK: Had I known you liked the subjunctive, I would have spoken nothing but.
    SS: Five. (DING)
    GK: If I were an English major, I’d know more of them.
    SS: Six. (DING) Would you like to know what the prize for ten in a row is?
    GK: I would not be here if I didn’t.
    SS: Seven. (DING)
    GK: If I’d known you were here, I would’ve studied up.
    SS: Eight. (DING)
    GK: If I were to get to ten, I hope the prize would involve you.
    SS: Nine. (DING)
    GK: Would that I could.
    SS: Ten. (DING)
    GK: Well, God bless America.
    SS: Bonus. (DING) That was quite respectable, sir.
    GK: If need be, I could do more.
    SS: Heaven forbid. What do you say we get out of the subjunctive and into the future perfect?
    GK: I am going to think the future is very perfect if you’re in it with me.
    SS: Oh my. You know how to make an English major perspire.

    Prairie Home Companion (September 5, 2009), Guy Noir, Private Eye

  14. 14
    Petar says:

    Ampersand, do you really think that the sketch, amusing as it is, does much to change my mind? Simple subjunctives, short sentences with little chance of confusion, barely any tense variation.

    And of course, some of the above are idioms. For example, “God bless you” is one thing, but “Knives cut you” would need context to be understood as subjunctive, were it to be encountered on its own.

    It’s like a Slav complaining that English nouns are too immutable and you coming up with ten variations of duck and ducking or book and booklet. As opposed to being able to express “tiny little arms that are endearing to me” or “weak arms worthy of disdain” in one word, based on the root ‘arm’.

    And yes, it’s a mechanism that works on most roots. You may be laughed at, but you will not be misunderstood. You won’t end up with 20+ letter words like Bundesverfassungsgericht, either.

  15. 15
    Tether says:

    You won’t end up with 20+ letter words like Bundesverfassungsgericht, either.

    A better German word in that category is Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung (certificate of clean findings for the tax office).

  16. 16
    Petar says:

    Well, I just threw out one of the few long German words I could spell well enough to get an auto-corrected hit on Google. Your example is closer to what I meant, but still, it has at least three roots in it.

    There is no really analogous example in German, or in English, as far as I am aware, because the words to which I referred, in Russian or Bulgarian, would still have only one root, and the rest would be modifier suffixes, mostly different diminutives. For with one suffix (diminutive indicating endearment) рука becomes ручка, and with another diminutive it becomes ручонка – both little and endearing. You can add another to make it even more sugary babyish., or you can tweak the diminutive to indicate weakness, rather than size, etc.

    In the same way, many languages can add nuance, tense, and even judgement to subjunctive. This is not to say that English is less powerful in general, as there are things that it can do cleverly and concisely, where Bulgarian for example would need a couple of subordinate clauses.

  17. 17
    Tether says:

    I’ll quit after this, but here’s the name of an actual law in Germany (dealing with the labeling of beef and the delegation of supervisory tasks):

    Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz

    Abbreviated: Das ReÜAÜG

    Knorke!

  18. 18
    Petar says:

    Yeah, but that’s seven words with distinct roots combined into a phrase.

    Beef, meat, label(ing), monitor(ing), task, transference, law.

    It’s an interesting mechanism, very German, but completely different to the prefix/suffix pile-up present in Slavic languages.

    There are some jokes which feature 30+ words worth of sentences which use a single root (the same one, shared by every single word), and describe, for example, a moderately complex manufacturing operation or one minute of meaningful dialogue.

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