Phoenix, AZ – Cartoonists rely on iconography. Symbol is ready metaphor, and not just such trite-and-true staples as donkeys and elephants and American eagles. No editorial toolkit is complete without the darkest of symbols — the emblems of evil that never lose their emotional impact. The KKK hood. The noose. The swastika.
When employing the most vile of emblems, editorial cartoonists sometimes mine the embedded power for hyperbole. So it is that the Anti-Defamation League might have presumed New Jersey cartoonist Jimmy Margulies was being hyperbolic when several days ago, in reaction to Arizona’s new immigration law, he drew Gov. Jan Brewer’s state as the mustache of Hitler.
Point made. But powerfully. Arizona puts the “AZ” in “nAZi.”
The ADL, however, took issue with Margulies’s metaphor.
“We are seeing these offensive and inappropriate Nazi and Holocaust comparisons come to the fore in the public debate once again. We saw it in the health care debate, and now we are seeing it with Arizona,” said Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL national director, in a statement released Wednesday.
“It is disturbing that in speaking out against the bill a number of individuals have taken to using Nazi comparisons, in describing the legislation as being reminiscent of Nazi policies that required Jews and others to carry identity cards, or in comparing the governor and other Arizona officials as being like Hitler,” said Foxman, noting that it might be “politically expedient” to invoke such symbols.
However, Foxman added: “No matter how odious, bigoted, biased and unconstitutional Arizona’s new law may be, let’s be clear that there is no comparison between the situation facing immigrants, legal or illegal, in Arizona and what happened in the Holocaust.”
To illustrate its point Wednesday, the ADL specifically cited the Margulies cartoon, saying: “In New Jersey, an editorial cartoon in the Bergen Record portrayed Hitler with his infamous moustache rendered in the shape of the state of ‘Arizona.’ ”
Speaking to Comic Riffs on Thursday, Margulies explained — and reinforced — his invoking of a Nazi analogy, stating that it was appropriate to tap not only its potency, but also its literal memory.
‘”As a Jew of Eastern European descent, I am well aware of the unique horror of the Nazi era. It is all the more important that I, and others of good conscience who are able to reach an audience, do so in the face of abhorrent laws such as Arizona’s,” Margulies writes.
Margulies continues: “I do not think it diminishes the memory of the Holocaust to point out that the law in Arizona is uncomfortably reminiscent of Germany’s in targeting one or more minorities. Before the concentration camps, there were smaller measures enacted which set the stage for greater acts.
“The Arizona law gives police too much power by casting as suspects anyone who looks to be Latino or foreign-born.”