Dry Bones

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In 2009, as a political cartoonist of long standing I was made a “visiting fellow” and “artist in residence” of Yale University’s Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism and Racism (YIISA). The word interdisciplinary in the title indicated that they were trying to examine the phenomenon of Jew-hatred from different viewpoints, Through the eyes of professionals from different disciplines and professions. Debates rage over whether a particular political cartoon is or isn’t antisemitic. It seemed only natural that someone would get around to asking a political cartoonist to take an objective view. And they had picked me.

I began by collecting as many antisemitic cartoons that I could find. Friends in Europe sent me scans of their collections. I thumbed through old ADL and Jewish Agency booklets, and of course, I Googled. I stuck the cartoons into categories and then took a closer look. In more than 500 cartoons I discovered only 32 specific image codes. And I found that I could classify them into viral “strains.”

In 2010, Yale published Kirschen’s working paper entitled “Memetics and the Viral Spread of Antisemitism through ‘Coded Images’ in Political Cartoons”. The paper identifies anti-Semitism as a behavioral virus, isolates its three viral strains, and reveals its use by totalitarian movements in their attempts to conquer the West. The “Secret Codes” are virally spread anti-Jewish libels which are codified in political cartoons as symptoms of a deeper sickness. For self-protection, democratic societies should deal with the sickness as a disease control problem.

In 2011 I built an online compendium of the secret codes available for academic or public research.

This Dry Bones academic project has its own website: secretcodeshiddenwar.com