I’ve been seeing a fair amount of criticism of Nelson Mandela over the past few days. Some of it is just the expected contrarian reaction to all the overwhelmingly positive obituaries and remembrances. Some of it is just the inanity we ought to expect from the inane.
But some of it is misguided in a way that demands a response.
What I have in mind is the brand of criticism, like the above cartoon, that says, “I’m going to explain something about South Africa that all the apologists for Mandela don’t know: South Africa wasn’t fixed by Mandela.”
Now it might be the case that these critics honestly want to inform us that South Africa isn’t exactly the “Rainbow Nation” of Mandela’s and Tutu’s vision because they think we don’t know this. Or they want to educate us on persistent economic inequalities because they’re pretty sure they’re the only ones who’ve spent any time thinking about South Africa. Or maybe they believe that only those former politicians who solve every problem or fulfill every promise ought to be lionized. Or they themselves don’t understand or accept that Mandela’s release and the subsequent political changes in South Africa were owed to compromise rather than outright victory. Or they could think that heroism means never making compromises or bad choices.
But here’s the thing: It’s possible to know a whole bunch about South Africa, including all the problems that weren’t fixed by Mandela and even the problems that have arisen in the decades since his release from prison, and still conclude that he was a towering moral figure on the world stage; that he almost certainly meant more to South Africans, black and white, than anyone else ever will; that things might have gone terribly wrong for South Africa if Mandela hadn’t rejected vengeance when he walked out of prison or hadn’t chosen to step down from power after one term in office; that it’s distinctly impressive to see him embraced today by many of those same people who once rejected him as a radical, given how little he moderated his radicalism; and that (along with Desmond Tutu) his vision of justice was responsible for a popularization of the whole concept of restorative justice on a global scale.
It’s easy to criticize, especially if you’ve just spent a few hours on Wikipedia and learned something about Mandela or South Africa that you didn’t know last week, but if someone like Mandela doesn’t made the cut of impressive political figures for you, I submit that it might be your standards, not our opinion of Mandela, that needs to be reevaluated.
According to a recent post from the Tumblr staff, I’m now going to start seeing ads mixed in with posts from blogs I follow on my Tumblr Dashboard.
The above is a quick screen capture of the first one I saw; it’s an ad about some cartoon I’ve never heard of. And, unlike the picture I took of it, the actual ad moved so you could see the snake yelling and the guy stomping around. And — get this! — the show’s going to be back with an all-new episode on Saturday morning on Nickelodeon!
I don’t mind that Tumblr is selling ad space on the Dashboard. Good for those enterprising young folks! But guess how long it took me to scroll past it, decide to write a blog post making fun of it, and then put it out of my mind? Thanks to the simple beauty of Tumblr, approximately five seconds.
I’m not saying ads won’t work or that Tumblr can’t make itself profitable this way. I’m saying I have a special ability not to care about ads.
We all saw it … so I guess Nickelodeon got its money’s worth. But I have the sense that very few of us are suddenly going to watch this cartoon. So maybe Nickelodeon didn’t.
Or maybe I don’t understand how advertising is supposed to work. And yet I’ve seen every episode of “Mad Men” so that’s probably not it.
Ever drive past a high school and think, “That school looks like it could almost be a prison”? Well, with some of the NRA’s recent proposals, maybe we can get rid of that “almost” there.
European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor called for an apology Sunday from Britain’s Sunday Times, which published a cartoon of Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu building a wall on the bodies of Arabs. The cartoon, which appears on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, depicts the blood of the Arabs as cement.
Many observers found the cartoon reminiscent of blood libels against Jews, and noted a similarity to anti-Semitic cartoons published by Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer in the leadup to the Holocaust.
In case you think someone might be stretching the comparison and seeing anti-Semitism where none exists, here’s a blood libel cartoon from Der Stürmer:
The simple truth is this:
When people are overtly anti-Semitic in their attempts to criticize the Israeli government, it gets more difficult for those of who aren’t anti-Semites to do so.
In other words, rather than successfully making public a critique of the Netanyahu government, disgusting cartoons like this one can actually have a chilling effect on other critics of the Israeli government.
It’s very easy to make compelling arguments against the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu without even the slightest whiff of anti-Semitism … which is why a cartoon like this makes clear that some critics of Israel’s government just hate Jews in general.