Japanese politicians sometimes use otaku references to please the crowds, but in America politics and anime typically don’t mix. That changed this month when Representative Paul Gosar, a Republican in Arizona, shared a video using Attack on Titan.
According to Rep. Gosar, the video was meant to contain an anti-illegal immigration message. With the tweaks done to the video by putting real faces on characters, he has himself kill a Democratic rival and attack the president.
The video had many in the American press scrambling to figure out exactly what this anime was. A few recognized it as Attack on Titan, but many more generally just referred to it as an anime or cartoon. Some people more knowledgeable about the franchise wondered if Rep. Gosar was familiar with the full story of it, because it has parallels to Nazism and the Holocaust, or if he knew the fact that it’s co-opted by some extreme right racists, who interpret the franchise differently than the creator ever intended.
“We have to hold Members accountable who incite or glorify violence, who spread and perpetuate dangerous conspiracies,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
As a result of his video, the House censured Rep. Gosar and stripped him of his committees.
“The glorification of the suggestion of the killing of a colleague is completely unacceptable,” said Republican Rep. Liz Cheney about her decision to vote against Rep. Gosar. The majority of Republicans voting against the censure. A few chose not to vote at all. “And I think that it’s a clear violation of House rules. I think it’s a sad day. But I think that it’s really important for us to be very clear that violence has no place in our political discourse.”
Rep. David Joyce, a Republican on the House Ethics Committee, said the committee was meeting privately to talk about the video. He voted “present.” Rep. Gosar continues to defend the video, saying, “The cartoon hero symbolically smites the evil. As heroes are thematically required to do.”
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, and its sequel, Manga Art for Intermediates, with professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.