Journalist tries to decode the "antisemitic conspiracy" behind Trump anime memes
WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the anime series "Neon Genesis Evangelion"
I don't want to sound generalizing, but many journalists seem to have a certain belief that because they're journalists it makes them experts in every thing, even when they have no clue what they're talking about. From my point of view this is most apparent when they try to talk about internet subcultures, which they tend to know nothing about.
This was very apparent with a post in the progressive Jewish American magazine called "The Forward" titled "Decoding an Anti-Semitic Meme Donald Trump Supporters Took From Anime" by Jay Michaelson.
In his post Michaelson mentions that after criticizing Donald Trump in a column he faced a lot of antisemitic pictures and memes on his twitter account, but apparently there was one picture that caught his attention, a fan made drawing of the Neon Genesis Evangelion character Asuka Langley Soryu with cat ears, having a MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat photo shopped on top of it. Apparently Michaelson found this image so important that he had to "decode" it.
For information, Asuka Langley Soryu is a major character in the 90s anime cult hit Neon Genesis Evangelion. A 14 year old girl from Germany who under the command of the paramillitary organization NERV pilots a bio mechanical weapon known as an "Evangelion" in order to defend a futuristic Tokyo from supernatural beings called Angels.
Apparently, according to Michaelson the reason Asuka is used as an antisemitic Trump meme is because Evangelion is filled with antisemitic themes and that Asuke is a symbolic hero for evil Jew hating white supremacists. As someone who has watched the original Evangelion series more than i can count, as well as having read the manga, and the Rebuild series. I can't tress enough about how completely ignorant and wrong he is.
Evangelion is in itself an extremely complex and deep anime that deals with difficult topics. so i'll try to make it as simple as possible. One of the ways he tries to tie Evangelion to antisemitism is through the organization SEELE, a mysterious organization in Evangelion that controls global governments and are the puppet masters behind the United Nations.
According to Michaelson this organization is a "mythologized blend of the world Zionist conspiracy (a la Protocols of the Elders of Zion), Illuminati, and United Nations." He claims that the "New World Order" inspired themes alongside the Dead Sea Scrolls which is largely based on Hebrew scriptures prove that the organization is basically a reference to Jewish conspiracies. According to Michaelson, Asuka is the heroine who stands up against SEELE who fights this evil "Jewish" organization. However this is a misrepresentation which we'll get back to later.
One of the biggest errors Michaelson makes is the claim that the motives of SEELE are to take control over the world (which he does say is an oversimplified summary.) But not only is it oversimplified, but it's completely wrong. The motives and goals of SEELE is to complete the "Human Instrumentality Project" by initiating the "Third Impact." Explaining the Human Instrumentality Project or HIP in detail would force me to explain the entire lore so i will simplify it a lot.
Basically the HIP is a project with the goal of uniting humanity into a single existence, where there is no longer any individuality or even the concept of an individual. Instead, all of humanity would in SEELE's vision be merged inside an Evangelion unit in order to achieve godhood. The goal of this project has absolutely nothing to do with world domination at all, since the whole concept of control or domination would cease to exist. The idea is to erase the flaws inherent in individuals and create a perfect being. But they never stated what they would do as such a being.
So that alone makes SEELE completely different from your typical NWO organization and makes the connection of Jewish conspiracies pretty dumb. As for the connection of Judaism with the Dead Sea Scrolls, the anime uses a lot of themes based on the Abrahamic religions director Hideaki Anno has stated that most of the religious themes of where added to distinguish the anime from others in the same genre, and had no deeper meaning than that.
As for Asuka fighting the evil "Jewish" organization SEELE. This is based on a scene in one of the later episodes where SEELE deploys Mass Production Evangelions (which Michaelson mistakes for real Evangelions such as the one Asuka uses). But this is a misrepresentation as she was tricked and used as a pawn by Gendo Ikari, the commander of NERV who wanted to control the HIP for himself for other convoluted motives. Furthermore Asuka never fought with "good" or "evil" in mind. She does it in order to create an image of adulthood and independence to make up for her psychological scars and insecurities.
To his credit he does mention that Hideaki Anno never had any antisemitic themes in his works. But then goes to say that Evangelion may have been part of Japan's alleged antisemitism based on a single fringe cult. He also claims that his open interpretation as well as use of conspiracy themes could lead to people perceiving it as antisemitic. Of course the easiest explanation is that there are no antisemitic themes at all.
But then if there is no antisemitic conspiracy in Evangelion, and Asuka is not the Jew slayer we thought she was. Then why is she used as a Trump icon? Well...Asuke isn't actually their Trump icon. Asuka is merely one anime character used for a bigger meme based around photo shopping MAGA hats on top of all kinds of popular anime characters, which Asuka is one example of.
But then what is the whole point of this meme? Why are they photoshopping anime girls on top of MAGA hats?
Well it's pretty simple...Memes are inside jokes, and most inside jokes are meant to be only funny and relatable to the in-group, most inside jokes also just kinda happen out of nowhere, so really tracing this meme back to any origin defeats the point, however I do have a theory on where it originated.
For starters it should be noted that most of these jokes are based on the Image Board called 4chan. 4chan being a western spin-off of Futaba, a Japanese Image Board dedicated to otaku and underground culture, means that 4chan is strongly inspired by it and as a result, anime and manga has become a huge subculture within the 4chan community.
However the idea of tying anime to politics started in 2012 and originated from the microblogging site Tumblr, where a picture was posted with the 2012 Republican candidate Ron Paul surrounded by anime girls with the caption "Ron Paul will make anime real"
This "Make Anime Real" meme became quickly popular on the internet and has often been used as a satire for populist politicians with a big internet following. Aside from Ron Paul there have also been variation with Bernie Sanders, Nigel Farage, Tony Abbott, and of course, Donald Trump. The whole idea of anime characters with MAGA hats also became big as an ironic protest against conservative commentator Rick Wilson who called these type of Trump supporters "losers who masturbate to anime"
So yeah while some of these Trump supporters might be raging antisemites, none of that is really inspired by anime, there are no antisemitic themes behind Evangelion and the secret behind the anime Trump memes are pretty silly and anticlimactic.
There's two reasons why I wanted to make this post and why I went into detail with something this silly.
1. Because I'm a big Evangelion fan and I hate seeing it's deep and meaningful message being misrepresented.
2. Because I wanted to really show and emphasize and how completely disconnected journalism is with internet subculture, and hope that journalists look at this and stop with their arrogant elitist behavior of thinking that they're experts who can write on any subject.
Hopefully journalists will think whether or not they can trust themselves enough to make a proper article regarding these subjects.