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Frozen Stars and Anti-Semitism


The Republican nominee for President has now asserted that Disney used a Star of David on its marketing for the movie, Frozen.  Look, he says, same star!  Corrupt media.

This seems as good a time as any for an education about semiotics and how signs work in a network of symbols and signs.  Let’s see if I can clarify for the nominee-apparent what is obvious and apparent to everyone else.  I think I can illustrate this quite simply with reference to another religious symbol, the Cross.

So imagine a cross ensconced on a wall inside a church.  The wall is ornamented by golden mosaics. But the Cross is empty, that is, it does not have a corpus or body on it.  This immediately suggests that it is a Protestant, not a Catholic, Church.  Now imagine a Cross on fire on the front lawn of a home.  And imagine the police arresting the persons who erected that cross on the lawn and who set it aflame, accusing them of terrorism. Can you guess who is living in that home, by the way? Of course you can.   Now, imagine the arrested saying what the Republican nominee has said in so many words:  look at that Cross hanging in the Church! Same Cross!

Actually, no, that is not the same Cross.  How do we know this?  We know it by what the American anthropologist, Clifford Geertz, would argue is a “thick description” of culture and signs that helps us distinguish, say, between a twitch and a wink. So quickly let’s see what we have with the Republican nominee for President’s tweet of a  star used in reference to the “corrupt” Democratic candidate whose picture is superimposed over money. We have a star that resembles the Jewish Star of David in red, over a stack of money, next to the word corrupt.   DT now says this is no different from the star that appears next to the princess Elsa against a backdrop of blue on a Disney coloring book. Same star? How do we distinguish between a twitch and a wink, a Star of David and say, a Sheriff’s star?  The context of the network of symbols is important. And so is this:  DT lifted the image of the star and money from a fringe, white nationalist web site.  He has trafficked in tired anti-Semitic tropes that have been around forever–these also lend a thick interpretation to his tweet.  In other words, DT, we know you’re winking.

The Speaker of the House is outraged meanwhile by the refusal of the FBI or Justice Department to bring charges against the Democratic nominee for President. The Speaker forcefully asserted that the email scandal disqualifies her to be President.  I would like to hear more about that and why he believes this is the case but as importantly, I would like to ask the Speaker why the Republican nominee’s racism, misogyny, homophobia and anti-Semitism are not disqualifying?  {crickets}

Perhaps when the Speaker answers that question he would grace us with an answer as to why he refuses to pass meaningful gun legislation in the light of yet another and another murder of a Black man by police?  The NRA has asserted that arming everyone will make us safer.  Surely we can see through this as police respond in fear for the number of guns carried or perceived to be carried by citizens.  Live up to your title, Sir, and speak up.

Finally, perhaps James Dobson who has asserted that the Republican nominee is now a born-again Christian might focus his candidate on the fact that his Savior was a Jew and that his tweeting of anti-Semitic winks is an insult. Don’t hold your breath.