Octopus & Propaganda

Clem

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Cephalopods are major figures in one of man's least noble popular enterprises: propaganda.

Despite their generally shy, retiring habits, octopus have long been used to connote villainy and dark intent. As such, they have also long been staples of propaganda illustrations. Their "alien" plan and features fit comfortably within the menagerie of animal images used to de-humanize a political opponent or military foe; their shyness can be made to seem seditious; and, their spoke-like arm corona fits nicely over a map or globe.

Typically, the Enemy Octopus stands in for a nation or distinct community, and not as an individual. The octopus has been cast as Nazi fascist, Jewish conspiracist and English imperialist. They've stood in for Antwerp, of all places. Stretch out the arms and they span the distance from 1904 Japan to 2003 internet, anti-Russian sentiment to anarchist website.

There's a lot out there, so let's collect it and take it apart. If any TONMO'ers find material that's offensive or in questionable taste, please don't hesitate to submit it for private comment before posting. Don't want any racist, nationalist or otherwise violent types coming to TONMO for clip-art.

Clem
 

Clem

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From the Netherlands, here's an anti-globalization outfit's rendition of a malevolent, capitalist cephalopod:



 
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WhiteKiboko

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:x :x :x i dont know which to be madder about....the demonizing of a ceph or the anti-capitalist drivel....

i guess globalization is the imaginary boogie man for todays youth....
 

Clem

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WK,

Peculiar, isn't it? Especially odd given that anti-globalization coalitions typically include ecologically minded-types, who ought to know better.

:roll:

Clem
 

rrtanton

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I recall a very common cartoon from my junior high history books, dating back to the turn of the century. A brief search hasn't turned up an example, but it represents a large corporation as an octopus (I think Standard Oil.)

It strikes me that octos are chosen, especially for business cartoons, to emphasize the "tentacletip in every pie" nature of some corporations. Especially back in the olden days corporations could be involved in numerous venues and thumb their noses at fears of conflicts of interest or monopolistic practices. Companies continue this diversity today (though presumably without the more shady facets!) Witness Sara Lee, or Phillip Morris. And while GM is still (mainly) all about cars, consider that (as best I can count) they control 7 distinct automotive brands--10, if you count Opel (foreign-sales only,) Hummer (I kinda think of them as GMC,) and Oldsmobile (effectively dead.) Plus they have substantial relationships with various other corporations, such as owning 20% of Subaru and rebadging certain Toyotas or Suzukis as Geo (and now Chevy) models.

rusty
 

Clem

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Rusty,

I'm not having any luck yet in finding the Standard Oil cartoon you referred to, but I did stumble across an official publication for the company whose cover is a delightful example of subversive graphic design.

An explanation of how a stylized cephalopod, previously used to raise alarms about Standard Oil's monopolistic practices, came to appear on an offically sanctioned pamphlet can be read at the site maintained by Paul Jackson for the publisher, Roycroft Books.

Al Hayat Al-Jadida, official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, published an illustration on July 24, 2003, depiciting an American octopus dismembering Saddam Hussein; the illustration was made as a response to the deaths of Hussein's two sons in an American raid on their safehouse.
It's too gruesome an image for open airing in this forum, but can be viewed here.

Clem
 

WhiteKiboko

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this my just be me with my personal biases, but i really dont see anything wrong with that.... :|
 

Clem

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WhiteKiboko said:
this my just be me with my personal biases, but i really dont see anything wrong with that.... :|
WK,

I don't find it particularly offensive, either: the American octopus is too comically grotesque to take umbrage at. But, it's probably best to not post images of bloody dismemberment directly.

Are there any Arabic-literate TONMO'ers who could translate the words written on Saddam's arms? I'd guess that they were the names Uday and Qusay.

The preponderance of anti-semitic, anti-Israeli octopus figures in some Arab political cartoons makes me wonder if the animal isn't held in especially low regard in the region. Consumption of cephs is proscribed by strict Kosher law. Are those restrictions shared in the dietary custom of Islam?

:?:

Clem
 

o.vulgaris

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something that used to influence a person's criteria has now gotten mixed up with cephelopod's, weird that global matter's are invloved. :shock:
 

Clem

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o.vulgaris said:
something that used to influence a person's criteria has now gotten mixed up with cephelopod's, weird that global matter's are invloved. :shock:
O.,

I agree, it is quite weird. The Arab political illustrations depicting an "Israeli Octopus" snatching territory paved the way for the Saddam image: applying ceph imagery to the United States draws upon that visual memory, strengthening the Arab readership's association of the United States with Israel, in a region where it is widely assumed that American and Israeli geo-political interests are tightly interlaced.

An image-maker searching for an animal to use as a stand-in for a community or polity of aggressive, expansionist repute really can't ask for more than an octopus provides. Flowing and plastic, its outlines can be stretched to envelop territories large or far-flung; the lack of a "face" makes for a blank canvas on which to project any desired visage; because octopus are shy and dexterous, they can represent any group or state that outsiders consider sneaky and conspiratorial.

I think the opaque nature of cephalopods to most people is key, here: poorly understood, they can represent any entity that defies the comprehension of those who find it threatening. Between Arab and Israeli, Communist and Capitalist, Fascist and Democrat is a fundamental chasm, a critical lack of engagement and understanding. The use of an octopus to arouse fear of "The Other" amounts to a tacit admission of moral and intellectual failure: "We don't understand you, and we don't to."

:|

Clem
 

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