Thomas Nast was a master of caricature, this one of himself being an example
By Ray O’Hanlon
Chalk one up for the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
The order is this week commending the Overseas Press Club for removing 19th century publisher Thomas Nast’s name from its annual editorial cartooning award.
The AOH had asked the club to scratch Nast in a letter sent back in July of last year.
This week the Hibernians were expressing their “gratitude” to the club for its decision to scratch Nast, known for his many satirical illustrations, but also crude stereotyping of the Irish.
Said a statement from the Hibernians. “It cannot be disputed that Thomas Nast was a skilled, creative artist of historical significance.
“He is often considered the “Father of the Editorial Cartoon” and is credited with the creation of the symbolism of Columbia, the Republican Party Elephant and the popular image of Santa Claus. “However, Nast was also the creator and perpetuator of numerous bigoted stereotypes targeting Irish and Catholic Americans.
“The hateful bigotry manifested in Nast’s frequent depictions of Irish Americans as violent apes are commonly used in school curricula as prime examples of anti-immigrant nativism. There is no nuance in Nast’s depictions of Irish Americans and Catholics that would lead any reasonable person to a benign interpretation.”
And the statement continued: “It is disappointing that apologists for Nast often dismiss his detestable depictions of the Irish and Catholics as a minor idiosyncrasy, or worse yet indulge in the same defaming Irish stereotypes in attempts to justify Nast’s despicable imagery.
“Nast’s hateful intolerance against the Irish cannot be palliated by his depiction of Columbia and Santa Clause; rather, Nast’s anti-Irish works are a hypocritical betrayal of all that those beloved symbols stand for. Rather than being lionized in a prestigious award, Thomas Nast should instead be used as a cautionary tale of how great talent can be corrupted by prejudice.”
The AOH statement said that “amidst the current immigration debate gripping our country, today’s talented editorial cartoonists are creatively challenging us to reflect on our attitudes and government policy.
“It is likely that many of the submissions for this year’s OPC Best Cartoon Award will center on this topic. It would have been an ironic tragedy if rightful commendation of a work pricking our conscience on immigration were to be depreciated by an award bearing the name of a hateful chauvinist.
“The Overseas Press Club and their President Pancho Bernasconi are to be commended for their reevaluation of the totality of Nast’s legacy, their sensitivity, and their continuing commitment to promoting the highest ideals of journalism.”