Seuss wanted to kick Hitler's ass
July 31, 2003 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Dr. Seuss, politcal cartoonist. Before the Cat strode in wearing a Hat, and before Horton heard a Who, Dr. Seuss drew for a liberal New York newspaper called PM. Through most of 1941 he drew images that criticized isolationists who thought we could sit out the war. He already had developed his idiosyncratic style, and the University of California at San Diego has all 400 of his PM cartoons on its site. Here's what he drew Dec. 5, 1941, and this is his cartoon of Dec. 8. Later in the war, he wrote scripts for 28 "Private Snafu" animated cartoons, which taught servicemen what not to do. Some were directed by Chuck Jones.
posted by Holden (42 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, I am disappointed. I never would have suspected I would have such a negative reaction to some Dr. Seuss drawings, nor would I have thought of him as a hawk.

Something new everyday.
posted by thirteen at 2:02 PM on July 31, 2003


Aaargh! That should be "political" cartoonist...
posted by Holden at 2:02 PM on July 31, 2003


There's a published collection of these. One of my favorite terrible Amazon reviews is about it. It's the last review on the page and it's made me laugh for years. Yerfatma found it four years ago and he's probably forgotten about it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:11 PM on July 31, 2003


Thanks, Holden, I had heard about these, but it's good to finally see them. I would caution people like the reviewer Mayor Curley pointed to that the cartoons should be viewed in the context of the standards of editorial cartooning at the time. Seuss was just part of the mass of cartoonists who used what we now consider racist imagery to depict the enemy. Those who avoided such stereotypes were the exception, not the rule. What Seuss may have been alone in was his insistence on uncle sam as a gawky stork-lookin' eagle... a harbinger of his future proclivities...
posted by soyjoy at 2:43 PM on July 31, 2003


Wow, I am disappointed. I never would have suspected I would have such a negative reaction to some Dr. Seuss drawings, nor would I have thought of him as a hawk.

It is true that the illustrations are not what we would expect to see from Dr. Seuss. How could anyone, however, be critical of Dr. Seuss for favoring the U.S. entry into World War II? Dr. Suess clearly was on the right side of history.

With respect to the racist imagery, I agree with the prior message that suggested that the cartoons be viewed in historical context. People were clearly less sensitive to such images in the 1940s than they are today.
posted by Durwood at 3:37 PM on July 31, 2003


I love MF for things like this. Thanks.
posted by the fire you left me at 3:46 PM on July 31, 2003


How could anyone, however, be critical of Dr. Seuss for favoring the U.S. entry into World War II? Dr. Suess clearly was on the right side of history.

I can quite easily. Piles of dead Americans are a pretty good reason for avoiding that war.

I find the Dec. 8th illustration to be particularly offensive. He should have included FDR's hand lighting the fuse that blew up that poor isolationist fellow. A majority of Americans wanted no part of WWII, and yet a secret war was being funded with their tax money, that led directly to their deaths. A betrayal.
Propaganda does not have to be honest I suppose.

Seuss was behaving no differently than those that boosted our last 2 wars. Makes me wonder where he would have stood on the latest Gulf War.
posted by thirteen at 3:52 PM on July 31, 2003


wow
posted by reverendX at 4:39 PM on July 31, 2003


Piles of dead Americans are a pretty good reason for avoiding that war.

Which piles of dead Americans? The ones from Pearl Harbor and the Bataan Death March or some other piles?
posted by turbodog at 4:44 PM on July 31, 2003


Since neither of those piles would have happened if the war would have been avoided, how about I say both. Then add the death of every other American who died away from home, who did not need to. I do not excuse the Japanese for the attack, but I urge everyone to understand why they did it. Pearl Harbor was the official start of a war that was already underway. Pearl Harbor gave Dr. Seuss the war he obviously wanted.
posted by thirteen at 5:02 PM on July 31, 2003


Pearl Harbor gave Dr. Seuss the war he obviously wanted.

Now that is a great line to quote completely out of context.
posted by kindall at 5:05 PM on July 31, 2003


thirteen - what are your views on the recent Iraq conflict?
posted by nthdegx at 5:16 PM on July 31, 2003


Which piles of dead Americans? The ones from Pearl Harbor and the Bataan Death March or some other piles?

Since neither of those piles would have happened if the war would have been avoided, how about I say both

The piles of dead Americans at Pearl Harbor would not have existed if we had avoided the war? Thirteen, perhaps you need a refresher course in cause and effect...
posted by jonson at 5:24 PM on July 31, 2003


How can anyone, knowing what we all know now, say the United States shouldn't have entered World War Two?
posted by dagnyscott at 5:33 PM on July 31, 2003


I can quite easily. Piles of dead Americans are a pretty good reason for avoiding that war.

Amazing! What about the piles of dead Koreans and European Jews? I can't believe that ANYONE would suggest that America's involvement in World War II was not justified. Good God...what if Hitler and Japan had won the war? Or what would the world be like today had Stalin marched across all of Europe, instead of just the East? Does anyone think that the world would be better? We owe our entire existence today to those "piles of dead Americans." I won't let the sacrafice of thousands of young Americans (and others) be slandered.
posted by Durwood at 5:39 PM on July 31, 2003


As for WW2, let me say this:

1) Genocide is bad, mmkay? It's bad whether it's Nazis killing Jews or Jews killing Palestinians or Serbians killing Albanians or Spaniards killing Native Americans.

2) Read a book on Japanese history. The war pretty much bankrupted the country. Even before reparations. I don't know that they would have been in a position to do anything about their vast empire had they won.

3) In a great stroke of Irony, Pearl Harbor was at least partly about Oil.

I'm just Sayin'.
posted by ilsa at 6:38 PM on July 31, 2003




thirteen - what are your views on the recent Iraq conflict?


Greatly opposed.

Thirteen, perhaps you need a refresher course in cause and effect...
I covered that with my post talking about the causes of the war. Why do you think the Japanese attacked a US base? What was the cause of that? Against the wishes of the population, they were put in danger by the actions of their government.


How can anyone, knowing what we all know now, say the United States shouldn't have entered World War Two?

I can say it because the people involved on the American side of the war deserved not to be lied to. They deserved a government that looked after their interests. Picking my side does not mean I support the other anymore than my opposition to the Middle East wars means I supported Saddam.


Amazing! What about the piles of dead Koreans and European Jews?

They matter less to me than the piles of dead Americans obviously. I certainly agree the outcome of the war was better that the reverse, but playing "what if" is silly. I believe the Axis never could have held Europe, and the Japanese were way over-extended. They would not have lasted. America was safe, and the world is not our responsibility.

I won't let the sacrifice of thousands of young Americans (and others) be slandered.
I can do you one better, I would not have sacrificed them. I slander no one but those who betrayed American interests in favor of an unpopular war. Every action affects the future, and there is nothing dishonorable about my position. I mourn the dead soldiers more than you I would wager, since I would rather they had not died.
posted by thirteen at 6:41 PM on July 31, 2003


Jesus, let's not argue about fucking world war II.

Let's argue about how bad a cartoonist Dr. Seuss is when he's not making up goofy words.
posted by Hildago at 6:43 PM on July 31, 2003




Oh gosh, maybe we should like lock all the japs up or something!?
posted by delmoi at 9:57 PM on July 31, 2003


ilsa: Without the American's chopping up the rear, the Japanese would have had time to consolidate their gains before moving on. With America pressuring them, they needed to get enough land to get enough raw materials and oil to keep going.
posted by delmoi at 10:04 PM on July 31, 2003


Amazing! What about the piles of dead Koreans and European Jews?
They matter less to me than the piles of dead Americans obviously.

So if I get your logic vis-a-vis your positions on WWII and GWII, dead Americans matter more than dead other people so long as the dead other people were not killed by Americans, then the dead other people matter more, is that about right? You know, just so I get it.
posted by Dreama at 10:56 PM on July 31, 2003


Yes indeed, that would have made it partly about oil.
posted by ilsa at 11:02 PM on July 31, 2003


This was all an obvious, yet deliberate cover.

It's common knowledge that he actively gave radio broadcasts on behalf of the government of Italy.

And don't forget his post war Norwegian splinter group participation either.

I also understood that he romanced the Tokyo Rose at the personal request of Hirohito himself. However, this may be hearsay.
posted by jazzkat11 at 11:14 PM on July 31, 2003


Good link. Some of these cartoons are also at marxists.org.

And, what Dreama said. The notion that some people are 'worth' more than others simply because of their nationality is profoundly offensive to me (as a non-American).
posted by plep at 1:59 AM on August 1, 2003


Hildago, can we please argue about WWII, if only because thirteen is a tit? I'm researching the Nazis just now, and it's pretty clear that thirteen's reasoning would have led to directly the opposite of what he desires. Isolationism is a crock of shit. And the Nazis, in their befuddled frenzy, pushed Japan into war with the US too early - the original plan was to polish off Russia and then turn to the US.

What would have happened to the US had it stayed out of WWII is exactly what happened to the Europe of appeasement. There was no way to avoid being attacked by Hitler, no giving in to his demands. And, had America not been supporting Britain, there's a good chance it would have fallen earlier - allowing free reign to finish Russia. Then a Nazi-dominated Europe would have turned its attentions to the US. That's not conjecture, there are minuted meetings of his plans to do just that.

What exactly annoys you, thirteen? There are no parallels with GWII here - there was a clear and obvious threat, and you'd already been attacked. The world was already upset about the time it had taken America to enter the war - if it was going to do it for selfless reasons it would have done so much earlier.
posted by bonaldi at 3:59 AM on August 1, 2003


Thirteen said "playing "what if" is silly. I believe the Axis never could have held Europe, and the Japanese were way over-extended"

Contradiction?
posted by prentiz at 5:47 AM on August 1, 2003


Thirteen is really the ghost of Jeanette Rankin. It's taking all her supernatural powers to be here and we're witnessing something special. Let her be.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:48 AM on August 1, 2003


So if I get your logic vis-a-vis your positions on WWII and GWII, dead Americans matter more than dead other people so long as the dead other people were not killed by Americans, then the dead other people matter more, is that about right? You know, just so I get it.
I am thinking you do not get it. You are going to have to tell me who some of these dead people are.

The notion that some people are 'worth' more than others simply because of their nationality is profoundly offensive to me (as a non-American).
It has nothing to do with worth. Is an American life cheaper than yours that it should be spent to keep you alive? We cannot pick who will die, but we can protect our own. People are reading their own hysterical thoughts into my position.



Hildago, can we please argue about WWII, if only because thirteen is a tit? I'm researching the Nazis just now, and it's pretty clear that thirteen's reasoning would have led to directly the opposite of what he desires. Isolationism is a crock of shit. And the Nazis, in their befuddled frenzy, pushed Japan into war with the US too early - the original plan was to polish off Russia and then turn to the US.

And I am sure if I had any clue who you were I would be very crushed by your dismissal of my opinion. I am glad you are finally getting around to researching Nazis. Most people take more than an evening to create a parallel history. BTW, Britan never fell, go back and read some more.

Please site the source on the Nazis pushing Japan to attack, I really wanna read that one. My understanding was that Hitler declared war on the US, to encourage Japan to open a second front on the Russian war which was going badly. You would think that he would have been pushing them to attack Russia.


What exactly annoys you, thirteen? There are no parallels with GWII here - there was a clear and obvious threat, and you'd already been attacked. The world was already upset about the time it had taken America to enter the war - if it was going to do it for selfless reasons it would have done so much earlier.

You are glossing over my posts. The government of the US was not acting in a war that was going to prevent a war. They were intentionally trying to provoke a response. FDR wanted a war, Seuss was begging for a war, but the vast majority of the population did not. There was a sneak attack, but you are not asking why that happened. Obviously it was not in Japans best interest to bring a resource heavy enemy into the conflict, so I leave it to you. WWII could have been avoided by the US, and the Americans who died were put in danger by an irresponsible administration.

Also, your inability to see parallels does not mean they are not there.

Contradiction?
No, I was showing how useless the supposition was. The alternate future is not set in stone by changing one fact of the past.


Thirteen is really the ghost of Jeanette Rankin.

You remind me of someone.
posted by thirteen at 6:55 AM on August 1, 2003


You remind me of someone.

Probably a sane neighbor or the pharmacist that you see so often.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:02 AM on August 1, 2003


It has nothing to do with worth. Is an American life cheaper than yours that it should be spent to keep you alive?

As members of my grandparents' generation - and relatives of mine - died during WW2, hardly.

To :-
Amazing! What about the piles of dead Koreans and European Jews?
You said :-
They matter less to me than the piles of dead Americans obviously.

To me, that says that you value the worth of lives of Americans over other people. Explain how I am misinterpreting.
posted by plep at 7:50 AM on August 1, 2003


Um... is it too late to call Godwin?
posted by soyjoy at 8:20 AM on August 1, 2003


Explain how I am misinterpreting.
I was not devaluing foreign lives because I think they are intrinsically worth less, I was saying we as Americans have no responsibility to ensure their lives. The US government should not have put her soldiers in harm's way in the interest of other nations. All the death was tragic, but the US was only in a position to protect their own citizens, and some individuals in government let them down.
posted by thirteen at 8:30 AM on August 1, 2003


is it too late to call Godwin?

Godwin is almost as annoying as
4. ???
5. Profit!
or AYBABTU, or pancakes, or other overused, beaten to death old MeFi saws. It was probably a pretty funny, useful, or interesting observation once, back in the day, but it now it is a hackneyed cliche.

The idea that the mention of Nazis is bad, in a thread that has turned out to be about WWII is beyond laughable.
posted by norm at 8:52 AM on August 1, 2003


I like this one:

Ostrich Hats.

And I'm disappointed to see the one above with the disloyal Japanese-Americans waiting for a signal from Japan. I find the fear people had understandable, but it is sad to see it given in to.
posted by obfusciatrist at 9:04 AM on August 1, 2003


Uh, yeah, norm. The fact that it was beyond laughable was what made it... laughable. I thought we all could use a laugh at this point, but apparently what we all needed was a righteous beatdown.
posted by soyjoy at 9:07 AM on August 1, 2003


And I'm disappointed to see the one above with the disloyal Japanese-Americans waiting for a signal from Japan. I find the fear people had understandable, but it is sad to see it given in to.

That cartoon, more than any of the racist caricatures, really gives me a deep sense of disappointment with Suess. I mean, the guy was German-American! How much hypocrisy did it take for him to suggest that those people who were related to those in our enemy nation were a big, bad Fifth Column, but Suess' people who were related to those in our enemy nation were patriots?

In hindsight, this comic comes across as nothing more than Suess beating on an easy target, just to keep his own people's ass out of the fire. Not something to respect, especially when that same attitude sent people into the camps. For somebody who was outspoken about the "racial prejudice bug", he had a major blind spot when it came to the Japanese.
posted by vorfeed at 9:52 AM on August 1, 2003


Yeah, vorfeed, I hadn't seen that one when I made my earlier let's-keep-it-all-in-context plea. The sad thing is that he still wasn't out of the ordinary with such a xenophobic cartoon at the time, but it's certainly way out of step with our notion of the later, super-pluralistic Seuss. As to the camps, I can only hope he must've felt like Jeff Bridge's irresponsible DJ character in The Fisher King upon realizing that what seemed like easy, simple-minded posturing wound up helping to create a tragic situation for real, innocent people.
posted by soyjoy at 10:34 AM on August 1, 2003


The sad thing is that he still wasn't out of the ordinary with such a xenophobic cartoon at the time, but it's certainly way out of step with our notion of the later, super-pluralistic Seuss.

The weird thing is, it's also out of step with some of his other cartoons from around the same period. Some of these anti-racist cartoons were done just a couple of months after the "Fifth Column" piece!

It seems worse that way. It makes it seem as if he was being purposely hypocritical, or perhaps he did not even consider the Japanese as an American race, in the same way he thought blacks and Jews were. Either way, it's not a pretty sight.
posted by vorfeed at 11:50 AM on August 1, 2003


Please site the source on the Nazis pushing Japan to attack, I really wanna read that one. My understanding was that Hitler declared war on the US, to encourage Japan to open a second front on the Russian war which was going badly. You would think that he would have been pushing them to attack Russia.

I'm at work, so I can't cite proper paper references, but I'll post 'em later, if you weren't just bluffing. You're right, Hitler did declare war on the US as part of a foolish ploy to get the Japanese to help out in the Russian war. But the whole lead-up to this was encouraging them, by Ribbentrop mostly, to attack in the Pacific, to get the US the hell out of the Atlantic whereby the Nazis could finish the war in Europe and settle on Russia.

The flaw of course being over-estimating Japan, who at no time intended to attack Russia, and under-estimating the US. But the Nazi propulsion to war with America, and their guarantees of aid, are unquestionably what swung the Japanese decision. The were pressuring Ribbentrop to the very last second before Pearl Harbor to try and get a signature on a joint aggression declaration.

You say that WWII could have been avoided by the US. Presumably, that means that you think acting benevolently to Japan, and allowing Europe to fall would have left a world that would continue to allow the US to sit in an isolationist world. I submit that this is nonsense.

It has always been US foreign policy to ensure a friendly Europe, and you can't possibly imagine that hostile powers on both the Pacific and Atlantic are a favourable outcome for an isolationist America. Can you? Remember how powerful Britain was then. Hitler had no qualms about taking them on, just as he'd have had no problem taking on the US after he'd settled Europe.

Your claim that America didn't have to be in the war is nonsense. It's the same nonsense that allowed Poland to fall when Hitler could have been stopped much earlier in his career by a France and Britain that remained isolationist at the time. What America did was exactly the right thing, for it and the world.
posted by bonaldi at 1:32 PM on August 1, 2003


bonaldi: You are posting a lot of opinion, amid some facts. Some of it is wrong, and some is overreaching.
No one ever mentioned acting benevolently towards Japan. There is a difference between neutrality and appeasement. The US provoked a war.
Europe would not have fallen. If they did fall, it would not have been held. All US intervention did was subtract European deaths from the total, and add American ones to it. Considering the government is there to serve the people, this is a collosal failure in duty. Something worse I cannot imagine.

Continuing, It has not "always" been US policy to care about Europe. That stuff changes with every administration, and I would think that claim would be laughable before WWI.

Being as you said "nonscence" alot, I will accept you believe my position is just that. I do not think any better about your intreptation of the events. Where Hitler would have gotten an unlimited number of German soldiers and Nazis to hold Europe at the same time he foolishly attacked the American mainland I have no idea. Attempting to do so would make the war in Russia seem like a wet dream. Reconceiving history is interesting cause you can make it end anyway you want it to.
I suppose it is something that you attempt to honor my slaughtered countrymen with something resembling respect.
posted by thirteen at 3:55 PM on August 1, 2003


I thought we all could use a laugh at this point, but apparently what we all needed was a righteous beatdown.

I'm flattered that you think that was a righteous beatdown. No hard feelings, 'k?
posted by norm at 7:14 AM on August 4, 2003


You got it.
posted by soyjoy at 7:50 AM on August 4, 2003


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