This summer, days after the horrors of Charlottesville, when white supremacists gathered to protest the removal of a Confederate statue—and in the process murdered a woman with a car—I was sickened to discover a Seattle Met illustration posted online in celebration of president Donald Trump’s apparent support for the white supremacists. And it wasn’t the first time. The same illustration—our spoof of the early-1800s oil painting Napoleon Crossing the Alps—appeared last year on The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website.
Add to the litany of white nationalism’s idiocy its adherents’ lack of humor—their inability to recognize even the most blunt case of irony.
See, the illustration is from “The Grand Ludicrous Hotel” (October 2015), our story detailing the failed attempt to erect a $700 million Trump Tower next to Columbia Tower. The location wasn’t an accident: Trump’s grab of our skyline would have been taller than Seattle’s tallest building.
For art to accompany the story, we commissioned the brilliant illustrator Scott Anderson. The concept, capturing Trump’s act of hubris—his flopped attempt to conquer Seattle—by comparing him to one of history’s most famous failed conquerors, Napoleon Bonaparte. The men share other similarities, including bluster and insecurity about their stature: The French general was as famously self-conscious about his height as Trump is about the length of his fingers (and maybe more).
Anderson, who owns the rights to the image, is equally sickened to see his art used as racist propaganda. It was posted without permission, and he has retained legal representation to assist him in this matter. (Neo-Nazis, on top of everything else, evidently have no regard for copyright law.)
If they understood history or humor, the racists would recognize that our image mocks their hero, the real estate mogul. Napoleon is shorthand for failed military campaigns. He symbolizes the danger of puny men obsessed with proving their superiority over others. The racists don’t see that. And they certainly don’t see that all such puny men ultimately meet their Waterloo.
We have seen the face of evil. And it is dumb.