An article this month in the Jewish Daily Forward entitled “The Origins of Anti-Semitic Anime Inspired by Donald Trump” attempts to trace the relationship between Making America Great Again, Chinese cartoons, and the alt-right. The Forward first encountered this meme mutation when one of their writers had his Twitter account saturated with pictures of Neon Genesis Evangelion character Asuka wearing a Trump hat. The culprit was the alt-right’s department of electronic defense, who were also pointing out coincidences about his ancestry and religion.
That digitally battered author wrote a response, which was summarized in the article I linked:
In his piece, Michaelson drew anti-Semitic context from the anime series itself. According to Michaelson, Asuka, within the context of the larger narrative of Neon Genesis Evangelion, symbolized a “warrior” against an insidious “global Jewish conspiracy,” epitomized in the series as the evil organization SEELE. Michaelson concluded that anti-Semitic themes apparent in Neon Genesis Evangelion draw from a wider phenomenon of Japanese anti-Semitism (or philo-Semitism, depending on your point of view.)
<vivaldi>Weirdly perceiving references to the Torah and Jewish mysticism (as well as Christianity) to be anti-semitic, the author grossly misinterprets NGE (which, to be fair, is rather common) to be about Asuka fighting against the Elders of Zion. While I don’t expect the average journalist to be familiar with anime, it would not have been hard for him to find a decent synopsis of the series and its symbolism. In all likelihood, Hideaki Anno, the director of NGE, likely went with all of the Abrahamic religious symbolism in the anime because he thought it was neat, in the same way that SWPLs practice bastardized versions of Dharmic religions because it’s different. The anime was not anti-semitic, unless you are a neurotic kayak looking for anti-semitism under every rock. (Hey if you think a shadowy organization trying to transform the world is metaphor for ZOG, that’s on you). In addition, Asuka isn't even the main character of the series, but instead represents an emotional obstacle for the teenage protagonist, Shinji, who is a socially awkward and dependent self-insert character for anime fans. The (((Judaeo-Christian))) symbolism and robot fights are only the aesthetics of the series, not its meaning. The Forward author didn’t even try when he wrote this joke—he didn't even notice that Asuka hails from the evil country of Germany, which would have lent possible credibility to his thesis. I mean, how do you miss that if your narrative that Jews are under siege by evil goyim infected with the virus of anti-semitism?</vivaldi>
So the first Forward writer to tackle this issue really didn’t get it. The second, however, does correctly point out that what mainstreamed the connection between anime, Trump, and the alt-right was Rick Wilson’s cucked mewling, way back in primary season:
It all started last January, when a disgruntled Republican political consultant, Rick Wilson appeared on MSNBC’s “All In” to give his two cents on the rise of Donald Trump and his anti-Semitic, alt-right supporters. Since Trump’s rise as the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, Wilson been a fierce critic of Trump and a prominent leader of the #NeverTrump movement within the GOP. When Wilson was asked about Trump’s supporters on “All In,” Wilson explicitly expressed his disgust when he said that most of Trump’s supporters were “childless single men who masturbate to anime.”
In claiming that things started with Wilson, the author is only scratching the surface. Inherently, Wilson is referencing a pre-existing association between online Trump supporters and anime, and we’ve been trolling people on Twitter much longer than that. He then tries to explain that “white supremacists” like anime because they think it depicts Whiteness, and essentially ends up doing what a long line of journalists before him have done—he quotes an ironic meme in its entirety as truth:
According to chat boards on Stormfront, a “white nationalist, white supremacist” internet forum, anti-Semites have an unusual affinity for Japanese anime, because, as one user puts it, “Japanese cartoons mostly celebrate the white race and our mythology. They have a weird fascination with us like some whites have for the red man. They are also 100% Talmud free content. They glorify us.”
While I don’t doubt that a minority in the alt-right sphere genuinely believe this as a kind of ex post facto rationalization for liking anime, for most people this is just a hilarious in-joke. And funnier still is seeing it quoted in the Jewish Daily Forward, another striking victory for the meme war. The author also cites Japanese language posts that went viral and “raised considerable debate about the white-centric standards of beauty that were perpetuated by anime.” But these only went viral because they were outrageously stupid. <vivaldi>There are a huge variety of animation styles used in anime, some of which look more Asian and some more European, but by and large anime characters are more humanoid than human, period. Do Europeans have giant eyes, oversized heads, and unnatural hair colors?</vivaldi>
As I see it, the meme of anime girls in Trump hats is cut from the same cloth as the controversy over Microsoft’s now-terminated Twitter chatbot, Tay AI. Within days of going up, the bot developed a politically incorrect and inegalitarian personality from being exposed to a subset of pseudonymous millennial internet users, the same cohort that produced chan culture. And that’s the actual origin of the meme mutation stumbled upon by Forward. Anime girls in Trump hats are a cross-pollination of /pol/ and /a/, 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” and “Anime & Manga” boards respectively. But in recent years, their ethos has long outgrown their parent site and spread into other social networks like Twitter.
The anime-fan–right-winger merger is not surprising to anyone under 30. 4chan was founded as a discussion board for Japanese media over a decade ago, but for much of its history was also a very unregulated speech platform. Such safe spaces provide right-wing crimethink with fertile ground, but also led to ideological and aesthetic amalgamation. And Trump, taking up the mantle of anti-establishment and anti-PC politics, has enriched the soil further for the digitally-driven alt-right and our memes. Trump is the patron god of political incorrectness—he calls it common sense—and so what if his 2D Vestal Virgins don’t meet your 3DPD standards of beauty? Cry some more, kayak.
To recap, why are anime girls wearing Trump hats and why will they continue to do so? First of all, it’s funny, so there’s that. And secondly, there is an overlap between internet Trump supporters and internet anime fans. As for these memes being anti-semitic, that’s just plainly offensive to a man with Jewish grandchildren and to 2D schoolgirls everywhere who want to Make America Great Again. But if the alt-right can get Jews to think anime is anti-semitic, that’s one small step for memes and one giant leap for gaslighting.