Publishing commentary of any kind carries with it a great responsibility.
Take this daily collection of editorials, columns, letters and cartoons. They’re selected by an editor who has closely followed events across the state. What’s more, they’re selected to represent a variety of viewpoints, all of which are supported by a basic set of shared facts. In other words, you won’t read about someone faking the moon landing here, or about the ascent of lizard people into the highest levels of government.
These unsigned editorials themselves stem from discussions between the editorial advisory board, publishers and top editors. While they have a viewpoint, we want to make sure they are as accurate and fair as possible.
All of which is a prelude to say that the Facebook posting of an anti-Semitic, anti-mask wearing editorial cartoon by Anderson County Republican Party chairman Dane Hicks was a colossal lapse in judgment. Hicks also edits the Anderson County Review newspaper, and was planning to publish the cartoon in its pages until an international outcry changed his mind.
Ultimately, he apologized for the creation and removed it from the popular social media platform.
It’s worth describing the cartoon for a moment. In it, a crude drawing of Gov. Laura Kelly wears a mask emblazoned with a Star of David. Behind her, people appear to be boarding a train. The caption reads: "Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask … and step onto the cattle car."
The cartoon was appalling. Likening the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jewish people were killed by the Nazi regime, with a public health measure being urged to save lives, is a gross misreading of history. The addition of the Star of David to Kelly’s mask also suggests the timeworn, anti-Semitic trope of Jewish conspiracies at the highest levels of government and business.
Put simply, masks save lives and prevent illness. They will do so for Dane Hicks and Laura Kelly alike. They must not be made a political issue, especially in the middle of a pandemic that doesn’t respect party registration.
We also understand, however, that there are those who may disagree with government mandates or who quibble with the scientific evidence for masks. That’s fine, and they are free to write about those viewpoints. Perhaps this opinion page will run their work at some point. There is a responsible way to do so, while still respecting the work that we all have to do to keep one another safe and healthy.
But this cartoon missed the mark. It missed the mark by such a distance, in fact, that it ended up blowing up in Hicks’ face. We trust that he’s learned a lesson. And we trust that state Republican Party officials take stock of who is representing the party in Anderson County.