The Mystery of Foreskin Man

The Mystery of Foreskin Man June 4, 2011

Tatler of Pajamas Media claims to have found proof that behind San Francisco’s proposed circumcision ban lurks the blue-eyed monster: 19th-and 20th-century race-based anti-Semtism, the philosophy that brought you the Final Solution.

The smoking chimney, so to speak, is an indie comic book, allegedly circulated as “campaign literature.” The eponymous hero, Foreskin Man, battles a gang of fanatical orthodox Jews led by Monster Mohel, whose goal, apparently, is to seal the Abrahamic covenant with every child in the world, whether or not its parents approve.

Now, I’ll admit, Tatler makes a pretty good prima facie case. All the tropes of Nazi propaganda appear to be in ordnung. Foreskin Man is one of those blond Ubermensch types that Jesse Owens ate for breakfast. (Indeed, had the comic come out 20 years earlier, its film adaptation would have given Dolf Lundgren the role of a lifetime.) Monster Mohel and his henchmenschen could have been extras in The Eternal Jew. They’ve got that whole Shylock-on-meth look: shaggy beards and peyot, hooked noses, maniacal gleams in their beady eyes.

And yet, for me, it doesn’t quite add up.

Anti-Semitism has been called the oldest hatred, and I have no doubt it’ll always be around — somewhere, in some form. But if it’s re-emerged and metastasized in a major American urban center, I have a hard time believing it would take the form suggested by the tropes in this comic.

Let me put it another way: I can think of two types of anti-Semitism that might find a warm reception in a left-leaning cosmopolitan city. The first is the anti-Semitism of a disaffected urban underclass, or as I like to call it, Hymietown anti-Semitism, in honor of the Reverend Jesse Jackson. But even that doesn’t really fit. To take root, Hymietown anti-Semitism requires: 1) a visible Jewish elite; and 2) poor people who hate its guts. Look, I know San Francisco only as a very occasional visitor, so I’m willing to be proven wrong here, but I’ve never gotten the impression that Jews make up a very large, very visible, or very dominant group. For that matter, I don’t remember seeing too many poor people. Weren’t they all fed to the sea lions back in the 1980s?

Also, Hymietown anti-Semitism, at least in its original form, was the intellectual property of people of color. If Foreskin Man were their champion, he would not look as he does. He’d be a lot darker, for one thing, and would probably have a name like The Black Python.

The other type is what I like to call Israel-Bashing Gone Wild. Right-wing supporters of Israel exaggerate the frequency with which their opponents on the Left slip into bona fide Jew-hatred, but it does happen. I can see this becoming popular in San Francisco, particularly among academic types. But it would make no sense for rabid Israel-bashers to ban circumcision. Muslims, including Palestinian Muslims, circumcise their children, too. You’d think some representative of the Muslim community would tell them, “Listen, guys, thanks, but no thanks.”

No, I’m betting Foreskin Man is someone’s idea of meta-humor — a form of satire that mocks at stereotypes by invoking them in an exaggerated way. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have dined out on this for almost fifteen years, first packing Kyle Broflovski off to Jewleeard, and later transforming Barbara Streisand into a giant mechanical monster known as the Kiken. Mr. Hess, Foreskin Man’s creator, looks to me like their heir. The name “Hess” (as in Rudolf Hess, the top Nazi who deserted to England in 1941) is probably a pseudonym, calculated to stir the pot. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the artist turns out to be a Cohen or a Moskowitz. Every Jew knows by heart the pejorative images he deploys; most American gentiles would have to crack open the history books to find them.

But here’s the thing about meta-humor. In many instances, there’s nothing meta about it. The humorist isn’t really mocking stereotypes; he’s milking them for whatever juice they’ve got left. So, to Hess, whoever he is, I leave the following Yiddish curse involving his favorite body part:

Zol dir lign in keyver der eyver, in der kishkes a lokh mit a sheyver.

(“May your penis rest in a grave; may a hole and a hernia lie in your guts.”)

So there.

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