Today I was idly thinking about the anime forums I used to hang out when I was a teenager, and a specific controversy suddenly popped back into my head…
Back in the early 2000s, a petition entitled “Lets Save America – Ban Anime Now” began circulating. I don’t know when it was first created, but Archive.org has copies going back to 2002.
To: George Bush
Here in America, we live in a climate of moral decay. What is the cause of this? It is called “anime”. Anime is a perverse, evil, insiduous form of animation from the dark land of Japan, and is corrupting America’s youth at unprecedented rates. Here are a few examples of anime which are circulating on the Internet and may very well be in your home:
1) Ah My Goddess: A sick and disgusting show which causes children under the age of 18 to think they are capable of love. The main female character is clearly under 18, and is forced into a romantic relationship by an older man who “wishes” for her to be his girlfriend forever. He even KISSES her, and she appears NAKED. That poor girl must be so confused.
2) Love Hina: I’m not even going to mention the unspeakable, disgusting, pedophilic, pornograhpic events which transpire during this show, but suffice it to say, groups of young men on Love Hina-fueled rampages are raping children at a level unheard of since the 60s.
If you are a parent or a decent human being, I urge you to sign this petition to ban all forms of anime in the United States. Anyone who is found in possesion of anime should be arrested and jailed for an exhorbant period of time. Anime is a dark scourge upon our beautiful nation, and we don’t need this Japanese filth corrupting the hearts of the children.
As a resonsible Christian, I demand to see this garbage removed from our nation. Please sign this petition and send it to George Bush, your Congressman, and the makers/distributors of anime filth and depravity.
Do the right thing.
Now, this is clearly a satirical post, and almost certainly written by an anime fan – notice that it discusses the fan favourites Ah My Goddess and Love Hina rather than better-known anime such as Pokémon.
But yet, people at multiple anime forums believed that the petition was not only sincere, but stood a chance of succeeding. Look at this thread:
And this one:
This thread is particularly interesting, as it shows how the petition had morphed in fan imagination into something written by George Bush, rather than merely to him:
And hark! Tony Blair’s involved, as well:
Perhaps inevitably, some jolly prankster or another eventually left a comment on the petition purporting to be Bush:
My fellow Americans, I have read many of your comments and concerns, I feel that if we want to eradicate this evil that is plaguing America we have to come together and voice concerns such as you have my fellow Christians. I am working to pass a new law that bans every type of questionable animation that comes into America. It is our duty as Americans to see that our children are not subjected to these evil images that will plague our childrens minds. I thank you for your time and opinions. – George Bush.
One fan was bothered enough by this that he emailed Anime News Network’s Answerman column for thoughts on this development, and received an uncompromising reply:
Mother of God.
People are still actually buying into this “ban anime petition” garbage that’s been roaming around the internet for years.
Here’s a tip, Josh: The “Ban Anime Now” petition is a hoax started by a bunch of bored IRC kids who have some bizarro persecution fantasy going on where everyone in the country hates them for enjoying Japanese cartoons. This petition is almost like roleplaying for them, where they get to pretend that someone actually did start an internet petition (which always work, by the way) to “ban anime in America”, which if it succeeded would not only be a massively unconstitutional but downright absurd and surreal.
The reality is, of course, that outside of bizarro fringe groups nobody listens to anyway, you’d be hard pressed to find a group or an individual that has sincerely made a statement about “banning anime”. Nobody cares if you like anime, nobody cares about that fake petition, there is no cultural war being waged on anime. Nobody cares.
Furthermore, I’m trying to understand why in the world you would believe this to be a real quote. Something tells me that the President of the United States is too busy worrying about his low approval ratings and the war he started to bother leaving comments on an internet petition.
To illustrate my point, let’s have a pop quiz:
On any given weekday, George W. Bush is most likely to be found doing one of the following:
A. Attending a White House Press Conference
B. Reading over that day’s presidential briefings
C. Planning his appearance schedule
D. Receiving updates on the Iraq war
F. Reviewing the immigration legislation that recently passed the Senate
G. Vacationing at his ranch in Texas
H. Writing poorly-written, unfiltered comments by himself on a fake, obscure internet petition about banning Japanese cartoons
What was your answer? Here’s a tip: THE ANSWER IS NOT H.
In fact – and this is not sarcasm or even a dig at the President – I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t know what the word ‘anime’ means. I’d wager most people his age don’t and don’t care, especially not someone with higher priorities in life, like say, the leader of the free world. Besides, I may not hold our President’s intelligence in very high esteem, but I’m going to assume he can at least use proper punctuation and grammar, none of which can be found in that stupid “quote”.
THINK, people. Think.
This, to me, sums up a curious thing about geek culture: its love-hate relationship with censors. Ostensibly, geeks despise censorship; and yet, at the same time, a lot of them clearly want there to be a threat of censorship, if only so that they can have something to fight against.
And so, we have the curious phenomenon of geeks deliberately inventing Werthams and Whitehouses where none exist.