May 27, 2022

That bizarre “Attack on Titans” ad from Rep. Paul Gosar

On Nov. 2, Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona’s 4th District posted a video on Twitter featuring images of Gosar and other politicians superimposed over characters from the anime series “Attack on Titan,” as well as footage of immigrants and border patrol agents, all set to the opening theme of the series. 

The now-deleted video drew controversy for the depiction of Gosar actively killing other political figures, including New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and President Joe Biden. The video led to a vote to censure Gosar, which passed 223-207-1

Republicans and Democrats disagreed on what to make of the video. Some Republicans such as fellow Arizona Representative Andy Biggs arguing that his knowledge of Japanese culture from living there for several years helped him understand that while the anime portrayed serious violence, it did not seek to incite it. 

Democrats argued that tweets such as these can be an incitement to violence, a grim reminder of the riot at the Capitol earlier this year that left five dead

The video was entitled “Attack of Immigrants,” and aimed to portray Gosar as a valiant hero fighting against an invading army of immigrants. There is reason to believe that this anime was chosen not due to popularity but perceptions that it represents right-wing ideals.

Some speculate that the show which portrays humans protecting a literal walled city from monstrous Titans is an allegory for far-right anti-immigrant sentiment including the Great Replacement conspiracy theory

The show itself has been accused several times of having pro-fascist themes including a literal genocide subplot in the fourth season. It also makes heavy use of symbolism from WWII, in particular, that of Germany and the Holocaust. Show creator Hajime Isayama denies any intentions to use the show to propagate fascist propaganda.  

Before it was taken down, Twitter flagged the video for inciting violence. The video was taken down voluntarily by Gosar who claimed to do so not because he himself felt it incited violence but because of concerns raised by others. 

Was the video a thinly veiled threat against political rivals? Or was it merely an attempt by an older representative to appeal to younger voters? It is hard to say for certain. What is true is that in a post-January 6 world, such messaging bears greater weight as things that may have once been seen as jokes could be worryingly real. After all, former President Donald Trump who tweeted an edit of himself fighting the media ended up directing followers to attack the government. 

Trump also comes from the same party as Gosar, a man who himself has defended the events of that day, calling rioters peaceful and spreading false claims of election fraud

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