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Current Affairs/Twitter

How a leftist cartoonist’s college campus drawing nearly became a far-right meme

The illustration flourished through ironic 'tag yourself' memes.

May 12, 2020, 3:50 pm*

Internet Culture

Ignacio Martinez 

Ignacio Martinez

A satirical cartoon of a college campus originally published in the leftist magazine Current Affairs recently made the rounds on Twitter with many people confusing the illustration’s origins as a far-right attempt at comedy.

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It happened to go viral after a version of the original illustration with an important subtitle was edited out and posted in right-wing circles.

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The illustration depicts a college campus if the idea that they serve as bastions of leftism was taken to its extreme.

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Sights on the fictional campus include a police van with “Pronoun Police” emblazoned on the side, celebrated hockey mascot and unconventional leftist icon Gritty walking among the students, and a fountain surrounding a statue of Karl Marx where somebody is being dunked à la the Salem witch trials.

Many posts and memes in the ‘tag yourself‘ format were made under the presumption that the illustration’s target of ridicule was college campuses themselves.

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It’s easy to see why people thought it was a right-wing jokee. College campuses have been hotspots for far-right ire and criticism.

Conservatives such as Kaitlin “gun girl” Bennett and Steven “Change My Mind” Crowder often find themselves visiting universities to perform their gotcha-style man-on-the-street interviews to unsuspecting students just trying to move between classes.

To parody this, leftist illustrator Chelsea Saunders drew what a college campus might look like if wannabe provocateurs like Bennett and Crowder were to be wholeheartedly believed. The perspective of the cartoon was originally “The Campus Seen Through The Eyes of US Conservatives,” says Saunders.

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According to the original artist herself, the illustration’s target as a work of satire is conservative personalities who view college campuses as hubs for hedonism and socialism.

However, once Twitter users found the cartoon separated from its original context, the illustration became another in a long list of examples of pieces of work whose original intent was muddled by the infinitely big game of telephone happening at all times on the internet.

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*First Published: May 13, 2020, 7:00 am