And Harvard’s Ethics Death Spiral Continues: The Lampoon’s Anne Frank “Gag”

Talk about ethics alarms malfunctioning.

Fortunately, I had already disavowed my Harvard degree before this surfaced, so I am only mortified rather than trying to figure out how to flush myself down the toilet.

Above is an allegedly  humorous gag from Harvard’s student-run humor magazine, which once gave us Robert Benchley, Al Franken, and “Animal House.”  [Full disclosure: I was rejected by the Lampoon when I competed to join the staff as a student. ] The magazine has often championed sophomoric humor as well as bad taste, but there are limits to everything. I’d say using the image and memory of a brave and iconic Jewish girl who died in a Nazi concentration camp for a cheap, spectacularly unfunny photoshop gag is over the line, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t just about anyone with an atom of common sense and decency?

Fortunately, some Harvard students erupted in anger over the photo of Frank’s head grafted on the body of a pumped-up busty bikini girl and the “ Add this to the list of  reasons the Holocaust  sucked” punch line. So did the New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League,  which condemned  the cartoon as a “vulgar, offensive & sexualized” meme that “denigrates [Anne Frank’s] memory & millions of Holocaust victims….Trivializing genocide plays into the hands of #antisemites & Holocaust deniers.”

At least having the sense to know when a  hill is not worth dying on when they see it—Harvard teaches something, at least—the Lampoon editors quickly apologized, saying that they realized “the extent of offense we have inflicted and understand that we must take responsibility for our actions. We as individuals and we as an organization would like to apologize for our negligence in allowing this piece to be created for and printed in our latest issue. We are sorry for any harm we have caused. Furthermore, we want to both affirm and emphasize that the Lampoon condemns any and all forms of anti-Semitism.”

They condemn it; they just don’t know what it is when they see it or have the urge to engage in it.

Do I think the pervasive anti-Israel sentiments that has been intensifying on the Left, including many elite U.S. colleges, being enabled by the Democratic Party’s refusal to take responsible action against openly anti-Semitic members of Congress like Reps. Omar and Tlaib played a part in disabling the critical ethics alarms involved here?

You bet I do.

Addendum: The news media happily moved on from Harvard’s firing of a professor from his residential dean position because students object to the principle that citizens deserve a fair trial and zealous and competent legal representation–but to be fair, they are the rising leaders of the totalitarian Democratic Party of the future. Not many readers thought it was worth commenting on either, nor Facebook when I posted—that is pasted, since Facebook won’t let me post from the blog– it there. Nonetheless, the fact that the bastion of American liberal education is not only producing students who reject core democratic principles but also administrators who encourage ignorance of the law and justice should be a call to arms for more than Harvard grads. Once, Harvard students shut down the school to protest the school’s support of the Vietnam war. Today, students won’t lift their Ivy-stained fingers to fight for the 6th Amendment, due process of law, and the First Amendment.

Fortunately, a lot of analysts and commentators, almost all of them conservative (and make of that what you will) have registered their disgust and their reasons for it. I recommend these examples:

Harvard professor Randall Kennedy: “Harvard Betrays A Law Professor — And Itself.”

Melinda Henneberger (USA Today): “Harvard ditched US values of due process and diverse opinion in Harvey Weinstein case.”

Mark Pulliam: “Harvard’s Disgrace.”

Mark LaChance: “Harvard Is Punishing a Law Professor for Representing Harvey Weinstein, And They Should be Ashamed.”

Robby Soave: ” Harvard Caves to Student Mob, Fires Ronald Sullivan for Being Harvey Weinstein’s Lawyer”

Jonathan Turley:  “The Situation Is Untenable”: Harvard Law Professor Representing Weinstein Is Fired As House Dean After Protests.”

And, in the spirit of the “Airplane!” montage of newspaper headlines about the doomed airliner that ends with The National Enquirer headline. “Boy Trapped in Refrigerator Eats Own Foot!”, here’s reliably wrong-headed Joe Patrice of the ethics challenged Above the Law with his ” Harvard Law School Makes Right Call To Oust Dean For Repping Harvey Weinstein” (Joe? It was the college, not the law school, but close enough for ATL.)

34 thoughts on “And Harvard’s Ethics Death Spiral Continues: The Lampoon’s Anne Frank “Gag”

  1. Did no one else find it offensive based solely on the fact that it indirectly sexualizes a 15 year old girl? I feel gross just having seen it.

    • Oh, that too, Neil. But if the Lampoon did this with, say, Dakota Fanning pre-puberty, it wouldn’t have been that far off previous forays into wretched taste that extended into the National Lampoon, and everyone would have shrugged it off.

      • Well, since you asked for it:

        I agree, though the key difference (that I can see) is that Dakota Fanning HAS (or, if it had been made when she was still underage, presumably WOULD) reach sexual maturity. Thus, there’s a safety net in knowing that one day the object of your satire can eventually become an appropriate object of sexual desire. Poor Ms. Frank, however, will forever remain a child.

        Lastly, the “joke” almost borders on necrophilia. What’s more, she didn’t just die of old age, she was murdered. Carrie Fisher was beautiful in her day and her role as Princess Leaia had a big influence on my budding adolescent sexuality, but I find it difficult to fetishize even those images (filmed when she was an adult and shoe later died of natural causes) the same way since she’s passed.

        • Excellent. MANY ethics alarms should have sounded, yet none did. Then there’s the idea that a child’s death is more tragic if she would have grown into a sex object. Or that the Holocaust isn’t already at the maximum level of horrible, and adding reasons it “sucks” implies otherwise.

    • What the fuck, Lampoon? She was a WRITER! A member of one of the few communities they actually claim to support. Her only book rivals the Bible in terms of sales, editions, and translations. And they turn her into a cheap punchline?

  2. That is the problem with freedom of the press and freedom of speech. For them to exist, without government regulation or control, we risk idiots being idiots and abusing the right.


  3. The comments in the Randall Kennedy/NYT piece are depressing. Articulate, educated people who just plain don’t freaking get it.

    • I think they get it, but their ethics alarms have been poisoned by the spew of the Left. Virtue signaling has become so much more important than standing up for your fellow man or woman.

  4. Gosh!
    Too many pet peeves here.
    I don’t know that I can fully respond to this without violating so many principles of decency.
    So much to say.
    So little time.
    I am at a loss.



  5. I think it also says something about culture today that shocking is often confused with humor. Sure, good jokes can also be shocking, but just being shocking doesn’t make something humorous.

      • Waters and Bruce would not have crossed that line. They challenged cultural norms but they did not engage in bad taste. I could not image either one of them doing this. Nor would I have seen any of the Second City or SNL, Sam Kinnison, Robin Williams, etc. doing something like this. It is kind of like the definition of pornography – you know it when you see it.


  6. I wonder if any of them read her book? Or if she’s just another name they kind of know, reduced to just a boomer-era cultural piñata they can swing at for giggles.

    I remember the passages in which she longed for love, wondered what it would be like to be in love, only to have her life snuffed out cruelly…and they photoshop her like that. It’s frighteningly clueless, it’s crass, and you really have to wonder ‘how’.

  7. While the item is in extremely bad taste, definitely offensive, I don’t believe it was intended to be anti Semitic. What I got from it is that, yes, the Holocaust was a terrible event, so have some more ammo in your battle against the deniers and the sympathisers. I don’t think I would have let it run. I don’t think it’s nearly as important to focus on as the dropping of Mr. Sullivan. I believe the best course of action is to quietly remove this piece and replace it with something about the firing. The Ann Frank piece is in extremely poor taste, but is almost an ick factor when compared to how little Constitutional rights are valued today by certain groups.

    • Intended to be anti-Semitic? No, it wasn’t that. It showed the kind of insensitivity to the dignity of Jews and the seriousness of the Holocaust that only an immersion in anti-Semitic attitudes will produce. The Lamppon’s never done this before, just as no Congress members have spoken in the terms of Tlaib and Omaar before, just as the New York Times never greenlighted a cartoon with classic anti-Semitic images before. You think its all a coincidence? I don’t.

      Nobody’s saying or even thinking that the Lampoon’s conduct is as important, or frightening, or outrageous as the firing of Professor Sullivan. That doesn’t mean it should be ignored. As for the Sullivan debacle, I posted my position on it once (and before the linked articles were written) , and returned to it here.

      • Exactly.

        You know, the same kind of insensitivity everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line is accused of showing every day to whatever non-white identity group you can name.

        We all have our moments of stupid, brain-dead carelessly cobbled-together words that make us look like idiots. However, most of us don’t have at least three or four people reviewing our speech before we plop it out of our pie hole.

        That’s what makes this so offensive — it got past several people, and not one ethics alarm apparently went off. So it’s either incompetence, or subliminal antisemitism, and you know how I feel about applying Hanlon’s Razor to the Left these days.

      • I’m not certain that it does have anything to do with anti Semitism, at any level. I would say it’s more a symptom of the increased sexuality of American culture. It’s inevitable that everything in history will get such a treatment if the current cultural trends continue. To attribute this to an explicit or implicit hate towards a specific group when a general disregard for everything is a more fitting explanation, given the general climate, seems to be searching for something that probably isn’t there.

          • Searching for anti Semitism that probably isn’t there. Nothing in the text would lead most people to believe that Jews are bad. It could be argued that the article is against technology that can change people’s appearance.

            • Ugh. The stunt reeks of disrespect, and the target chosen was not only symbol of the cruelty of the Holocaust, but murdered young girl, and a symbol of courage and suffering among Jews. If a “joke” of the same sort featured Medgar Evers or Emmett Til, would you really say “There’s no reason to assume the creators disrespect blacks”? Really? The presumptions about people who blithely don blackface and see no problem with it—that they don’t even see why they should avoid the symbolic denigration—are similar. And similarly justified.

    • Andrew,
      If disparaging Jews was not intended why didn’t they simply use a picture of a student killed at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas. They could have argued for gun control at the same time.

      If that would have crossed a line why is using Anne Frank acceptable?

      • I didn’t say Anne Frank was acceptable. I would say this was intended to be disparaging of people who say the Holocaust was a good thing. I don’t know why they didn’t use someone from the Parkland shooting. Probably not the message they wanted to send. It’s insensitive, yes, but I would say it’s because of the general trend of sexualization in culture today. If the head had been Princess Diana’s, would there be an argument that it was because the creators had anti English, anti Royalist, anti car safety standards views?

        • Reaching. Who needs to satirize those who think the Holocaust is a good thing? You’re running up against Occam’s Razor, big time, and the Poonies don’t deserve such desperate spin. They chose Anne Frank because they saw nothing wrong with trashing Anne Frank; the Lampoon trivialized the Holocaust because nobody involved sees the extermination of 6 million Jews as worthy of any special reverence. They assumed no blowback because they live in a culture where Israel and Jews are routinely insulted and vilified. As I said, the thing speaks for itself.

  8. “They condemn it; they just don’t know what it is when they see it or have the urge to engage in it.”

    I think you intended this as a jab at the Lampoon, but it’s actually quite a deep concept. There’s a lot of people who would condemn sexism or racism, and MEAN it when they condemned it, but lack the self-awareness or the empathy to necessarily understand what may or may not be sexist/racist or when their own inclinations run that way.

    The simple answer, that people should learn, is complicated by the bad-faith scolding of the public furies. “In the future you should know” becomes “you should have known,” and the presumption of good intentions is drowned in either accusations of playing dumb, or “It’s not my job to educate you.”

  9. I’m just not feeling the outrage on this one. The joke did fall flat. But I’m not willing to give up on the idea that there might be a really great Anne Frank joke out there. (Ahem) Let’s begin. Leslie’s Lampoon audition, take one.

    Did you guys hear the one about the dirty jokes they found in Anne Frank’s diary? That’s right. After years of thinking of her as a sweet little girl, they discovered some raunchy jokes that had somehow been missed all this time while people were enacting her diary and life on stage. Like this one:

    “Do you know why the German girls of the armed forces are in the Netherlands? As a mattress for the soldiers.”

    If Anne hadn’t died she could have written distasteful jokes for the Lampoon. Add that to your list of reasons the Holocaust sucked.

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