Why We Printed a Swastika


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

January 27, 1960, Vol. V, No. 14

Piece of Filth?

Dear Sir:

I was both ashamed and sad for you and your paper when I saw the Shel Silverstein cartoon spread across the first and second pages of your January 13 issue. Often enough there is abundant waste of space in The Village Voice, but this particular instance strikes (quite literally) me as as criminal a piece of cap as I have seen in The Voice or any other journal in a long while.

How dare you permit yourselves to grin at the symbol of the thing that murdered so much of the last and present generations — as well, probably, as the mind of the one being born? And more than that — to smirk at the swastika’s renewed prominence?

This cartoon, and your publishing of it, stand as two of the most graphic examples of our public sin: our wilful wiping away years of atrocity (Hiroshima included) with the ease of another people’s willful wiping away humanity. I am sure your piece of filth would not have been published in Playboy (Silverstein’s home base), and that magazine makes no pretensions to any sort of liberal intellectuality. Have you quit the race?

I must add that the shame and sadness was preceded by great anger. I hope this note reflects some of the resulting disgust. Most sincerely — Alan Myerson, Christopher Street

The swastika, we believe, must be reduced to its utter absurd proportions before the civilized world can live with itself. As long as the swastika does not arouse contempt and laughter, it will generate horror and fear. Those who saw Naziism develop know that it fed on the horror it aroused and in the end paralyzed the people who should have fought against it. Let’s not make the mistake of infusing a dead symbol with life by treating it with a respect it does not deserve, and thus giving it the power to destroy. We further believe that the recent diabolical and poisonous force in American life was largely created by people whose reaction was one of paralyzed horror rather than contempt toward that sleight-of-hand artist, the late Senator form Wisconsin. If we had laughed at him in the first place, we might not have had to hide our consciences in closets later. – Ed.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]