Tom and Jerry Blamed for Violence in the Middle East

A recent comment made by chairman of the Egyptian State Information Service, Ambassador Salah Abdel Sadek, blames the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon Tom and Jerry for the alarming violence and extremism in the Middle East today.

The cartoon, which was released in 1940, shows the never-ending escapades of Tom the cat trying to catch Jerry the mouse. As cartoons were wont to do in the 1940s and 1950s, the show is full of brutal shenanigans and gratuitous violence that many contemporary cartoons would shy away from today. But labelling Tom and Jerry as a contributing factor to violence in the Middle East seems to be a bit of a stretch.

At a Cairo University conference entitled “Media and the Culture of Violence,” Ambassador Sadek said that the cartoon “portrays the violence in a funny manner and sends the message that, yes, I can hit him … and I can blow him up with explosives. It becomes set in mind that this is natural.” According to Sadek, the show, which is regularly broadcast across the Middle East — even in militant zones — has desensitized generations of youths to violence and is partially to blame for extremism in the region.

After the conference, Egyptian newspaper Youm7 presented their take of Tom and Jerry as part of the root of terrorism in an article entitled “Five Accusations Tom and Jerry Faces in Egypt.” Outlined by Foreign Policy, the cartoon allegedly:

Acclimatizes children to bad habits, including smoking, drinking alcohol, and stealing; shows a lopsided concept of justice in which the mouse is always right; plants ideas for “sinister plans” into the impressionable minds of children; and spreads violence through its depictions of knife and ax attacks.

It wasn’t just Tom and Jerry, though, that Sadek blamed for the rise in terrorism. Like we have seen numerous times before, violent video games were also one of the chairman’s scapegoats. “Video games are spreading…[those] that came out recently with technological advancements,” said Sadek. “It has become very normal for a young man to spend long hours playing video games, killing and spilling blood and he’s happy and content.”

As we have seen before, though, recent studies show that there is little connection between video game and cartoon violence and real-world violence. Moreover, the public has often come to the defense of classic cartoons like Tom and Jerry, saying that it isn’t the cartoons we should worry about, but the parents who aren’t taking responsibility and using those cartoons to open discussions with their children.

Despite the rising evidence to the contrary, political officials around the world will continue to blame cartoons and video games for violence in their communities. That said, although you would think that the heated statements of Ambassador Sadek and Youm7 would lead the Egyptian media to censor the cartoons. Thankfully as Egyptian Streets points out no one is rushing to do so — interpret that lack of action as you will.

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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!