Anime and American politics clashed last week when a Republican congressman shared a video that used Attack On Titan footage to attack their foes. However, after a fraught House session, the House has voted to censure the politician, a milestone moment in modern political history as it’s the first time a House representative has been censured since 2010.
On the evening of Sunday the 7th of November, Rep. Paul A. Gosar, the representative for Arizona’s 4th congressional district, made a Tweet that read “Any anime fans out there?” Attached to this tweet was an edited version of the first Attack On Titan opening sequence.
This version replaced the title with “Attack on Immigrants” and featured several clips of border guards and immigrants. However, the most controversial part of this clip was a sequence that saw Gosar put his face over the head of protagonist Eren Jaeger. This clip shows Jaeger jumping into the air and killing a monstrous Titan. However, in this clip, the Titan has Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s face pasted onto it. The clip ends with Gosar leaping at a second Titan, with President Joe Biden’s face stuck on it.
This clip was instantly controversial with politicians and internet users alike, especially in the aftermath of the January 6th attack on the Capitol building, with many interpreting it as a call to violence. Twitter put a public interest notice on the video, saying that while it violated their rules against hateful conduct, they believed it was in the public’s interest to see it.
Gosar and various Republicans have denied the video was a problem. House minority leader McCarthy told CNN that Gosar “made a statement that he doesn’t support violence, and he took the video down” in an attempt to defend Gosar’s actions, echoing a similar statement made by several other Republicans.
During the session, Gosar defended himself by saying “even Twitter, the left’s mouthpiece, did not remove the cartoon, noting it was in the public’s interest for it to remain.”
However, Democrats condemned this defense, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying, “disguising death threats against a member of Congress and a president of the United States in an animated video does not make those death threats any less real or less serious.”
During the debate, several female representatives, including Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) and Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), spoke about the increasing threats they’ve received in recent months and how actions like the ones undertaken by Gosar risk making these threats worse.
AOC was keen to note that this motion wasn’t about her or Gosar. But rather “what we are willing to accept” when it comes to Representative behavior. Previously, AOC has condemned the video and pointed out Gosar’s ties to far-right fundraising groups.
When the vote to uphold the censure motion was taken, it came back 223-to-207 in favor, with one Representative voting present. While this approved the censure motion, many have expressed disappointment at how many Republicans supported Gosar’s actions.
Due to this motion, Gosar is the first representative to be censured since 2010. This motion removes Gosar from his positions in the House Oversight and Natural Resources committees, and he will have to stand in the “well” of the House while the censure resolution and a verbal rebuke are read to him. However, a censured politician is not removed from the House nor from their position. So this action will not change the House’s voting makeup.
This video has led to many anime fans once again discussing Attack On Titan’s often uncomfortable politics. While popular with many different groups, right-wing anime fans have embraced the show, leading many to question if its often unclear message on fascism is deliberate or just an accident.