Tom and Jerry, Terrorists of the Cartoon World

An Egyptian media official says the beloved children's show "Tom and Jerry" has given rise to violent extremism.


If a well-loved children’s cartoon were to ever epitomize the Islamic State’s boundless appetite for violence, it would be Tom and Jerry. In nearly every episode, the cat-and-mouse duo find new ways to butcher each other, using weapons ranging from guns and explosives to household objects like lawn mowers and waffle irons.

This week, Salah Abdel Sadek, chairman of the Egyptian State Information Service, said the show, which was first shown in 1940, has desensitized youth to violent acts and is partially to blame for rising extremism in the Middle East.

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,” Sadek said at a conference on “Media and the Culture of Violence” at Cairo University.

Tom and Jerry is popular across the Middle East and is regularly broadcast via satellite channels into both active and smoldering crisis zones, including Iraq. One Egyptian doctor and self-described historian even claimed that Walt Disney stole the idea for it from the ancient Egyptians.

Following Sadek’s speech, Egypt’s privately owned Youm7 newspaper outlined why Tom and Jerry causes terrorism: allegedly, it 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.

But the show also belittles its protagonists. Tom and Jerry never successfully kill each other, and their attempts to do so usually backfire. One might suggest it shows that violence not only doesn’t work, but it also brings more harm than good to those who employ it.

Photo credit: KENKYUSHIRYO/Deviantart

Henry Johnson is a fellow at Foreign Policy. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in history and previously wrote for LobeLog. Twitter: @HenryJohnsoon
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