News site apologises over cartoon showing Facebook’s Zuckerberg as a ‘parasite’ controlling the world

Tortoise said it recognised the ‘unintended echoes of antisemitic visual tropes’ in the image


News website Tortoise has apologised for publishing a cartoon depicting Jewish billionaire Mark Zuckerberg as a “parasite” controlling the world. 

In a statement, it said it recognised the “unintended echoes of antisemitic visual tropes” in the image, which showed Mr Zuckerberg as an octopus-like creature with tentacles dangling over the Earth.

“We fully accept that the cartoons should not have appeared and apologise for the hurt they have caused. We are removing them immediately from the Tortoise website and social media,” they added. 

The drawing, which referenced the story about a former Facebook employee who criticised the social media giant in a statement to the Senate earlier this week, was shared to Tortoise’s 19,000 Instagram followers.

In reference to Mr Zuckerberg, a caption read: “This parasite can now be found the world over! It is ever mutating to control more and more of our cognitive functions.”

Edith Pritchett, the cartoonist who drew the image, said it had not occurred to her that it could have caused offence in that way, but she said: “It should have done and I am extremely sorry to have caused such hurt.”

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: "This appalling cartoon plays into age-old antisemitic tropes of parasitism, global power and media control.

"We welcome Tortoise's prompt removal of the cartoon and apology, but the real question is how a media organisation led by some of the country's leading journalists could design and approve such an image.

"The publication of this cartoon demonstrates that insensitivity and ignorance about the mutations and manifestations of antisemitism remain rampant in the media industry and how much more work there is to do to educate the most influential people in our society."

The appearance of octopi in antisemitic conspiracy theories dates back to Mein Kampf, in which Adolf Hitler wrote: “If our people and our state become the victim of these bloodthirsty and avaricious Jewish tyrants of nations, the whole earth will sink into the snares of this octopus.”

In 2014, a German newspaper was forced to apologise after publishing a cartoon of Mr Zuckerberg as an octopus that was branded antisemitic by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Tortoise Media bills itself as “slower, wiser news without all the noise”.

The site was launched in 2019 by former BBC News director James Harding as an alternative to fast-paced breaking news.

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