November 27th, 2013

All the news that’s fit to print: the NY Times, the nipple, and the Jewish star tattoo

The Times chose to illustrate an article about genetic testing for breast cancer in Israel, a country with a high rate of the disease, with this photo:


There’s been a lot of flak about the nipple—or to be more accurate, the half-aureole. Is it appropriate for the front page of the Times? In today’s world, I suppose so, because there are no standards anymore, and the paper is trying to generate controversy and the resultant readership.

I get it. Even bloggers know that some T and A will get you a few hits, if that’s what you’re looking for. Apparently that’s what the Times is looking for, even in a breast cancer story.

But there’s more, lots more. Anyone who knows history knows that the tattoo is reminiscent of two things: the yellow Jewish stars the Jews were forced to wear in many Nazi countries, and the more permanent marks—the tattoos—that inmates of many concentration camps were forced to endure.

That’s the limit of most of the buzz in the media about objections to the photo, which has been considerable: the sexual aspects and the Holocaust references.

But I first saw the photo today in the actual newspaper—that’s right, dead tree version—because I’m at the home of relatives in New York for Thanksgiving. It struck me that, in addition to those two obvious controversies, there’s a more subtle one. Because the image the woman is wearing is both a Jewish star and a tattoo, it would most likely be doubly offensive to more strictly religious Jews who observe the Jewish laws about tattooing:

The source of this prohibition is Leviticus 19:28: “You shall not etch a tattoo on yourselves.” This prohibition applies to all tattoos besides those made for medical purposes, such as to guide a surgeon making an incision…

The human body is G‑d’s creation, and it is therefore unbefitting to mutilate G‑d’s handiwork…In ancient times, it was customary for idol-worshippers to tattoo themselves as a sign of commitment to their deity—much like an animal that is branded by its owner…The covenant of circumcision is unique in its being a sign in our bodies of our relationship with G‑d.

The NY Times is hardly known for its religiosity, but it certainly can’t plead ignorance of this Jewish teaching, because it published a lengthy article on this very subject in 2008, illustrated with another photo of a Jew with a tattoo designed to offend Jews of a more religious bent:

21 Responses to “All the news that’s fit to print: the NY Times, the nipple, and the Jewish star tattoo”

  1. stu Says:

    The sight of a tattoo of a Star of David on a Jew amounts to a visual oxymoron.

  2. DNW Says:

    As far as I know I am not a Jew. And being an “Atlantic Modal” type am almost certainly not, at least through my paternal line.

    But I do heartily agree.

    I have never had anyone successfully explain to me the logic of a tattoo. Getting one seems like an exercise in the grossest, most brainless kind of emotionalism, for which a coherent justification seems to elude even the primary participants.

    When I was a kid I did have an uncle who had a modest anchor on his forearm. It seemed to go with his John Wayne double physique and looks, and that pack of cigarettes stored in his jean jacket breast pocket. That seems to me to about the least objectionable I can personally imagine.

    But geez, all those ankle roses stenciled on daring ingenue limbs 30 years ago, now displayed to the world on a background of something resembling turkey drumstick flesh.

    Nice work, morons.

  3. Matt_SE Says:

    This is the level of discourse now. Driven by a need to shock readers, the Times is basically spitting in their faces. In that way, it reminds me of Miley Cyrus.

    Or, instead of desperation perhaps this is their deepest desire and they no longer feel restrained. Either way, it represents the fetid rot that liberal journalism has become.

  4. vanderleun Says:

    God will punish them.

  5. Oldflyer Says:

    Was not aware of the Biblical prohibition. Surprised that it was not covered in my high school Bible class. Yes, it was offered as an elective in public school in the early 1950s. One credit.

    I should have know that there was a rational reason why tattooes tend to put me off. Although I confess I was tempted to get some gold (Navy) wings tattooed tastefully on my wrist, or maybe on my left chest. My wife discouraged the idea, and I never happened on a parlor when I was out with the boys. If there had been one on the base at Gitmo when we went down there to practice bombing (pre-Castro), I am sure he/she would have done a booming business.

  6. Steve Says:

    Funny, my eye was drawn to the scars not the nipple or tattoo.

  7. FOAF Says:

    The explanation for this type of story is simple: NYT publisher Pinch Sulzberger is embarrassed by his Jewish heritage. He loudly rejects it and hates Israel, which is probably why Tom Friedman has been sounding like Pat Buchanan lately.

    I went to high school with Sulzberger. But it was only for a year – he was a nitwit and complete loser. If he hadn’t inherited his job he wouldn’t have gotten as far in journalism as Jimmy Olsen.

  8. FOAF Says:

    By the way, if someone thinks my comparison of Friedman to Buchanan is over-the-top or unhinged, get a load of this column he wrote last week:

    “The Jews controlling Jerusalem … would form a tacit alliance … against the Protestants of America …” Right in the first paragraph, unbelievable. Not only Buchanan but David Duke would be proud.

  9. FOAF Says:

    Forgot to mention the “only for a year with Sulzberger” was because he flunked out.

  10. Walter Sobchak Says:

    Throughout history tattoos were only used to mark slaves and prisoners. Why anyone would wish that identification is a mystery to me.

  11. Conrad Says:

    I trust that the subject of the photo was at least a real person who was referenced in the article. If this was strictly a “photo illustration” using a staged model, then the Times has really taken a nosedive as far as I’m concerned.

    Actually, that’s too generous. As much as I appreciate displays of female nudity, I don’t think they belong on page 1 of the NYT. Of course, I’m pretty sure the editors were counting on backward folks like me raising a stink about the photo just so they could feel sophisticated and edgy by comparison.

  12. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    FOAF, thanks for that bit of inside reporting. It was always a suspicion, but is now confirmed.

  13. ErisGuy Says:

    So the NYT (the propaganda arm of the Left) is doing to Judaism what is has previously done to Christians, the West, the United States, the republic, and the Constitution.

    Oh, well. Why should Judaism be spared the effects of communism and transvaluation of all values?

    At least you know what to look forward to.

  14. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Ya know, I’ve always been puzzled by why someone in the contemporary West would go for a lot of “ink,” piercings and, in the extreme case, scarification or extensive body modifications i.e. the English “leopard man,” and who could forget Jocelyn Wildenstein.

    In primitive societies such alterations of the body usually had some real symbolic meaning, because they usually marked the passing of a life test, manhood, hunting prowess, or some such major stage of life or accomplishment. It seems to me that here in Western society they are just either plain stupid “rebellion” (or perhaps just a very strong indicator of basic stupidity on the part of the person inked), a meaningless affectation, or a sign of serious alienation i.e. gang/prison “tats.”

    I believe I’ve seen research indicating that the more “ink” people have the more likely they are to be in trouble with the law, and other research indicating that extensive tats limited your ability to get a good job.

    Commenters above are right, what looked “cool” when done on the young, firm skin of an 18 or 25 year old looks pretty dreary and stretched out, colors muddy or changed, on the skin of someone 50 or 60 or older.

    Perhaps a couple of headlines I saw today might serve as a clue as to the clarity of the contemporary mindset of those choosing to get tattooed. “Comet passing close to earth, could it be due to global warming?” and the New York Times headline, “Crime down, but prison population increases.”

  15. Mr. Frank Says:

    A tattoo is a permanent answer to a temporary question.

  16. Mike Says:

    Here is the list of Marxist Communist groups that support Judeo-Christian Religion: ________________________________________________________

    Oops. There are none.

    Not only lack of support, but open persecution. Marxists do that. The NYT has that political bent.

    In the Brave New World they are creating, there is no place for those religions. Persecutions have already commenced and will be surging shortly. The ground is being prepared.

    For you historical buffs: Christians especially were “persecuted” for 300 years in the late Roman Empire. It was all lions and gladiators. It was closer to Nuremberg Laws before the rounding up and fencing them off option was taken.

    Let them win and that’s next. Bank on it.

    It is civilization or them. The NYT is part of “them”. That’s the choice. Period. End of Story. Finito.

  17. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Steve Says:
    Funny, my eye was drawn to the scars not the nipple or tattoo.
    Same here.
    Despite the biblical injuction (I’ve seen to many “Christian” tatoos, also), I decided early on on life that in my chosen field, identifying marks were counter-productive :)
    My son is in the Navy and has some weird tattoos.
    Despite my wife’s uncles admonitions early on:
    “Never get a tat below the area covered by a short sleeve shirt.” Whereupon he showed us tats we didn’t know existed. He was a top exec at Hershey’s.

  18. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    too, not to. Blame it on th keybord. It drop letters randoml.

  19. Matt_SE Says:

    Yeah. Why is there a scratch on her boob? Does she have a cat? Was it from a spastic hobo with long fingernails?
    There’s got to be a story there.

  20. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    I trust it’s from a lumpectomy.

  21. George Says:

    I have spent virtually my whole working life among hairy legged seafarers. I thought I had seen every tattoo variation, but there is one I have yet to see– The one that actually enhances the bearer.

    The halfwits who mark themselves like this are sad.

    The stupid bints who do it are even sadder.

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