The artist behind the image of two humanlike figures composed of blue and red states battling one another as an illustration of partisan acrimony in the country is threatening to sue Iowa Rep. Steve King for posting the image as a meme on his Facebook page unless the congressman apologizes, according to the Washington Post.
The meme, as King’s Facebook page shared it, was a violent joke reveling in the idea of the tough, conservative America he conceptualizes as representing his side defeating residents in more liberal states in an armed conflict. (Whoever posted the meme to King’s page apparently did not notice that Iowa was included in the blue figure; it formed part of the forearm striking out toward the red figure’s head, represented by Arizona.)
“Folks keep talking about another civil war,” the meme said. “One side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use.” King captioned the image with a smirking emoji. “Wonder who would win,” he wrote.
But the artist who originally composed the image meant to convey a message far different from King’s, the Post reports. Illustrator Yarek Waszul created the image for a 2013 New York Times book review, and through it he sought to “depict and caution against hostility and vitriol of divisive political discourse,” he said. “Seeing one’s work reproduced without consent is a fear of any illustrator, but seeing it attached to such a callous message is a real nightmare,” he added.
An attorney for Waszul sent King’s office a letter on Friday that called for the congressman to prove he had deleted all uses of the meme and issue “a full written apology and retraction” on all his social media accounts” by the following Friday, or face a copyright infringement lawsuit. King has not yet replied, according to the Post.
In the letter, Waszul’s attorney argues that King’s meme violated the Toronto-based illustrator’s “moral rights” under Canadian law, as it associated Waszul’s work with “words and ideas that are repugnant to our client.” As Waszul told the Post, “I would never sign my name to or promote any kind of hate or intolerance.”
King, who faced a swift backlash after posting the meme in March, deleted the post just a couple of days after his page published it. “I don’t manage that Facebook page,” he told a town hall gathering last month. “I could control it, but I don’t manage it. … I wish it had never gone up.”
King did not apologize for posting the meme and instead accused the press of making a story out of nothing. “The only people who care about that are national news media,” he told the town hall. Several in the crowd shouted in disagreement.
The meme was only one of the most recent in a long list of offensive actions and statements by the congressman, who finally crossed a line in January when he asked why the terms “white nationalist, white supremacist … became offensive” and was stripped of all his committee assignments. Before then, an incomplete list of his offensive actions includes calling white people the “subgroup of people” who contributed the most to the world; tweeting that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies;” blaming immigrants for ISIS and Ebola; blaming abortion for killing “millions” of white babies; and complaining that for every child of undocumented immigrants “who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”