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May 10, 2016 4:12 pm

New York Times Illustration Likening Circumcision to Pencil-Sharpening Prompts Uproar

avatar by Ira Stoll

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The Jewish doctor who authored a New York Times article about the medical benefits or disadvantages of circumcision is distancing himself from the accompanying illustration.

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The illustration, which depicts a pencil being inserted into a sharpener from which a flower is emerging, has provoked a stunned and offended reaction in the Jewish community.

“WarningGraphiteImages,” hashtagged a former spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Schumer, Stu Loeser.

“What is up with that graphic? I know I am not the only one to be seriously offended?” tweeted a San Francisco resident using the handle @suldrew.

“Can someone explain this circumcision illustration to me?” asked an editor at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Andrew Silow-Carroll.

The article itself wasn’t terrible. The author, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University named Aaron E. Carroll, wrote:

I’m Jewish, and I’m circumcised, as are both my sons. The procedure has a spiritual weight in my community. When confronted by people who use terms like mutilation, I generally recoil. Circumcising my boys was a personal decision for my wife and me, and I understand the various arguments for and against. People angry about this choice seem to imagine that we haven’t thoroughly considered it.

I also live with the knowledge that it’s possible that my children might have chosen differently. But we also have to recognize that parents make many, many decisions for their children with a greater and more meaningful impact on them than circumcision. That’s what parents do. Assuming that this is the most consequential one we might have made about our boys’ lives, and focusing so much attention on it — when evidence makes the value of either choice unclear — seems out of proportion.

Neither Dr. Carroll nor the illustrator, Alvaro Dominguez, immediately responded to my email queries about the controversy and about whether they thought the choice of the image was appropriate. It does seem to liken the covenant of Abraham to a procedure that, with pencils, makes them more useful but eventually erodes them to a mere stub, and that, if applied to human flesh, would be so excruciatingly painful and damaging that no one in his right mind would ever choose to do it.

In a post on his own blog, “The Incidental Economist,” Dr. Carroll wrote, “These are things I can’t control at the NYT! … I do not choose the artwork or the photos. Any compliments and complaints can be directed elsewhere.”

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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  • The illustration is stupid. The article spot on.
    Whats missing is the comparison to other baby interventions such as vaccinations. Everyone is vaccinated for Polio. What is the chance of contracting Polio in the west? one in a million or less. Should we stop vaccinations? of course not. Same for circumcision.
    i circumcise routinely. The pain is no more than a round of vaccinations and i use the time with the parents to show them good care of the nether regions which serves them well throughout the boy’s infancy

  • Paul Winter

    The good doctor has the maturity of a primary (elementary) school child.

    A school-boy joke in the 1950s was: How was Howdy Doody (a wooden puppet) circumcised? With a pencil sharpener.

  • ART

    Yet another attack on a key element of Judaism. They attack Kosher practice They deny the Exodus, They deny Jewish connections with Jerusalem, even though there is recorded history by the Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans,Ottomen etc clearly showing Jews in Jerusalem, look at the Arch of Titus in Rome or read the new testament, where did Jesus preach or confront the money changers. It is an attack on the legitimacy of Judaism.

  • Dov

    Maybe the publisher of the NYT, is a Jew and has never been circumcised and feels out of place.

  • Lia

    Shall we ever know who thought up this sick image? A person without the least knowledge of Judaism, perhaps?

  • Reform School

    Lies repeated often enough without constant challenge soon become gospel. The Leftist Idiotlogs (sic) of the New York Times do not seek to create discussion. The seek to impose their personal values upon everyone else. Their business model for over a century abetted Hitler’s Final Solution.

  • Alan Weberman

    transsexuals have radical circumcisions. You cannot improve on evolution with a scalpel

  • enufizenuf

    Whether its blacks like Ms. Bouattia or Hispanics like Mr. Dominguez, Jews need to wake up and realize that most of them are their enemy. Both cultures, particularly the black, have little to show for themselves in terms of contributing anything substantial to the world, therefore they detest those who do, such as the Jews. It would be wise to mock these loser scumbags for their worthlessness, maybe that might prod some of them to rise to at least a state of mediocrity.

  • Richard E Sherwin

    well what else do you expect from the NYT. i hope they realize theyve done some islamophobia (which should scare them more than mere judaeophobia since the moderate moslems got their own mafia to handle upstart protodhimmis).

  • nat cheiman

    Even doctors and journalists are ignorant as to the benefits of a circumcision. Oh well, I suppose that doctors can also be unintelligent

  • Joe Lederman

    Circumcision is always a very touchy topic and it can hit a raw nerve.
    In this case, may I offer my interpretation of the disconcerting illustration?
    First, the expression “sharpening the pencil” in American parlance means asking someone to offer a better deal than that being offered. Was the illustrator expressing his opposition to circumcision?
    Secondly, the particular flower in the illustration is a daisy which is commonly used for the game of He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. This suggests the illustrator believes there is still a parental choice when the baby has had no choice.
    Thirdly, the fact that the daisy is a pink one possibly reinforces medical findings that men, and gay men in particular, obtain some additional protective health benefits from circumcision.

  • aall55

    why write such an article in the first place ? if anyone wants an explanation about circumcision the NYT is not the place to get answers .

  • Citizen Cane

    I didn’t care so much about the photo but found the article, especially since it was written by someone who carried weight in the medical community, atrotious. To start with he put the pros and cons in the scales scales and tells us it seems a wash, yet he conveniently and deliberately omited one of the key benefits — circumcision reduces cervical cancer risk- see the article in the Lancet. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(02)00304-3.

    He then turns to the ethical and moral issues and brings up the Larouche playbook of “mutialtion” and “let them decide for themselves”, although he personally didn’the think those relevant arguments when it came to host children.

    And finally he takes cover for this well timed sop (Israel Independence day)to all the anti-Semites by throwing down the “as a Jew” card. What a putz.

    • Kristi Berg

      The author correctly skipped the “cervical cancer” canard because it has been disproven for 30+ years. In addition, amputating a body part from someone who is unable to provide informed consent for the alleged benefit of some POTENTIAL future sexual partner is completely unethical.
      If an adult man wants to have his genitals – or any other part of his body — modified, that is his choice. To force someone incapable of providing informed consent to have a body part amputated is unethical, immoral, and a human rights violation.

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