Graphic designer Jud Burgess has been campaigning against the El Paso Independent School District $669 million bond proposal.
[Disclosure: Mr. Burgess and I have worked separately on some of the same projects.]
On October 27, on Facebook, Mr. Burgess premiered a guerrilla marketing device: a fake $1,000,000 bill with EPISD Board President Dori Fenenbock’s picture on it, and reasons to vote against the bond on the back. He called them Fenenbucks.
Here was the response from EPISD Board Member Susie Byrd:
My, that escalated quickly. Instantly, Godwin’s Law. From Wikipedia:
Godwin’s law (or Godwin’s rule of Nazi analogies) is an Internet adage asserting that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazism or Hitler approaches 1” — that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.
Promulgated by American attorney and author Mike Godwin in 1990, Godwin’s law originally referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions. It is now applied to any threaded online discussion, such as Internet forums, chat rooms, and comment threads, as well as to speeches, articles, and other rhetoric where reductio ad Hitlerum occurs.
Blogger Jaime Abeytia addressed the conflict in his blog:
I have no idea if this was done intentionally with the thought of being anti-semitic. I don’t think the average El Pasoan knows Dori Fenenbock is of Jewish heritage and I don’t think a lot of us in El Paso are well-versed on recognizing a Jewish last name.
But I will also be the first to admit that if someone had done something that was a play on a stereotype of my culture, I’d be the first one to lose my mind over it.
Intentional or otherwise, this image comes off as anti-Semitic and the Jud Burgess should apologize and remove the image. The people of El Paso should be voting on the merits of the bond, to which he and I are both opposed, not distracted by something that even if unintentional, has no place in local politics. I’m against the bond and I know a lot of people that are. This doesn’t reflect our opposition to the bond and isn’t something many want to be associated with.
In other news, Fenenbock is apparently a Jewish surname. Which you may be surprised to find out. According to the website Forebears.io, only 65 people in the United States have the surname Fenenbock.
The surname Bock is most common in Germany, and is derived from the nickname Buck, which Forebears.io claims means he-goat. Fenen, in German, means concerned.
Anyhow, if Fenenbock is a Jewish surname, it’s not a very common one.
And El Paso politics falls further down the rabbit hole.