Lionizing totalitarians

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I was at Tulsa Promenade with my family over the weekend and had taken the 12-year-old son to the food court for a late lunch, when I saw this ad for the Tulsa Zoo:


It's a spoof of the famous Che Guevara poster, depicting a lion as Che, wearing a beret, with the Tulsa Zoo logo in place of the Communist star.

Since when, I wondered, is it OK to use an image honoring a murderous, totalitarian thug to advertise a city-owned, family-oriented tourist attraction?

Perhaps I'm overreacting. Perhaps not. The surest way to tell is to substitute Communist imagery with that of a different totalitarian movement. Would the image below have been approved by Tulsa Zoo management for use in an ad?


How about this?


Using Nazi slogans and imagery to promote visits to the zoo would be sure to backfire and upset a lot of folks in the process -- Holocaust survivors and their families, World War II veterans, and many other Tulsans who would be offended at tarnishing the zoo's image by association with a dictator and a regime that murdered millions.

We should be just as upset at the use of Communist imagery in this way. In the aggregate, Communism has killed far more people than the Nazis did (to be fair, they've had and continue to have more opportunity). Both movements are deeply evil. We should no more put a Che beret on a lion than put a toothbrush mustache and a red and black armband on a giraffe.

(With apologies to Tex Avery, for the use of an image from his WWII cartoon "Blitz Wolf," and to penguin Nils Olaf, colonel-in-chief of the Royal Norwegian Guard.)

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Roy said:

You've expressed sentiments I've had. Except that I'd also observe that I've seen very, very few representations of totalitarian regimes with commie symbology. Nearly without exception the bad guys are portrayed as Nazis.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

Sehr gut, Herr Bates. I would agree with you about lionizing Che, but they kind of ruined it before it got started: RevoZootion? It's a hard word to say, and not very memorable. While "revolution" is a romantic sounding word, Revozootion is ugly. Because of the dishonor the marketing company has caused the Tulsa Zoo, they should fire the marketing company and send everyone invoved to the Gulag for 5 years of hard labor, and make their families walk the entire zoo 6 days a week during the months of July and August, and they get to eat what the monkeys eat.

sbtulsa Author Profile Page said:

What it reflects is indifference and a lack of understanding of history. Even relatively recent history.

I suspect the authors of this campaign went to high school in the last 10 to 15 years.

Get my point?

Bob said:

Possible the Zoo-To-Crats are trying to capitalize in a small way on the new Hollywood film starring Benicio del Toro: Che.


Since Che was killed back in the 60's in Bolivia by U.S. trained counter-insurgency forces, it is unlikely that anyone in the Age of Obama even knows who Che Guevara actually was.

Except for the Hard-Core Marxist-Leninists like Barack, Hillary, and Co.

Expect a new National Holiday named after Che come January 21, 2009.

Or it could be a seriously stunning bit of social satire. Few revolutionaries can withstand parody and laughter. Using Che may simply show that Che doesn't matter any more, that his ideas are irrelevant, that he has absolutely no power. He's meaningless, reduced to the same status as the smiley face.

Heck, we Americans even parody bin Laden's images. As Alice Cooper has observed, the one thing the devil hates is being made fun of.

Of course, it depends on who you are if this is really insulting. Cubanos will feel differently than Anglo Lutherans about this image, I'd imagine. But Vlad the Impaler (Count Dracula) is fair game for cereal boxes here in the U.S., and he was a murderer par excellence.

What's really odd is how well that image works with a lion's face instead of Che's. I personally always thought that it looked more like a serious Alfred E. Neumann, but I can see him being a dumb animal, too, especially one that doesn't do anything but breed and makes everyone else do the work that he then apportions out, as do male lions.

joiei said:

Using your reasoning, we should all boycott Macy's because of their use of the Red Star as their company logo. Wasn't it a red star that was on Che's beret? And wasn't the red star a huge symbol of the communist regime? At least that is what I remember.

S. Lee Author Profile Page said:

A late comment, but I ran across this relevant article on

Who said anything about a boycott?

A red star by itself is generic. The zoo ad is clearly trying to invoke Che Guevara and communist revolution by the use of beret, the style of the artwork, and the phrase "Viva la RevoZOOtion." Communist revolution, with tens of millions of dead and billions imprisoned, is nothing to treat in a whimsical manner.

joiei said:

This quote is from Wikipedia -

"Following its adoption as an emblem of the Soviet Union, the red star became a symbol for communism in a larger sense. The symbol became one of the most prominent of the Soviet Union, adorning all official buildings, awards and insignia. Sometimes the hammer and sickle was depicted inside or below the star. In 1930, the Order of the Red Star was established and given to Red Army and Soviet Navy personnel for "exceptional service in the cause of the defense of the Soviet Union in both war and peace." Its use quickly spread to other Communist states and organisations.

The red star was adopted by several Communist states and often placed on their respective flags and coats of arms; for example, on the flag of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Separatist and socialist movements also sometimes adopted the red star, such as the Estelada flag in the Catalan countries."

I remember the red star as being representative of the Communist regime which was a world threat when I was a child.

This is your statement - "We should be just as upset at the use of Communist imagery in this way. In the aggregate, Communism has killed far more people than the Nazis did (to be fair, they've had and continue to have more opportunity)"

For me, the red star is much more than just a generic symbol, it is a reminder of fear I grew up with of an evil force.

Tyson Wynn Author Profile Page said:


I realize I'm a bit late with this, but I was having server issues and I didn't want to frustrate people by linking to something they couldn't read. Things are fixed now, so here 'tis.

I ran into a similar situation in Claremore back in '06. Out to dinner, Jeane and I encountered Claremore's Red Army (the Claremore Zebras are red and white). It was a group of kids attempting to support their school by calling themselves the Red Army...and wearing Soviet hammers and sickles. Click my name on this comment to go to that particular post.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 22, 2008 11:35 PM.

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