My Anime List defends rewrite of contributor’s anti-Nazi article

There’s a nasty stereotype that anime fans and Nazis are closely related, as indicated by the number of virulent alt-right trolls with anime avatars you’ll find in any Twitter cesspool.

This unfortunate connection all came to a head for My Anime List contributor Reuben Baron when he discovered his November article, “10 Anime And Manga About Kicking Nazi Ass,” had been rewritten in a gentler tone toward Nazi anime characters. The new article was titled “11 Anime And Manga Featuring Nazis.”

Baron, who happens to be Jewish, was understandably upset.

“If they care more about offending Nazis than offending their own writers, and not even telling them when their work is being edited almost beyond recognition while still keeping our usernames on the byline, then good riddance to their Featured Writers program,” he said.

The article as it originally appeared.

My Anime List, which receives 120,000,000 page views a month, launched their Featured Writers program in 2015 to highlight voices in the anime community. Writers post lists, anime reviews, and informal opinion pieces.

Baron’s original article was published on November 29, 2016. It passed editing with one small change—his My Anime List editor asked him not to use the term “alt-right” as a synonym for neo-Nazi, a terminology quibble taking place at other similarly large op/ed sites.

In Baron’s original piece, which can still be viewed in a Wayback Machine archive, he included an introduction with his own opinions on Nazis.

“We do not accept Nazis. Nazis suck,” Baron wrote originally.

The article as it appears on My Anime List today.

Baron has previously written articles poking fun at Judaism and the presidential candidates, and said that topics like religion and politics were not off-limits, as far as he knew. So he was surprised to revisit his article on January 17 and discover a completely different piece of writing.

“When I asked my editor why this happened he apologized to me but said it was beyond his control and that someone was ‘really upset’ about the article so they had to change it,” said Baron.

Baron also shared a screenshot of the communication with his editor, shown below:

Baron asked his editor about the rewrite over Trello.

Baron told Anime Feminist that the new article doesn’t follow the spirit of his original piece at all and in fact included a new addition to the list, Rudol von Stroheim from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, described as “an unusually positive portrayal of a Nazi soldier.”

“They also added a semi-heroic Nazi character onto the list, which does not fit with my original intentions at all,” said Baron.

“An unusually positive portrayal of a Nazi soldier” was added to the article.

Anime Feminist reached out to My Anime List for comment, and heard back from the site’s parent company, DeNA. Tomoyuki Akiyama, Corporate Communications Manager, told us that My Anime List articles can be updated by an editor at any time.

“Articles posted on MyAnimeList are subject to being edited after publishing for quality purposes… The MyAnimeList team, however, regrets that the policy has not been made clear to their writers. In order to make this policy clearer to writers they plan to both update their day-to-day guidelines, along with emailing directly regarding the policy,” he said.

Akiyama also confirmed that the reason Baron’s article was edited was because of an internal concern, not a reader complaint. In the screenshot, Baron’s editor tells him somebody was “really upset” about the article. It turns out that was somebody inside My Anime List.

“The team did not recognize the way the original article was written as content that helped many users enjoy anime, and did not see the subject matter as anything that should be treated lightheartedly,” Akiyama said.

It’s a sign of the times we live in that the phrase “kicking Nazi ass” is no longer uncontroversial enough to be considered lighthearted. Instead, apparently, we have to hear “both sides,” which included the addition of a more positive Nazi character. It’s no wonder Baron wasn’t informed, because, as he told Anime Feminist, he would not have wanted his byline to remain on such an altered piece.

My Anime List writers take note: it’s website policy for your article to be edited at any time to better reflect the site’s mission, whether you agree with it or not.

Lauren Orsini writes about anime and geek careers at Otaku Journalist. She received her M. A. in Journalism at American University in Washington, DC. 

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