The Worst Horrors in Infidel 3 are Real

by Drew Baumgartner

Infidel 3

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

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Last month, Patrick remarked on how both real and scary Infidel is — that is, the horrors of this book come from societies worst (but all too real) problems. And they really do seem to come from those problems. For some reason, when I read the solicit for this series, I imagined that the specters in this series somehow caused the islamophobia that runs rampant throughout Aisha’s building; that it was somehow responsible for making people hateful. As we spend more time with them, however, (and as more residents seem to encounter them), it seems like they aren’t so much the cause of the bigotry, but the result of it. That is, they are the manifestation of the fear minorities feel when encountering bigotry.

Or, at least, the people feeling that fear are the only ones who can see the horrors causing it. It’s a fascinating allegory to real-world bigotry being perpetrated by people who don’t recognize it as bigotry. The “I’m not racist, but…” phenomenon. Where last issue made it clear that Leslie and Kris couldn’t see the ghouls terrorizing Aishia, this one suggests that they might still have been feeling their effects. Check out this sequence of Reynolds getting dressed to go out for coffee:

Reynolds gets ready

He doesn’t see this thing, but Ethan can when he walks in. It suggests that the ghosts are exerting some unseen force on the people who can’t see them, and reveals that the ability to see them might depend on one’s sensitivity to racism. They’re like the Thestrals from Harry Potter, but instead of witnessing death, the ability to see them is based on woke-ness.

It’s hard to overemphasize how clever of a concept this is. Like all bigotry, these ghosts are a malevolent force that is invisible to virtually everyone but its victims. Sure enough, none of the people acting racist in this issue recognize their own behavior as racist. Just look at Haley’s attempt to assure Medina that she’s not racist:

Haley's racism

She’s basically arguing that she’d be justified in being racist, but that she happens to hate this particular Arab for different reasons. But, you know, if you dislike/distrust someone for legitimate reasons, you wouldn’t need to address whether being racist is somehow justifiable. It’s that kind of twisted logic that allows racism to persist in the real world, perpetrated by people who agree that racism is bad, never seeing how their attitudes contribute to that problem.

Writer Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell have landed on something really insightful here, using the supernatural to simply highlight the cycles of hate that permeate our society. Of course, they’re also laying some ground work to explain that supernatural element, introducing some occult-obsessed former tenant that may have somehow invited or created or otherwise tethered these ghosts to that building. Intriguingly, that concept is introduced as Reynolds and Ethan are getting into the weeds on what is or isn’t racist. This series seems like it’s preparing to get much more specific about the edges of racism (and maybe its causes). It’s not the type of subject matter I’d trust many creative teams to handle well, but Pichetshote and Campbell have demonstrated an ability to pack nuance into this horror premise. I can’t wait to see where they turn next.

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The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

6 comments on “The Worst Horrors in Infidel 3 are Real

  1. I wasn’t the biggest fan in this issue, especially as the art style does that usual horror art thing of placing atmosphere over clear visual, storytelling to get greater effect (which is a great technique that I usually love). The combination of the art style creating doubts and confusion over the very exact nature of events in the end of issue 2 and the fact that the supernatural is kind of downplayed this issue means that it gives too much credence to racists. Haley’s racism is too sympathetic. She sounds like she has followed a reasonable chain of events (I tried to be nice despite my trauma, I saw Aisha push, those are the facts and my understandable racism doesn’t come into it.) The only response the comic has to what Haley says is that She’s racist. And instead of explaining why this matters, it instead feels like it calls that out as a bullshit argument, because it doesn’t change what Haley saw.

    I think this issue needs more of a supernatural element specifically to show us that the racist character’s perspectives aren’t true from their perspective, but actually false. The problem with making racism ghosts that are invisible to racist people is that it makes the racists wrong for the right reasons – they only misjudged the situation because they literally can’t judge it correctly. Though to be fair, the idea of supernatural creatures that warp perspectives to fit racist tropes is a good one, as long as you lean into the supernatural element so that you make sure it feels like an indictment.

    Instead, this issue felt like too many characters hemming and hawing but what’s actually racist and is this really racist while the actual racist characters essentially vindicated despite being awful people. Which at worst is saying “They may be racist, but they aren’t wrong” and at best saying “you can’t blame them, as they are acting correctly with the facts they have”

    The comic intentionally left us disorientated an panicked at the end of 2, because that is good horror writing. But that same disorientation serves as a shield for racism, providing too much benefit of the doubt to Haley and presenting the only argument against her as flimsy compared to what she saw. She’s too easy a person to defend

    Compare this to Get Out, where no matter how subtle or small the racist act, the movie has you hyperaware of the problem. This issue of Infidel felt far too defensive of racist view points.

    I just keep looking at the page you posted, and Haley is awful in it. But do we have any reason to say She’s wrong for the conclusions she came to? Or, as the comic hasn’t seriously interrogated the way that white people create nastier perspectives of more innocent events involving PoC, and instead given the white people the innocence of ignorance (I didn’t know that, so my actions on calling the police on black people in Starbucks was reasonable), is this saying that the real problem is that white people never get enough information for them not to oppress PoC?

    I was disappointed

    • I really only think this excuses Haley if you think “acting like giving an entire race the benefit of the doubt is charity” isn’t racist. I think her words come off incredibly racist here, and Aisha actually pushing Leslie and Chris down the stairs doesn’t justify racism. Haley is seeing malice where there wasn’t any, which is a conclusion she’s drawing based on her racism. She’s objectively wrong in that conclusion. That we have to get into the weeds to parse the subtleties on this is definitely the point, but I don’t think this issue equivocates on the way racism colors our perceptions and leads us to false conclusions.

      • She mostly certainly is racist and that is shown to be not nice. It isn’t shown to be an actual problem though.

        Ultimately, her problem here isn’t that she’s racist, it is that what she was unable to perceive what actually happened because of invisible monsters. Her being objectively wrong doesn’t matter because there was no reasonable way for a person who can’t percieve the full information to be right.

        So instead, we get a giant speech about how her racism doesn’t matter as it is understandable and she tried to do the right thing and her being racist doesn’t change what she saw.

        The issue never challenges what Haley saw. In fact, by focusing on how few people can see the monsters, it vindicates the explanation that she gives by explaining away her errors by her inability to see the supernatural monsters.

        She’s not wrong because she’s racist. She’s wrong because she couldn’t see the magic monsters and saw something else instead.

        The book could have challenged her story by having characters find the holes and force her to admit embellishments (did you actually see her push? Then Haley admits she saw the result but it was clear what happens). Instead, when she’s called racist, the book doubles down on her perspective and gives credence to her. It never suggests that she is lying about what she sees, and instead gives Haley a big moment to make clear that the reason she said what she said is rooted entirely in what she actually saw.

        Look at that second page you posted, Drew. She is undoubtedly shown as a horrible person. But where is there evidence that she is wrong to have interpreted events the way that she did? Where is the evidence that a non racist person, if they saw what she saw, would have a different interpretation of events?

        Or is she wrong merely because she can’t see the invisible monsters?

        • Did the magic monsters make Haley see what she saw, or did she actually just see Aisha push Leslie and Chris? I was assuming the latter. In which case, the racism isn’t that she saw what she saw, but that she drew the conclusion that she drew. And that’s a very real part of racism. It’s not that suicide bombers or whatever only exist in the minds of racist, it’s that only racists draw racist conclusions about suicide bombers. She’s not wrong about the actual facts, she’s wrong in how she’s framing and interpreting them. From my experience, that’s how racist thought works, by framing and interpreting the real world in racist ways. She’s not wrong because she saw things that didn’t happen, she’s wrong because of how she saw the things that did.

        • Except aren’t her actions here supposed to represent the problems with racism? She is certainly shown as a horrible person for being racist. But her actions are shown to be in the right because of what she saw.

          Haley’s actions are shown to be in the right because she did the only reasonable thing based on what she saw, despite being a horrible racist. The fact that she’s wrong is forgiven by the fact that she couldn’t know it was wrong because the monsters were invisible.

          To me, I would have framed this sequence more like it mirrored someone reporting seeing a Muslim after a suicide bombing merely because their racism makes that seem like the right response, regardless of who actually was the bomber. It would be easy to do. She didn’t see the events, just the aftermath and made racist assumptions. As you said, racism influencing how she frames and interprets events

          Instead, after an accusation of racism, she gets a big moment to make clear what she actually saw. A scene where her racism is irrelevant because there is only one reasonable interpretation. Haley saw Aisha push, therefore Haley is right to say she did it, and the fact that she’s racist doesn’t matter. As it is the only reasonable interpretation, regardless of what framing you apply (supernatural of course being unreasonable because by definition the supernatural is out of the ordinary).

          Giving a racist a scene like this where they manage to successfully rebut an accusation of racism by saying “It doesn’t matter, as my racism doesn’t change the fact that what ZI saw happened” is weird for a comic about Islamophobia. Instead, it valourises racists by saying “she may be very unpleasant person, but at the end of the day, the racist is right” (or at least as right as she can be given the fact that she literally can’t see important context because of invisible monsters). It reads as ‘she s the one who will say the uncomfortable truth’ as that is what she does. That’s the problem

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