Y Combinator CEO cartoonized to allegedly mimic Chinese Exclusion Act-era poster in ‘racist’ critique

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Venture capitalist Garry Tan is calling out “hard leftists” in San Francisco for using his image in a cartoon that allegedly mimicked a poster published during the period of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

The image: Posted by Techbro SF, the image in question depicts the Y Combinator president and CEO as an octopus with several local organizations as his tentacles. It came with a dedicated web page titled “Garry Tantacles.”

What Tan is saying: Tan reposted the image on X on Saturday, noting that whoever made it “has extreme brain worms.” He made light of the graphic by calling it “hilarious” and encouraged support for the groups it had mentioned, including Families for San Francisco, San Francisco Parent Action and the San Francisco Standard, to name a few.

Alleged basis: On Monday, Tan posted an image of what appears to be the inspiration behind the cartoon: an Asian man portrayed as an octopus with multiple social issues for tentacles. NextShark looked into the image and found that it was an editorial cartoon released by The Bulletin, an Australian magazine that ran from 1880 to 2008.

The cartoon, titled “The Mongolian Octopus — Its Grip on Australia,” was published on Aug. 21, 1886. At the time, Chinese xenophobia was rife in the West, with laws such as the U.S.’ Chinese Exclusion Act and Canada’s Chinese Immigration Act under enforcement.

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Behind the criticism: It is not explicitly stated why Techbro SF chose to target Tan. It is also unknown who is behind the image and the website.

The “Tantacles” web page appears to sarcastically highlight Tan’s “connections” to “excellent orgs and people,” which supposedly lead to Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and California’s Republican Party, among others. In response to a comment, Tan called it “a great site, except for the weird linking me to Trump thing which is LOL.”

Tan, however, is vocal on local politics: for one, he is a known critic of former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. He donated $100,000 to last year's recall campaign, according to Open Secrets, a website that tracks political donations.

Reactions: Regardless of the reason behind the cartoon, it is now being slammed as racist and anti-Asian.

Stand With Asians, a volunteer group formed amid the height of anti-Asian hate, denounced the cartoon on Instagram. “When you see anti-Asian imagery that harkens back to Chinese Exclusion Act era posters, do something about it,” the group said.

Others replied on X: