In the US, political cartoons have been part of the national heritage since before the birth of the republic.
An iconic May 1754 cartoon in the Pennsylvania Gazette, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, reprinted time and again during that era, depicted a serpent divided in eight parts, representing pre-revolution UK colonial states, under the legend “Join or Die.”
It was the oldest illustration of its kind in the country, first appearing as a woodcut, later in print.
According to the Normal Rockwell Museum, political cartoons date from Leonardo da Vinci sketches (1452–1519). In America, they’ve been featured in newspapers and other publications throughout the republic’s history.
A famous January 1943 Saturday Evening Post political cartoon on its cover depicted a US helmeted infant plunging a bayonet into a Nazi swastika.
A July 1947 New York Sun political cartoon depicted a descending atom bomb for world control and destruction. Countless others through the years expressed the tenor of the times.
Noted political cartoonists Rube Goldberg, Thomas Nast, and many others contributed an important narrative to the nation’s history in images.
They’re an important form of free expression, visually presenting views pictorially. As the saying goes: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
On June 10, the NYT said it no longer would publish daily political cartoons in its international edition. In April, it stopped running syndicated political cartoons.
The earlier move came after the Times published a caricature in its international edition of Israel’s Netanyahu in the form of a guide dog with a Star of David around his neck, leading a blind Trump wearing a skul cap critics called anti-Semitic.
There’s nothing anti-Semitic about truth-telling in words, images, or both. Long before the age of television, the Internet and social media, Chicago Evening Post journalist Finley Peter Dunne (1867 – 1936) said “(t)he business of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”
The Times operates by a different standard, serving powerful interests at the expense of the general welfare and truth-telling journalism the way it should be — why it’s a national disgrace.
On June 10, Times editorial page editor James Bennet thanked cartoonists Patrick Chappatte and Heng Song for their work, announcing the broadsheet would discontinue political cartoons beginning July 1.
Chappatte said he was ending over two decades of twice-weekly cartoons “with a sigh,” adding: “(T)hat’s a lot of years of work undone by a single cartoon—not even mine…”
“I’m afraid this is not just about cartoons, but about journalism and opinion in general. Maybe we should start worrying. And pushing back.”
“Political cartoons were born (in the West). And they are challenged when freedom is” — dying in the US and other Western countries, he failed to add.
For the first time in its history, The Times won a Pulitzer Prize for political cartooning last year. Headlining “Welcome to the New World,” it depicted a Syrian refugee family — failing to explain US responsibility for creating the severest refugee crisis since WW II by its war of aggression in the country and many others.
Even when it offends, “[w]ithout humor we are all dead,” Chappette lamented. Another critic tweeted: “Terrible decision for the @nytimes to no longer run editorial cartoons. It’s the most unrelenting form of journalism/critique there is.”
“Older and more established than current reporting norms. Fire the editor who made a bad call, not the entire art form.”
A good idea! And the entire Times editorial staff with him! Replace them with truth-telling journalists the self-styled newspaper of record lacks!
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.