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Eight Stories for ‘05—Pressures on Editorial Cartoonists
posted August 27, 2005


This may be the easiest story of them all to explain. It seems to me there are a lot of stories about cartoonists being sued, jailed or threatened with same in any number of countries right now. In some cases, like this week's story in Belarus, the origins of the conflict can probably be traced to an uneasy relationship between a growing press of some sort and representatives of state power. In other cases, particularly the lawsuits in Turkey, what may be happening is an assumption of "rights" by entities that by wielding them create a dubious imbalance between forces that traditionally have acted as checks upon one another. Complicating matters are how these issues have a foot in real-world politics, with countries pressured into certain free-press policies in a way that might not stick, and, for instance, as we saw in this case, regional concerns like members of the EU potentially being able to subpoena those in other countries, which could make the standard for certain groups of nations that of the least enlightened country.

Editorial cartoonists in America face a similarly hostile, rocky path right now, although one that has more to do with aggressive battles from free agents in the political word than a confrontation with state authorities. It can be equally depressing. Many American newspaper readers seem to be dismissing any opportunity to be exposed to other opinions -- opinions with which they could then certainly strongly disagree -- and asserting right to have opinions in line with their own in their daily or weekly reading material. For certain groups on the right and left, cartoons aren't ever wrong as much as cartoonists are so wrong they deserve to be replaced, fired, or balanced out with bluntly competing views. With a shrinking audience, newspapers in general have become sensitive to such arguments about perception whether or not they have merit.

In the coming months ahead, these trends should be looked on to see if they continue. If growing numbers of people continue to reject the value of dissenting opinion, economic and political circumstances could further cripple an entire tradition of comics expression.

classic, strident David Low image.