Sunday, 8 November 2015

Drawing The Line: Controversial Cartooning

October's Stockport meeting heard a talk by Paul Fitzgerald (aka Polyp), a political cartoonist, who prepared this talk in the wake of
the Charlie Hebdo affair. Paul regularly contributes the journal New Internationalist.

He gave an interesting history of Political cartooning and some reactions. For example David Lowe constantly ridiculed Hitler and was put on Hitler’s death list for his pains. One of the earliest cartoons was circa 200CE and was based on a rumour that Christians worshipped donkeys. 

There is a chequered history of who cartoonists support and they can be at any point on the belief spectrum. Not all cartoonists are on the side of the angels.  For example some of them supported the slave trade and their cartoons showed slaves in bondage having a good time. Paul also showed examples of cartoons against the suffragettes. The Daily Mail is often knocking Gay Marriages. 

Evangelical Christians in the United States pick up on the cartoon form but at a very unsophisticated level. Dr Seuss is a mixed bag with both racist and anti-racist cartoons in his lexicon. Tintin cartoons often show the heroic white man coming to the aid of the hapless black man.

During World War two, the propaganda from Germany was some of the darkest ever produced. We still have anti-Semitic cartoons such as one from Qatar about the blockade of Gaza being broken by flotillas. And we still have images of Jews (Zionists) with tentacles everywhere. Holocartoons is an Iranian website critical of Zionism. Gerald Scarfe caused a storm with a cartoon about the wall dividing the Israelis from the Palestinians.

As a counter two Israelis announced the Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoons Contest where the winner was “Fiddler on the Roof” showing a fiddler on the Brooklyn Bridge during the September 11th 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

Paul went on to talk about the Charlie Hebdo affair and gave a brief history of attitudes to portrayal of The Prophet over the centuries. In the 12th and 13th Centuries there were many pictorial representations of The Prophet but there was slow withdrawal when faces were blacked out. As we know Muslims are now resistant to any pictures of Mohammed.

A lively discussion ensued which, for some people, went on after the meeting was formally closed.

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