An art form in a debased state

Reader Jonathan Burack finds some merit in my post yesterday about political cartoons. However, he argues that I have overstated my case against the genre:
“You are correct about most editorial cartoonists today. However, this is because the art form is by and large in a very debased state. Editorial cartoons can in fact make arguments, though you are surely correct that those working today are not required to do so. And because they are not, the liberals among them (the majority, alas) are the least disciplined of all.
“However, to see how editorial cartoonists can in fact use the art form to argue and reason, look at the work of the late, great Jeff MacNelly. One of my favorites of his shows a huge overweight figure labeled ‘government.’ Riding on his back is another heavy-set, angry figure labeled ‘voter.’ From atop the government’s shoulders, voter demands of him, ‘get off my back.’ This imagery does not translate into a simple slogan. It in fact makes a reasoned statement that might go as follows: ‘The government is bloated. Many complain about it. However, those that do also fail to notice or complain about their OWN dependence on government.’ The cartoon invites a response, and even those who disagree with it can see its logic and will have to contend with it if they want to make a reasonable counterstatement.
“Another cartoon, from 1989 (I can’t recall the artist), shows two men destroying the Berlin Wall. One is using a hammer, the other a sickle. No words. But the argument (‘communism’s own fatal flaws ultimately undermined it’) is powerful, even profound.
“Suffice it to say, there is precious little of this among cartoonists today. The fact that the British Political Cartoon Society could award first prize to the grotesque and mindless image of Sharon eating a baby is truly disgusting. Aside from the obvious anti-Semitism of it, it proves how little respect this organization has for the potential of the art form they claim to champion.”


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