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“Cartoons go straight to the mind and heart”

Cartoon Movement's sister site VJ Movement, along with the Peru’s National Association of Journalists (ANP), recently organized a cartoon exhibition on the subject of Freedom of Expression in the Peruvian capital Lima. The cartoons in the exhibition were all by artists that are part of the Cartoon Movement; you can see most of them in this collection.

Freedom of expression is a delicate subject in a country that has seen more than its fair share of autocrats and military rulers and not surprisingly Peruvians and foreigners alike came to see the cartoons. To find out what the exhibition meant for press freedom in Peru, VJM Blog spoke to Roberto Mejia, a veteran journalist and president of Peru’s biggest journalists’ union, the ANP, which hosted the exhibition.

Hi Roberto, how was the cartoon exhibition received by journalists and other visitors of the exhibition?

With great anticipation. It was the first time that Lima had seen an exhibition of the work of cartoonists from around the world, focusing on the theme of Freedom of Expression. The uniqueness of the event was highlighted by the fact that people from all five continents visited the exhibition.

Many of them commented in our guest book on the value of the editorial cartoon as a tool of scrutiny and one that is becoming evermore popular at a time when Peru is suffering severly from corruption.

The National Association of Journalists of Peru has been honored to host the show. Both cartoonists and journalists use similar tools to deliver our message. Both of us strive to report on wrongdoings in society, which is why we feel so close.

 

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2. To what extent can this exhibition contribute to the defense of press freedom in Peru?

Substantially. Cartoons are a message with a social content that reflects the way many people feel about the reality of everyday life.

The best way to visualize attacks on free expression is to use visual means. Satire and irony get the message across directly. The works exhibited at the show have helped to visualize the various ways of restricting freedom of expression that occur in the world. There’s nothing better than dry humor to raise awareness about this topic.

Moreover, the audience, which not only consisted of journalists, but of representatives of society as a whole, definitely got the message that the messengers are in danger.

 

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3. Editorial cartoonists are very exposed to attacks and complaints about their work. How do you think their vulnerability could be improved in Latin America?

Organization. Our journalists union has taught us that alone we can achieve little, but as a group we can make others respect us and we respect each other. Unfortunately there have been few attempts to unite cartoonists, unlike others who work in communication.

Not only should an effort be made to organize them, but also integrate with other movements of journalists in the region. The cartoonist is a natural social communicator and as such should be recognized and respected.

An attack on a cartoonist is an attack on the freedom of expression. Foremost in our memory are those dark times when the only dissenting voice was the one embodied by the cartoon, a scathing instrument to denounce acts of corruption or negligence by the powers that be. The message is transmitted primarily by the drawing, text is scarce in political cartoons. So the message is direct, it enters through the eyes and goes straight to the minds and hearts of those who see it.

 

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 This post was originally published on the VJ Movement blog, where it is also available in Spanish.


Spotlight On Haiti

Editor and Publisher has a write-up of our Haiti trip:

Both Bors and Royaards knew from the start that in order to get to the heart of the issues in Haiti, they would need to focus on Haiti’s reconstruction from the point of view of the Haitian people, which led to the decision to hire Haitian journalists to produce the stories.

...

Bors’ first step in finding the proper team to pull this off was to contact all the reporters in Haiti that he had been following on social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook. Haiti’s national media is largely radio based, and the print media is nearly all French, so finding the right team required Bors and Royaards to visit Haiti and pound the pavement, figuring out who was good and getting familiar with them and their work before they worked together. [Keep reading]


How to Draw Dictators

By Tjeerd Royaards

September 15 marked the International Day of Democracy. For this occasion, Cartoon Movement was asked by the Syrian Committee in the Netherlands to give a workshop on editorial cartooning and the importance of political cartoons for democracy. The workshop focused on the power of cartoons in the face of oppression, and the struggle for freedom and democracy in Syria in particular. The assault on Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat shows the impact cartoons can have on a tyrannical regime.

The central question: what is it that makes dictators fear cartoonists so much?
The answer: they just can't stand to be ridiculed.

Various portraits of Bashir al-AssadBlogpost_assad


Paradoxically, they often make it very easy to do just that, not only by what they do, but also by how they look. Common tastes among tyrants include gaudy general-like outfits with lots of medals, very large sunglasses and oversized caps.

Even in the case of Bashir al-Assad, who isn't as fond of over-the-top outfits as some of his more extravagant colleagues, making a caricature is relatively easy, helped by some remarkable physical traits.

To show all you non-cartoonists out there how easy our job is (the drawing part, that is, not the making-a-living-with-drawing part), here's a very simple how-to-draw-Assad I used in the workshop to show that everybody can do caricatures of the world's worst tyrants.  And if we all started making fun of dictators, it might just help end their reign a little sooner.

                    How to draw a dictator:
If you want to share your Assad caricature, send it to cartoons@cartoonmovement.com, and will add it to this post.

                                                                          Assad by Jan Erik AnderAssad Assad by Marilena NardiNardi_for_Ali_Ferzat


Behind The Scenes: Reporting On Crisis Pregnancy Centers

By Susie Cagle

I first heard about crisis pregnancy centers about four years ago, looking up a Planned Parenthood in New York. I was surprised to see one Planned Parenthood clinic surrounded by several "pregnancy centers" that promoted "abortion alternatives" and no women's health services -- contraception, Pap smears, and comprehensive counseling. I ended up getting my birth control at the Planned Parenthood on Bleecker Street, past the metal detector and security detail that are familiar to any U.S. clinic-goer, but I was always curious about what things were like on the other side.

The most difficult part of making my piece, "What Every Woman Should Know," was having to leave so much out. 

Originally I was interested in pregnancy centers in and around Sacramento, California's capital and a somewhat conservative community. But when I found out the extent of Planned Parenthood's problems in the Bay Area -- controversy surrounding financial mismanagement that took out all of this region's seven clinics -- I decided to follow the story closer to home. I visited 9 local clinics before focusing on First Resort's three -- each of which is depicted in the comic with a different counselor.

 There are about as many CPCs in the Bay Area as there are Planned Parenthoods; but across the country, CPCs outnumber Planned Parenthoods by nearly 5 to 1, and all abortion providers nearly 3 to 1. My budget and circumstances limited my reporting to the Bay Area, but this is hardly a local or even national issue. Crisis pregnancy centers exist all over Canada and the UK.

Some of the CPCs in America began receiving federal and local tax dollars in 2000, in conjunction with a move toward abstinence-only sex ed for teens. First Resort was operating a subsidized sex education program for kids in more than twenty local East Bay public schools, promoting abstinence pledges and handing out misleading abortion information until a parent took them to court, shutting the program down. (This particular arrangement was found to be in violation of state law.)

This is probably the best example of First Resort's reach, influence and ultimate goals. 

I am ambivalent about the practice of "undercover" journalism. As a reporter I am not interested in deception, and so prefacing this project on lies -- small ones, but still -- was counterintuitive and sometimes troubling. I was not aiming to write an expose, but just to depict a woman's average visit at one of these clinics. By posing as a would-be patient I was able to gain a perspective I wouldn't have had if I'd said I was a reporter. 

From the time I approached the building to the time I left, I took detailed notes and drew sketches in a small notepad, and took quick snapshots with my phone whenever possible. (First Resort requires patients to sign a waiver agreeing not to record within the counseling rooms.)

I didn't know what to expect, but it wasn't what I was expecting anyway.

The brilliance and danger of First Resort and other clinics like them is that they do not fit the image of "anti-abortion activist" that we have collectively formed over the last few decades. They are not screaming with pictures of dead babies; they are quietly buying Google ads and tiptoeing around telling you where to buy condoms. They are kind, intelligent, and generous. It is disarming, and effective.

At one First Resort clinic, I asked about acquiring Plan B emergency contraception. Plan B is over the counter for women 17 and over in the US -- no prescription necessary. The counselor affirmed for me that yes, it was technically contraception, "not the abortion pill." But, emphasized, "You have time to think about it. You have five days to take it." 

This is true of one of the three kinds of Plan B on the market. The others have to be taken within three days -- and all of them are significantly less effective with each passing day. The medical suggestion for emergency contraception is "take it as soon as possible" not "think about it." That advice could easily leave a woman pregnant. 

This instance could be easily explained, but there were other, stranger omissions of fact that I found troubling.

At another First Resort, a counselor showed me a diagram of a woman's genitals, pointing out the different parts for me as though I'd never looked in a mirror. This was not a medical chart -- no ovaries, no uterus, just the outside bits.

One counselor told me that the city health insurance San Francisco provides to poor single adults would not cover any sort of women's health services.

"That's shocking," I said.

"I know, I agree. We need that stuff!" she exclaimed, grinning.

We do, and that's why San Francisco does actually provide it. There's also a state program which covers those services for low-income women, but the counselor didn't mention that at all. (Neither of these programs fund abortions.)

I think some people expected this story to reveal some sort of gory, appalling details, the blood beneath the floorboards. For me, this version of reality is much more scary -- false information delivered with a smile, affirmations of choice that hide aspirations to dissuade, prevent and sabotage.

Susie Cagle is a graphic journalist in Oakland, CA. She has drawn for American Prospect, Truthout, and others. Her website is thisiswhatconcernsme.com.


What Every Woman Should Know

A massive legislative campaign against abortion rights is underway in America. Restrictions on cash-strapped abortion providers have paved the way for thousands of well-funded "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" to take their place, with a religious mission to turn women away from abortion.

Today we publish "What Every Woman Should Know" by Susie Cagle, a 17-page report on the war on women's health. Combining infographics and undercover reporting, Cagle shows how subtle tactics and misinformation are being used by religious backed clinics to remove options from pregnant women.

EveryWoman


The Big Lie

Rick Veitch
Image Comics
$3.99, 28 pages

by Matt Bors

BiglieIf you want to find your particular version of events surrounding 9/11 in comic format, you have a lot of options these days. The government's official line, The 9/11 Commission Report, was adapted into the graphic novel format all the kids are talking about. A recent 9/11 coloring book allows you bring to life an image of a SEAL operative shooting Bin Laden as he grabs his niqab-covered wife to catch the bullet--an early report proven to be false. "This is history. It is absolutely factual,"  says the publisher.

Rick Veitch adds his own version of facts to this growing pile with The Big Lie, a comic in the Truther mold. A longtime luminary in American comics, Veitch is responsible for acclaimed runs on Swamp Thing and scathing superhero satires like Brat Pack. Here, what he intends as an engaging way to address serious questions turns out to be unintentionally funny--if I didn't know better I'd be tempted to say it's a parody of moralizing, over-the-top Jack Chick comics.

The plot is as follows: A scientist travels back in time ten years to save her husband, who works in the towers and died on 9/11. Arriving on the morning of the attacks due to a miscalculation, and armed with her iPad ("your what?") full of data, she must convince her husband and his coworkers that a massive attack is about to destroy the buildings. No sweat, right? Well, her histrionic approach to explaining things doesn't win her any new friends.

If getting your loved one out of the building in 30 minutes flat is your only goal, it may be easier to concoct another plan rather than attempt to convince them you are from the future and a grand conspiracy is about to unfold. But these are comics, after all, and this is merely a set up to give the author a chance to expound on the many perceived holes in the 9/11 story.

Ten years out from the attacks, we aren't getting any closer to the truth.

Many Americans don't even remember the year 9/11 occurred. Around the world, polls show that in most countries bare majorities believe Al Qaeda carried out the attacks. In the Arab world the numbers hit rock bottom, while conspiracies about Israel's involvement soar. Veitch doesn't propose a single cohesive theory as to what happened, opting to throw out various suspicions--war games being played that day, the Neo-con agenda, possible foreknowledge had by Bush--to suggest that something was up.


TheBigLie3The most popular theory, and one Veitch focuses on the most, is that the buildings were part of a controlled demolition. "This looks exactly like every controlled demolition I've ever witnessed," exclaims the doomed husband watching a video of Building Seven's collapse on the iPad from the future. Indeed, the building collapses do look like other building collapses in that they involve massive structures crumbling earthward.  How radically different an unplanned collapse should look to the untrained eye is unclear, given the limited number of comparative studies done with giant buildings brought down by airplanes.

Building demolition is a months-long process whereby large teams eviscerate buildings, knock out walls, saw steel beams, and string thousands of yards of cable to connect hundreds of charges. It tends to be loud. An explanation for how this took place in a building with thousands of employees is never  given by Truthers, but they don't have to. They are just asking questions, they say.

The demolition scenario is implausible, but Veitch helps it along by visually misrepresenting a key claim. Explosive chargers called "squibs" are said to have detonated down the side of the building. Veitch draws them to look far more precise and fiery than they were in real life. (They were compressed air and dust--this and other theories were most expertly put down by Popular Mechanics magazine.)

It's not much of a spoiler to tell you the planes hit after the scientist is dragged out by security.

In an awkward touch, a black woman emerges from the blast, deliriously singing "Amazing Grace" while readying herself for heaven, and they realize the time-traveler had been right all along as they look up at the exposed thermite bombs rigged to a support beam. Like the end of Jack Chick tracts, those who refused the Truth are swallowed in the fiery death they deserve.

Uncle Sam, who introduces and closes out the tale like the Crypt Keeper of EC Comics, addresses the reader: "Lies are like unwashed socks. They come in all sizes and stink to high heaven."

You might say the same thing about conspiracy theories.

Matt Bors is an editor at Cartoon Movement.


Cartoons Take On the Academic World

At Cartoon Movement we know (and it's our mission to convince you) that editorial cartoons are a serious form of journalism. With the project we're starting this week, Cartoon Movement is making its debut in the academic world.

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is undertaking a six-year research project on governance, security and justice in conflict-affected areas. The Cartoon Movement will support the academic research with editorial cartoons, using our global network of cartoonists to come up with powerful visuals on six themes:

Gender
Security
Conflict Resolution
Resources
Transitional Justice
Information

These themes all have their own subroom within our main newsroom. Cartoon Movement will contribute 50 cartoons to the research project each year. This means we'll pick a cartoon from one of the LSE-subroom almost every week, which will be pulished on Cartoon Movement and be used to support the academic research done by LSE. You can help us decide which cartoons we should select by voting for the best submissions in our newsroom.

Lse

 Our sister site, VJ Movement, will contibute to the research project with video reports. They have a project page up which features some of the videos already made.


Preview: What Every Woman Should Know

In the United States a massive legislative campaign against abortion rights is taking its toll on a woman's right to choose. Restrictions on cash-strapped abortion providers are growing, while thousands of well-funded "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" backed by Christian groups serve to turn women away from abortion.

Next Wednesday we publish "What Every Woman Should Know," a report by contributor Susie Cagle on the war that's being waged against women's health in the United States.

CagleEveryWoman6


Support Ali Ferzat, Get a T-shirt

Shirts

We have put three new designs in our T-shirt webshop, all in support of Ali Ferzat, the Syrian cartoonist whose hands we're broken to stop him from drawing anti-Assad cartoons. You can choose between 'The Dictator's Nightmare', 'Keep Fighting Oppression' and 'The Power of Cartoons'. We guarantee that every penny earned is used to support editorial cartooning, especially in those places where cartoonists are not free to work.