The Beginning of the American Fall
Occupy Sketchbook

Incendiary Device

Every time a political cartoon gets a tremendous response, be it praise or death threats, editorial cartoonists feel vindicated about the inherent power of their medium, which is sometimes trivialized or ignored in favor of more "serious" commentary. With the latest controversy over cartoons in Charlie Hebdo in mind, Victor Navasky's column in the Sunday Times, "Why Are Political Cartoons So Incendiary?", explores the power of images to incite.

Neuroscientists and Freudians all have their explanations as to why and under what circumstances people — be they Muslim workers, French tyrants or members of an international court — find this “silly,” “trivial” and “irrelevant” medium so threatening.  I have long had a theory that one reason people become so agitated by cartoons is that there is no way of answering back. A caricature is by definition an exaggeration, a distortion, unfair. If you don’t like an editorial you can write a letter to the editor, but there is no such thing as a cartoon to the editor.


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