August 16, 2005

Typical Ups And Downs In Bush World


When researchers go back and analyze journalistic trends in the late ’90’s and early 00’s, hopefully they will take note of a key satirical weapon that was made to disappear.

Newspapers and websites run political cartoons, and they run political illustrations, but they hardly ever run editorial illustrations anymore.  And what are “editorial illustrations?” you ask.  (Just having to ask is surely a fatal sign.)  Simply put, these are political graphics with their own (usually biting) point to make.

You see, newspapers were drawing so much blood with these illustrations (and causing so much outrage from their targets) that the media essentially yielded to the tweaked-nosed powers-that-be and stopped running them.

So today, you certainly see newspapers, magazines and websites filled with clever illustrations.  But, when you analyze the function of those graphics, you’ll realize that 9.5 times out of 10, the image simply illustrates an article, rather than makes it’s own point (or, more accurately, lands its own blow).

It’s with this in mind that I was thrilled to see a clever “throw back” piece in Sunday’s NYT WIR.  Yes, it did also illustrate Frank Rich’s latest Bush flaming, and it did also borrow the article headline for a caption (“Someone Tell the President the War is Over”).  But certainly, it more than stood on it’s own.

Nothing frustrates me more than the lack of creativity and humor in today’s visual satire — especially as  Bush and Co. are so ripe for demolition, and we have such fabulous illustrators as Barry Blitt around (sample 1, 2, 3). 

For all the words I have offered explaining how Bush and Co. view reality as simply what they choose to see, Blitt couldn’t do a better job communicating what’s up with that.

(If you’d rather not turn your computer upside down, you can check out the flip side here.)

(illustration: Barry Blitt.  New York Times Op-Ed.  August 14, 2005. p. WK13)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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