February 5, 2006

Cartoon Backlash

Cox and Forkum

Witnessing the still escalating fervor over the Danish cartoons, one has to wonder how much this heightened tension derives from the terrorism paranoia and thinly-veiled religious fanaticism of George Bush.

Take a closer look, for example, at the fallen soldier Bush chose to honor during last week’s State of the Union speech.  The passage of Dan Clay’s last message home that the President read was relatively benign.  The rest of the letter, however, reveals a Christian zealot praising his lot should he have the fortune of dying and being reunited with his Lord.

Because the cartoon medium seems to be the genre of the moment, its been jumping out at me lately.

As a prominent voice of cartoonists, Daryl Cagle expresses how practitioners are currently feeling like scapegoats (example 1, 2) in a clash of civilizations.  In response to this frustration, Cagle (who otherwise derives his livelihood from lampooning anything that moves) offered his own cartoon ridiculing the outcry over the illustrated depiction of Mohammed.

The scariest development in all this, however, is the way the Administration’s proxies are working up racist condescension and virulent hate.  Consider Cox and Forkum, for example.  They take the “offending form” and apply it specifically as a tool of ideological warfare.  The panel above was posted on their blog this past Tuesday.  To me at least, it’s one thing for a frustrated Cagle to react with his own toon out of professional frustration.  Here, on the other hand, C&F not only depicts a racially stereotyped and hypocritical Mohammed, but goes so far as to intentionally reproduce (see arrow) the original offending Danish version with the bomb on his head.

It’s curious to also see what other cultural baggage shows up in this illustration.  Just like the Administration believes it can control Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries with a combination of might, and PR techniques, the cartoon elegantly depicts the model of the Karen Hughes type judging others on moral grounds; poisoning the conference table by dictating how it’s going to be; and absolutely blurring all distinction between religion and politics.

That’s assuming a lot, by the way, for people who couldn’t tell if Al-Aqsa’s mosque was staring them in the face.

(image: Cox and Forkum)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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