I haven’t read all of the press about the Canadian cartoonist who was fired for his drawing which showed the drowned El Salvadoran father and daughter washed up on the golf course right next to the president. Nor have I read all of the subsequent commentary from others, so forgive me if I repeat, in this little opinion piece of mine, what others have already said.
In truth, political cartoonists are the same as photo journalists. They visually capture what is there. The photo journalist IS able to heighten the subjectivity of his/her image by making certain choices involving angle, composition, lighting, cropping, editing, etc...
The cartoonist is able to heighten the emotion and stamp it with his/her point of view to an even greater extent since its only connection to objectivity is an original image, statement or news event that the artist uses as a jumping off point. From there, it is the cartoonist’s imagination, wit and artistry that create the finished product. Photos of dead and maimed victims of war are repelling, but I haven’t heard of a photographer actually being fired for their photograph revealing an awful truth. It is “just reporting” and the viewer usually turns his/her horror and rage towards the people who are responsible for the violence. In the case of the cartoonist, because the image springs from a creative human mind and is drawn with a pen dipped in the ink bottle of very astringent humor, the horrified viewer attacks the artist instead of the people, those who put in place the inhumane practices which result in such abhorrent outcomes. Somehow, we have become inured to photographs. The photo of the father and daughter, drowned, face down, did not cause the firing of the PHOTOGRAPHER who first captured that sickening tragedy. However, let an artist recreate the image and heighten the atrocity, actually IMPROVE the focus and clarity by using his/her creative, caustic wit to illustrate a visual juxtaposition. This uncomfortable juxtaposition highlights a connection that most don’t want to acknowledge; suddenly, a sad image becomes TOO REAL to handle.
Suddenly, the newspaper fears it will lose readers (i.e. money). Then, of course, “suddenly,” the cartoonist is the source of people’s horror, not the fact that a father and daughter, trying to flee intolerable conditions from one country, drowned in the river before they ever had a chance to be refused entry into another. Fire the cartoonist for making this story TOO CLEAR.
Oh, it’s a matter of “taste” or “timing”? It’s “too much” or “too soon”? Tell that to the families of the people who are dying as they try to escape for and with their lives. What’s TOO SOON and TOO MUCH is the reality of what is happening, not a picture someone drew about it. For Christ’s sake, wake up.