A recent drawing by conservative US cartoonist Glenn McCoy has renewed debate over the purpose of comics journalism, which uses satire to expose the ridiculous or highlight a truth. McCoy’s cartoon, shown above, compares embattled US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with civil rights icon Ruby Bridges. In her first week on the job, DeVos was shouted down by opponents and blocked from visiting a public school. McCoy draws a direct visual connection between that event and artist Norman Rockwell’s famous illustration of 6-year-old Bridges, who was shouted down while being escorted into an all-white school amid desegregation in the 1960’s.
McCoy received scathing criticism for his commentary, which critics say was an unfair comparison of social struggles. In an email to USA Today, the artist said, “I regret if anyone was offended by my choice of metaphors, but my intention was to focus on the protesters being hateful and to open up a dialogue on this point.”
It’s that idea of provocation that spurs the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez, who believes conservatives “ought to be able to voice their opinions” without being called racist. He says, “Editorial cartoons should be smart and substantive, provocative and informative.”
On the other side of the political aisle, Cynthia and Sam Machado’s cartoon critique of US President Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries is getting international attention. The drawing received 30,000 retweets and more than 28,000 likes. Their cartoon shows Lady Justice, a symbol of the US justice system, keeping Trump from attacking the Statue of Liberty. The caption above Lady Justice’s head reads, “I got this.” Cynthia told BuzzFeed, “I think too many people have been posting pictures of Lady Liberty getting dragged through the mud, and I thought somebody should stand up for her.”
But do editorial cartoons enrich political debates or deepen divides? We’ll ask the Machados and cartoonists Michael Ramirez and Mike Lester, when they join this episode of The Stream.