The New York Times’s decision to drop all editorial cartoons after publishing a controversial cartoon is another body blow to the profession of editorial cartooning. While several of my colleagues from around the world have been imprisoned by autocratic leaders over their work, American editorial cartoonists are protected by our First Amendment from governments looking to silence uncomfortable truths. Unfortunately, that protection doesn’t extend to publications that don’t understand the historical significance of editorial cartoons and their essential role in a free press.
It’s easy to casually dismiss these “cartoons.” After all, just the word cartoon brings up images of reading the comics pages or watching Saturday morning television. But an editorial cartoon is much more than a humorous image. Cartoonists have been threatened, imprisoned and even killed for drawing cartoons criticizing powerful people and institutions. Daumier, Gillray, Nast, Herblock, Mauldin, Conrad and Oliphant all created powerful visuals that were part of the political debate of their times.
This graphic essay was originally published on the Bertelsmann Foundation website.
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