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August 16, 2005

Typical Ups And Downs In Bush World

Blittillus400

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)

  • eva

    When we saw this in the paper we had to rub our eyes. It’s given us hope that the New York Times is loosening its editorial grip; or maybe, like the Washington Post, they just smell blood; or perhaps they don’t want to be the last ‘paper of (broken) record’ — “Stay the course, stay the course…” — to stop playing patsy for the Bush PR machine. In any event, we agree that it’s accompanying the Frank Rich column may be signalling ever so slight a shift in the Time’s allegiance: Even editors can read the poll numbers, and W’s aren’t looking so good lately.

  • mugatea

    The press is now more about PR for the powerful than intellectual stimulation for the public. That’s one reason why The Bag is as interesting, or more so, than any print publication out there today.

  • pjr

    It’s becoming increasingly clear, that with the MSM effectively disembowelled by fear of GOP reprisals since the run up to the war, and its now seemingly concerted efforts to protray itself as somehow unbiased, and with more and more people suggesting that they get their news information from the net, or The Daily Show, that mainstream news has made itself obsolete. You can’t be a cheerleader for the war, then hide your face in the sand as events go from bad to worse, and then suddenly emerge and promote yourself as being outraged and egalitarian when it comes to journalistic credibility. Either you’re unbiased from the beginning, or you’re not, and if not, don’t even begin to think you can garner respect from those who’ve witnessed your sellout from the start. The Bag represents the current source of reality, while Dan Rather, Limbaugh, Coulter and O’Reilly are the faces of partisan, corporate bullshit. You reap what you sow baby.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    illustrates quite well “Down is Up-ism” spin.
    but personally, fwiw i find the upside-down version (imho, it should also be reversed left & right) to be the more arresting, compelling editorial comment: it connotes a precarious predicament; in the original illustration, the TV viewer = American public remains comfortable, his ignorance (or, passive willingness to be spun? note his TV has no controls and he wields no remote) a gravity = reality defying bliss.
    still, a fine piece of artwork that needs no text / labels in or outside its frame to be fully understood. rather like Mr. Rich’s editorial, the best thing about it is its one-take title : “Somebody Tell the President that the War is Over” ie., ’nuff said.
    unfortunately, neither editorial comment nor accompanying cartoon, while illustrating well our dilemma ~ offer any solutions for the post-W world : who’s gonna change the channel ?

  • Antaresting

    A great line drawing employs the power to deconstruct reality in order to take another look at it. The elements are so simple, every one gets the point. Or mostly everyone. These artists offer a unique perspective on the public dialogue.

  • http://www.sandpointreader.com Zach

    First off, the obligatory compliments on the site. I just discovered it accidentally about a week ago and it’s quickly become part of my daily routine.
    As to this post in particular, I’ve been an “illustrator” since I was in the sixth grade and worked for several newspapers in that capacity.
    Starting out in the industry I worked for a small town daily and ran up against the editorial desk constantly. Frustrated that my work was always being canned, I counted up the number of toons I did for that paper in a year: over 700. The number that actually ran on the op-ed page: 25. My style may have been rough in those days, but I’m confident that content was more often than not the real motivator.
    I see the pressures exerted on cartoonists as consisting of two major factors: the politics of editors and the politics of advertisers. What editor or publisher is going to devote column inches to a nasty picture of local or national notables (and face possible flack from said notables) when they could be squeezing ad revenue out of it. Simple economics have nearly gutted the very visceral power bequeathed to us by guys like Thomas Nast.
    The only way I could get back into editorial cartooning was to start my own paper — which I’m proud to say feels inches of art serve as great a role as inches of ads.
    Thanks again for the great site. My whole newsroom is addicted to it.

  • erthsister

    Wow. In the upside down version (I mean with everything but the man right side up), the curtains look sooo much like an old polling booth. Hmmm…
    Could be a cautionary tale. This is what happens when you drink and vote. Drinking the kool-aid (taking in the fake-news party-line without critical thought), that is.
    Or: Who is the man behind the curtain? (You’ve seen the poll numbers. You’ve seen the results. You’ve seen the casualities and devastation. Now meet the man responsible for it all! …) Just who is going to step out?
    And is that lamp shedding any light at all??? It’s placed right by the TV like our grandmothers put it there, but is it helping us see and understand any more clearly? I don’t remember seeing an “on” switch.
    The man here seems be be willfully ignoring all evidence around him. Poll results, etc. Looking at the cartoon upside down reinforces that impression for me.
    For instance, even the man’s own necktie should give him a clue. Is he denying/ignoring scientific evidence (gravity) because he likes the other interpretation better?
    This image keeps giving up more ideas the longer I think about it.

  • erthsister

    Wow. In the upside down version (I mean with everything but the man right side up), the curtains look sooo much like an old polling booth. Hmmm…
    Could be a cautionary tale. This is what happens when you drink and vote. Drinking the kool-aid (taking in the fake-news party-line without critical thought), that is.
    Or: Who is the man behind the curtain? (You’ve seen the poll numbers. You’ve seen the results. You’ve seen the casualities and devastation. Now meet the man responsible for it all! …) Just who is going to step out?
    And is that lamp shedding any light at all??? It’s placed right by the TV like our grandmothers put it there, but is it helping us see and understand any more clearly? I don’t remember seeing an “on” switch.
    The man here seems be be willfully ignoring all evidence around him. Poll results, etc. Looking at the cartoon upside down reinforces that impression for me.
    For instance, even the man’s own necktie should give him a clue. Is he denying/ignoring scientific evidence (gravity) because he likes another interpretation better?
    This image keeps giving up more ideas the longer I think about it.

  • Punctuation Nitpicker

    “It’s with this in mind that I was thrilled to see…”
    Correct.
    “But certainly, it more than stood on it’s own.”
    Incorrect.
    No apostrophe in “its” when used as a possessive.
    You may resume your thoughtful and incisive analysis.

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