Collateral Damage

Gun Control and the life of an Editorial Cartoonist is no laughing matter. The most shocking information we found was that Cartoonists have been beaten, illegally detained, incommunicado, and have had death threats aimed at them and their families; some even suspected of being assassinated (Cartoonists Rights Network International, 2013). Also surprising was the role the NRA played in fighting for the rights of African Americans to have guns to protect themselves, initially during the Jim Crow law, and then in response to the KKK (Lee, 2013).

The issue of gun control is prevalent, polar, and heated on all sides.  Trying to get people to meet in the middle seems unlikely. Senators Toomy and Manchin worked on a bi-partisan law to which they received a lot of criticism for. This unpopular law was unsurprisingly shutdown in Congress (Morrissey, 2013).

In searching for cartoons regarding gun control it was difficult to find those against it (until you found the right search words). In discussing the tone of these cartoons, we agreed that they weren’t supposed to be unbiased as their job was to grab your attention whether the issue was gun control, same-sex marriage, or who is currently positioning themselves to run for President.

All in all, we hope that the information we have compiled helps the viewer come to appreciate, not just the multiple point of views nor the talent of the cartoonist, but the passion cartoonists have. Our hope is for the reader to come to know that while the media does use framing and other tactics to nudge you in line with their perspective, the organizations and people are passionate about their stance. Being an editorial cartoonist is a serious, and sometimes life-threatening career and so it’s worth the viewer’s effort to pause, and take note, knowing that framing and naming is part of the “game.”

In today’s fast-paced media, especially when it comes to complex political issues, news is often presented in bite-sized snippets like political cartoons. These seem like a good, at-a-glance way to be educated on the latest hot button issue such as gun control. However, in reality they require much more examination and brainpower to fully digest.

Our group found that political cartoons aren’t a convenient lesson on political topics.  Instead, these single-panel comics tended to be incredibly biased and required some thought to see exactly what they are trying to convey. The images may seem benign at first glance, like two kids in toy cars or a man in a bar, but when you pause, and analyze the cartoon it becomes clear through symbolism, labeling, analogy, value-laden words, and similes/metaphors that these illustrations are not only telling the story of a specific side of an issue, but they are using every color in their box of crayons to lure you into the “dark side.”

While some forms of media do indeed cater to the goldfish-attention-spans of today’s society, political cartoons certainly do not. They require thought and an already-functioning knowledge of the issue at hand to truly understand their meaning. In exercising the skills we’ve learned in our Media Smarts class, we’ve come to not only understand the tactics of media, and their bias, but we’ve gained respect for the Cartoonist and compassion for the people and organizations who fight tirelessly for what they believe to be right.

Images and articles used here under Educational Fair Use


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