Fair game..?


The job of a political cartoonist is to question, mock and cynically expose those in authority.
We should avoid criticizing anyone who are in no position to retaliate.
But what if you’re attacking a social issue?

When it comes to the debate on so-called social breakdown I – being a foreigner after all – probably have an outsider’s view of British society. A good thing and a bad thing, I’m sure.
For me one of the most glaring features of the whole sorry affair is the extent to which people let themselves be perceived as victims of a failing society, and how in many cases society lets them.
The same applies to people’s relationship with the state. That is not to say that there aren’t real victims, but many of those who portray themselves as such undoubtedly are not.

Whether they are genuine victims or not, the general idea that the state or the wider society is responsible for individuals’ misfortune is extraordinarily prevalent among surprisingly large parts of the population.

Absence of personal responsibility inevitably leads to a stagnation in social mobility, mistrust, envy, crime etc, and people subsequently turn to the state for cures. As a result we get increasingly authoritarian governments – obsessed with the micro management of everything the population expects them to tackle.

Cue targets, short-termism and spin – diminished civil liberties and draconian ad hoc laws.
Cue inescapable political failure an social upheaval.

So, if the job of a political cartoonist is to question and mock authority, these are good times.
There is a lot of authority to attack, and a lot of failure to mockingly wallow in.

Maybe that’s why we rarely see much social commentary in editorial/political cartoons in Britain. The focus is on politicians, their intrigues and shortcomings.

I felt slightly uncomfortable doing the cartoon above. The fact that I didn’t challenge authority but a social problem made me look moralistic. That’s an unpleasant place to be.
It wasn’t so much the idea itself though, but the fact that it could be perceived as an attack on a certain grouping of society. People very much on other side of political power.
The backdrop of knife crime made me chose the most obvious, easily recognizable group to illustrate absence of personal responsibility.
Would it have been more acceptable to do an idea using middle or upper class people?
(If so, why?)

Is it ever fair game to challenge someone who are not in authority? Can social issue in itself become so “powerful” that it legitimises mockery – even though it by implication attacks people who aren’t?

(…or is it perhaps better to stay well clear of anything that can be perceived to be moralizing – purely for the fact that it makes for trite cartoons? )


One Response to “Fair game..?”

  1. cloudedyellow Says:

    Hi Morten

    I agree with everything you have said – it is uncomfortable, but I’m afraid it’s also necessary. In creating cartoons such as this you are not only critical of certain social attitudes, but also the system and hence the politicians and the whole political system, which has allowed these attitudes to exist and thrive. So in a less direct way this cartoon is more scathing of our politicians than the usual lampooning of individuals in specific circumstances. Personally I think we need more of this type of visual comment.

    Best wishes

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