New Yorker rolls on…

Christian Adams has written a thoughtful analysis of the New Yorker cartoon, for the Telegraph.

He expands on the context issue which he mentions in the comments to my previous post on the subject, and it’s well worth a read.
It’s a good argument in many ways, but it seems to me a rather defeatist one in the end. He makes a valid comment that the reason for the entire row is confusion of message and context. That is undoubtedly right. However what comes next troubles me:

As a stand-alone image on the web, it really could be some Right-wing website or magazine’s propaganda. But it doesn’t really matter – it’s a cartoon of Obama worshipping anti-American terrorism. Take it how you want to. The uncomfortable truth is that, outside of its context, this cartoon doesn’t work

That last line makes me think: “So what?”
Isn’t saying that the cartoon doesn’t work out of context because non-New Yorker readers might not get the irony, a bit like me saying that Le Monde is a rubbish newspaper because my French is poor – AND it writes about an awful lot of stuff that those of us who live in England frankly don’t care about?

To say that the cartoon doesn’t work out of context, surely is just an artificial way of justifying unwarranted criticism of a perfectly decent bit of work…isn’t it?
Remember, it’s a cover cartoon. Commissioned by The New Yorker. To go on the front of the magazine. So why should it be judged as anything else?

It is defeatist argument because it implies that all cartoonists – in the three second window we have to grab the reader – should go for the lowest common denominator in order to convey something everyone understands.

We can’t always measure quality against popular appreciation.
We should aim to make our work accessible, yes, but the quality of a cartoonist’s work is not diminished because people who don’t watch much news – but happen to come across a cartoon online – don’t get it!

It might be that Christian has only set out to explain why we’re debating this, and not much else. But with the headline stating quite categorically that “The New Yorker Obama cartoon is a failure,” he is lowering the bar awfully far, for what can be deemed a success!


Read Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell’s take on the cartoon here.

For a more comprehensive analysis of the entire affair, cartoonist Martin Rowson’s article here.


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3 Responses to “New Yorker rolls on…”

  1. Adams Says:

    Don’t want to bang on about this too much but…
    Firstly, and I think everyone will know, I didn’t write the headline. They took my quote “The uncomfortable truth is that, outside of its context, this cartoon doesn’t work” and edited it to just the last four words.
    Second, yes, I was attempting only to discuss why the internet can denude cartoons, or any comment or image, of its original irony. As Martin agrees, I think:
    “By attacking the cartoon, they’ve guaranteed that it’s now been yanked irreversibly from the context where irony could be any kind of defence at all and, thanks to the internet, into a far wider arena”.
    Steve Bell’s point that “cartoons don’t work as shopping lists of points to be made with labels tacked on to clarify things for the culturally deprived” is also relevant, as there surely is a ‘label’ here – the New Yorker masthead, and hence, the magazine and all it stands for. Context.
    Anyway, it’s all excellent publicity for us cartoonists.

  2. poldraw Says:


  3. Recent URLs tagged Terrorism - Urlrecorder Says:

    […] Recent public urls tagged “terrorism” → New Yorker rolls on… […]

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