The Red, White and Blue Palette

Telnaes, Ann
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p28
This article presents an excerpt from the speech given by political cartoonist Ann Telnaes spoke at the 2004 Festival of Cartoon Art at Ohio State University. Shortly after the September 11, 2001 bombing, the political satirist Bill Maher made a comment on his television show that the terrorists were not cowards. There was an immediate public outcry, politicians denounced him and the press secretary warned that they are reminders to all U.S. citizens that they need to watch what they say and watch what they do. Even now, three years after the bombing, accusations of anti-Americanism and calls for limitations on free speech continue. After the terrorist attacks, then leading up to and during the Iraq War, many journalists turned into flag-waving cheerleaders. Being human, it was natural that cartoonists had feelings of wanting to band together with their fellow citizens in times of crisis. But as a whole, U.S. editorial cartoonists were slow to break free of flag-waving images. Jingoism colored many cartoons and self-censorship was very evident in the work of cartoonists after the bombings. I believe our role as editorial cartoonists is to question authority and not blindly follow it. Each of us brings to our job an ideological slant. But if in our roles as cartoonists we do not challenge and poke the pompous and the powerful, then all we do is illustrate propaganda. Defending the right of free speech is our first responsibility; it is that constitutional right that enables us to do our job. We do our profession a disservice if we turn a blind eye to our leaders' intimidation of dissent and disregard for the constitutional rights of all U.S. citizens.


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