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Dessin de Daryl Cagle, 11 septembre 2001

 

C. Lamb received his Ph.D. in Mass Communication from Bowling Green State University in 1995. at the University of Tennessee in 1995. His dissertation was called, "Drawing the Limits of Political Cartoons in America: The Courtroom and the Newsroom." His dissertation became the foundation for his book published in 2004, "Drawn to Extremes: The Use and Abuse of Editorial Cartoons in the United States." (Columbia University Press).Lamb is a professor of communication at the college of Charleston. 

 

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Dessin de Daryl Cagle, 13 septembre 2001

 

 

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Dessin de Daryl Cagle, 17 septembre 2001


Facing a disaster such as the one of September 11th, how did most of the American cartoonists react?

Most of the cartoonists predictably responded with weeping Statues of Liberty and with defiant Uncle Sams, or with American bald eagles sharpening their talons to avenge the attacks. 

 

Do you think that the global patriotic reaction which followed the attack killed the critical spirit of the American cartoonists?

Yes, and I can only speak for the United States, but some of this reaction is understandable. The terrorist attacks were so unexpected, so catastrophic, and so gut-wrenching, that one couldn't blame the cartoonists for responding as they did. For a few days or a week. Then it was necessary for the cartoonists to get back to satire. But too many of them continued to give us mawkish sentimentality and even propaganda, which, of course, isn't the job of a satirist. The tragedy, I think, separated the editorial cartoonists--or satirists--from the cartoonists.  Joel Pett of the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader said that President Bush told the American people to get back to work. And so, Pett said he went back to attacking Bush because "what I do is attack Bush." 

 

You wrote in your book that a cartoonist (Ted Rall) said that the stereotyped symbols used by the cartoonists at these times were just the ones of "lazy editorial cartoonists". What do you think of this assertion?

I can certainly understand Rall's response. However, I can understand any cartoonist, who, having watched airplanes crash into the Twin Towers and seen pictures of many of those killed, decided they needed to take a break from striking out at their fellow human beings. 

 

Did some published cartoons in USA create trouble for the cartoonists who refused to follow the "politically correct" attitude?

I'm not sure I'd characterize the notion that anyone who criticized the government was running afoul of "political correct" speech. Anyone who criticized the Bush Administration was merely running afoul of the Bush Administration--and critics who attacked cartoonists were doing so because the cartoonist had dared criticize the Bush Administration. The United States was founded on protest and, therefore, nothing is more American than protest. In fact, the United States was founded on the principle that it wasn't just permissible to criticize the government, it was necessary in a democracy to criticize the government. The Bush Administration and its defenders on the far right advanced the un-American idea that any criticism of the Bush Administration was un-American. Such an argument, however, was historically wrong and ran afoul of America tradition and ideology. The administration, to their credit--or discredit--was enormously successful in silencing their critics. Any cartoonist who dared express an opinion that criticized the Bush Administration received an inbox of vicious e-mails, found feweer outlets to publish their cartoons, or, in the worst cases, lost their job. In my book, I quoted Joel Pett who said after he drew a cartoon that criticized the Bush Administration and received a phone call from what appeared to be an elderly woman , who "spat into the phone and said, 'you should've been in the World Trade Center." Pett then added, "Such is the power of the cartoon when unleashed."

 

Was there censorship after September 11th?

Of course, both directly and indirectly. Many cartoonists censored themselves for fear of a backlash. In other cases, editors censored cartoonists by killing drawings that might provoke reader anger. In the most egregious examples, the Bush Administration attacked individual satirists, like television comic Bill Maher, who lost his job after criticizing the administration. The Bush Administration made it clear that no criticism of the government would be permitted. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told the American people that they "needed to watch what they say." When one cartoonist working a small newspaper in New Hampshire drew a cartoon criticizing the administration, Fleischer attacked the cartoonist, who received death threats and found few newspapers willing to publish his work. The Bush Administration, to its everlasting outrage, took advantage of the tragedy to suppress its critics.  

 

In France a famous daily satiric TV Show (Les Guignols de l'info) was not broadcasted in the September 11th evening.

Did some American humorists or cartoonists choose not to express themselves in the days following this event? Probably, and I can understand if they didn't feel right criticizing the government immediately after September 11. I know that Garry Trudeau, who draws the terrific comic strip, Doonesbury, announced he would refrain from criticicizing Bush for a brief period. But then, after a week or so, he returned to criticizing Bush.

 

How Internet did change the cartoonists' attitude and reaction in the face of this kind of events?

It makes it possible for cartoonists to get their work out without any editorial filter. This can be good. But it can also be bad if the cartoonist is merely trying to offend. This rarely provides inspiring work.

 

What should be the role of editorial cartoons in this kind of exceptional situation?

Cartoonists are supposed to keep a jaundiced eye on the democracy and those threatening it, whether the threats come from outside or inside the country.

 

Remarks collected by Catherine Charpin.

 

Voir également les galeries de dessins "commémoratifs" du site Cagle cartoons et Courrier international


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