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Volume 50 • Number 2

April 2013



Epistemic Misuse and Abuse of Pictorial Caricature

by Christy Mag Uidhir

In 1897, during the "golden age" of the editorial cartoon, New York political boss Thomas Platt spearheaded a campaign in the New York State Legislature to enact legislation banning cartoons from targeting public officials. Though ultimately unsuccessful, this anti-cartoon legislation inspired editorial cartoonist Homer Davenport to draw a cartoon entitled "No Honest Man Need Fear Cartoons" featuring a caricature of "Boss" Platt alongside one of "Boss" Tweed of Tammany Hall infamy. A similar legislative effort by the 1915 Alabama State Legislature was skewered in a Frank Spangler editorial cartoon depicting an Alabama legislator peering into the "Cartoon Mirror" and being startled by the grotesque, sinister-looking caricature reflected back. Presumably, the operative idea behind both pieces is generally that (a) the editorial cartoon, principally via its employ of pictorial caricature, can inform its audience about the world much like its journalistic cousin, editorial writing, and specifically that (b) the corrupt should fear being caricatured in editorial cartoons because pictorial caricature can be revelatory about the nature of its subject, perhaps even on par with, or in a manner unavailable to, the printed word.

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ISSN: 2152-1123