Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Conscience of a Cartoonist

Doug Marlette is my favorite cartoonist. He's one of the most sensitive voices anywhere concerning the hounding of cartoonist's to near extinction. Few professions have ever been so vulnerable to criticism.

Here's a link to what Marlette has to say about the Danish cartoon crisis. He needs to be heard. With the article is one of Marlette's cartoons that subjected him to death threats. Below is an analysis of that cartoon that I sent to one of my friends with the Institute for Interfaith Dialog.

Be advised that Marlette has drawn at least one cartoon that could be considered offensive to Muslims. Here's a link to his website:

In his defense, I would note that his question "What would Mohammed Drive?" is a twist on an evangelical Christian campaign that asked "What would Jesus Drive?"

He has a picture of a Ryder Truck -- which is a twist on the Christian Identity bomber Timothy McVeigh who drove a Ryder Truck with a bomb in it to the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Inside the Ryder Truck is a nuclear missile -- which is what President Bush and evangelicals say is what the "war on terror" is supposed to prevent. The obvious, openly visible missile could be considered to be a subtle critique of Bush's fears about Saddam's hidden WMD -- where are they? Did he rent trucks and move them out of Iraq?

There's no doubt that Marlette's cartoon does lend itself to perpetuating the image of Mohammad as a terrorist. On that score, I criticize him and disapprove of this particular caricature.

When Jerry Falwell called Mohammed a Terrorist, I placed an advertisement in the Norman Transcript challenging him. Here's a link to that advertisement:

Marlette, however, is not like Falwell. He is not trying to paint a one-sided caricature of Islam and Mohammed. He is also caricaturizing America and Christianity.

The cartoon is a very astute critique of America and Christianity. We have our own homegrown extremists who call themselves Christians. We already have nuclear missiles. We have as much to fear from extremist Christians aquiring WMD as we have to fear about extremist Muslims acquiring WMD. Nothing represented in the cartoon about Mohammed in not also true about American Christianity.

The ambiguity of the cartoon is what makes Marlette so effective. He offers a critique of both sides of the controversy.

Unfortunately, sometimes the sublties of what he is doing are not readily apparent to either side.

No comments: