Political cartoons expose the hypocrisy of politicians. They remind us every day that we are being led by people with truly bad judgment. They amuse us because we know they are accurate. They use exaggeration to drill through to reality. They are altogether positive.
They are also useful for teaching the modern history of the United States. I am working on a course for the Ron Paul Curriculum on U.S. history. What if I could include lots of cartoons? The students would benefit.
Because of the World Wide Web, and because of search engines, it is now possible to find more information about more things than ever before in history of man. Nobody could have foreseen this in 1993. Fundamentally, we are in the midst of an educational revolution that will change the way people learn. Given the fact that translation software is going to get better, we are soon going to be able to access information published almost anywhere in the world, and read this information in our own languages. Again, nothing like this has been possible in the past. There is no way that this is not going to change the legal and political structures of every society. The ability of the gatekeepers to keep out information is in the process of disintegration.
Yet in one area we have made almost no progress whatsoever: accessing old political cartoons. There is more condensed information in a political cartoon than in almost any other form of communication that is available to the general public.
First, there is an artistic aspect to it that is possessed by very few people. Second, there is the ability to make connections between visual images and contemporary events. Again, almost nobody possesses this ability. The number of political cartoonists who have any real effect on the thinking of literate Americans is minimal. I suspect that this is probably under a dozen people over the last three decades. (How many can you name?)
Unlike our memories of words, phrases, dates, names, and so forth, we cannot use search tools to find a specific political cartoon. There are cartoons that I would love to be able to locate. I can’t. Who wants to put them on the Web? Even if somebody did, how would I search for a cartoon? In any case, I have forgotten most of them.
Political cartoons are very short-run tools of persuasion. They hit a particular issue, and the issue may be dead in a month. The number of cartoons devoted to this issue may be dozens. Because of the World Wide Web, all of these cartoons are available today. It is not like it was two decades ago, when local newspapers would buy cartoons from one or two political cartoonists, and then publish the cartoons on the editorial page.
Problem: we can’t track one down. We forget.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)