Political cartoonists are one of the bulwarks we have against Goebbelsian propaganda machines. But they become fewer and fewer each year as political criticism gives way to authoritarian dictates. Trump started out being characterized as a buffoon. He was taken to task for being a “moron.” Now it is clear that he is an existential threat to our democratic republic. He is supported by 80% of those in the hollowed out shell of a once great political party - in spite of the well-documented fact that he lies about 7 times per day, and that number increases by the day.
Trump’s latest lie is to blame the Democrats for his own “zero tolerance” policy that forcibly separates children from their mothers. Separated at the Border From Their Parents: In Six Weeks, 1,995 Children, the NY Times reports.
"I hate the children being taken away,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Friday morning in front of the White House. “The Democrats have to change their law — that’s their law.”
A short time later, he wrote on Twitter, “The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda.”
But Mr. Trump was misrepresenting his own policy. There is no law that says children must be taken from their parents if they cross the border unlawfully, and previous administrations have made exceptions for those traveling with minor children when prosecuting immigrants for illegal entry. A “zero tolerance” policy created by the president in April and put into effect last month by the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, allows no such exceptions, Mr. Trump’s advisers say.
Remember that Goebbels also said “The truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
How can all that be anything other than a target of political cartoonists?
What authoritarians have in common is to view the free press and its reporters and opinionators as their enemy. Trump fits that mold. After meeting with North Korean dictator, Trump calls press America’s ‘biggest enemy’. Left unchecked, it’s only a matter of time until the free press, the people’s voice, is gradually silenced, ground down under the jack-boots of Trump the dictator and his Gobbelsian propagandists. Here is an example.
Fired political cartoonist Rob Rogers tells his story in a NY Times op-ed: I Was Fired for Making Fun of Trump.
After 25 years as the editorial cartoonist for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I was fired on Thursday.
I blame Donald Trump.
Well, sort of.
I should’ve seen it coming. When I had lunch with my new boss a few months ago, he informed me that the paper’s publisher believed that the editorial cartoonist was akin to an editorial writer, and that his views should reflect the philosophy of the newspaper.
That was a new one to me.
I was trained in a tradition in which editorial cartoonists are the live wires of a publication — as one former colleague put it, the “constant irritant.” Our job is to provoke readers in a way words alone can’t. Cartoonists are not illustrators for a publisher’s politics.
When I was hired in 1993, The Post-Gazette was the liberal newspaper in town, but it always prided itself on being a forum for a lot of divergent ideas. The change in the paper did not happen overnight. From what I remember, it started in 2011, with the endorsement of the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor, which shocked a majority of our readership. The next big moment happened in late 2015, when my longtime boss, the editorial page editor, took a buyout after the publisher indicated that the paper might endorse Mr. Trump. Then, early this year, we published openly racist editorials.
Things really changed for me in March, when management decided that my cartoons about the president were “too angry” and said I was “obsessed with Trump.” This about a president who has declared the free press one of the greatest threats to our country.
After so many years of punch lines and caricatures, skewering mayors and mullahs, the new regime at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette decided that The Donald trumped satire when it came to its editorial pages.
Our own “ink slinger”, David Fitzsimmons, has a lot to say about The travails of a fellow ink slinger silenced for doing his job.
Rob’s nightmare began when Block Communications, the owner of the Post-Gazette, promoted a Trump disciple, Keith Burris, to the position of communications vice president, editor, editorial director.
“MAGA propaganda minister” would be a more precise title.
The first clue the Post-Gazette was radically shifting appeared in January when Burris penned a bizarre editorial, “Reason as Racism.” It was panned by readers as the intellectually disingenuous work of a Trump apologist. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh called the piece “extraordinary in its mindless, sycophantic embrace of racist values and outright bigotry espoused by this country’s president.”
Then Burris began pulling Roger’s powerful anti-Trump cartoons. A tsunami of complaints flooded the newsroom, and protesters appeared outside the building. Indifferent to the rabble, Burris bore down on transforming a once-great American newspaper’s editorial pages into a propaganda sheet for the president, the petulant boy king who just this week called the press “America’s greatest enemy.”
These are perilous times for voices like Rob Rogers; times that moved the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists to issue this statement: “We take this opportunity to remind all editorial page editors that their responsibility is to the readers (among whom in Pittsburgh, Rogers cartoons are wildly popular) and to the open and ongoing search for truth in contending opinions. The editorial pages are a public forum, not a members-only private resort in Florida.”
As the president’s ratings creep up, the lickspittles in Congress line up to kiss Trump’s ring, the right-wing media machine beats its mighty chest and the president’s satirical critics are hammered, I wish the talented Mr. Rogers continued success in spite of the terrible challenges ahead. The same goes for our democratic republic.