Somebody please give me a better explanation of this cartoon (via Olaf):
Because all I'm coming up with is racism and authoritarianism.
Apparently, this editorial cartoon -- which ran in the Hamilton Spectator -- was in response to the Supreme Court's ruling against the "security certificates" section of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001.
First of all, the obvious: the terrorists are all turban-clad bearded men, leaving us no guesswork as to whom the artist considers the biggest threat to Canadian security today. Is it too much to ask people to remember that in one of the most prominent occasions that the Canadian government has reponded to a terrorist threat, it was from white francophones? The FLQ crisis is also relevant because, yes, it shows how arbitrary the state can be when it comes through your living room. How about the fact that the last time armed Canadian soldiers were deployed domestically it was at Oka?
Now, the artist shows the terrorists being caught -- protected -- by the Charter, apparently because a cartoon of Beverly McLachlin french-kissing a bearded swarthy male was too hard to draw. But the contempt is obvious -- the Charter is protecting terrorists and putting good Canadians at risk. As if it weren't clear enough, the words "it's all fun and games" makes it clear how little the artist actually thinks about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- something trifling, amusing, but ultimately dangerous if taken too far.
It's difficult to interpret this cartoon in any kind of decent light. Basically, we're being told to surrender, in law, basic freedoms from arbitrary state power. Or else They Will Kill Us. One of the cornerstones of present Canadian democracy is positively dangerous. The terrorist threat is so dangerous that a basic aspect of our politics needs to be changed -- or maybe abandoned outright?
This is why Oka, or the FLQ crisis, are relevant. Yes, if Canadians are ever subject to terrorist attacks in the future, the Charter will defend the accused (assuming they make it to trial, unlike the London or 9/11 criminals.) But the two examples above show that we actually don't know who the state will end up rounding up on any given day. The War Measures Act was passed in 1914, when the biggest threat facing Canada was... Kaiser Wilhelm II. Yet it was used to intern Ukrainians in WWI, the Japanese in WWII, and against the people of Quebec in 1970.
The War Measures Act is gone, and it's replacement is now subject to the Charter. If we are truly fortunate, the Government of Canada will never repeat the old mistakes of the WMA. This is due to the simple fact that Mackay (the artists of this cartoon) wants you to forget: the Charter doesn't just protect the accused -- it protects us all.
But it's just a cartoon, right? No. Wrong, wrong, wrong. There is a long, storied, and (sometimes literally) colorful history of editorial cartoons being used to propagate paranoid, authoritarian and racist "memes" going back at least as far as the French Revolution, and perhaps further (my reading only goes so far.) Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) got his start writing left-wing editorial cartoons in the 1930s, that occasionally veered into virulent anti-Japanese racism. (See the excellent book "Dr. Seuss goes to war.") Political cartoons are incredibly effective means of rhetoric, because they are simple yet symbolically dense. Just look at how verbose I've had to be to analyze this one. The same process happens in a few seconds of glancing at it, but it happens deep in our lizard brains. And it is clearly meant to elicit an unreasoned, irrational political response.
A few years back, right-wing bloggers took to calling themselves "South Park Republicans", which made me laugh. The whole idea of associating your ideology with an (admittedly funny) cartoon, whose sole political content usually comes from a two-minute monologue at the end of an episode full of scatological humour seemed to be an exercise in delegitimizing your own side. Cartoons are obviously not only a right-wing phenomena, but the right really did adopt South Park as a touchstone for a while.
In the broader context, this is the kind of communication that is being repeated -- propagated -- by the right. I don't think Olaf is an authoritarian/fascist/racist/Nazi for putting it up on his site. In fact, it's jarring how the cartoon he used as a pictorial headline contrasts with his otherwise reasoned and informing post beneath it.
But Olaf: Did you consider not putting it up?