Cartoons, Dudus and politics in the media
HITLER... even he was discomfited more by cartoonists than enemies.

GOD bless Clovis! He eases the burden of the present insanity. If prescriptions for heart attack, anxiety, insomnia, and high blood pressure doubled and no one had sex in the last year, I would not be surprised. It's a harrowing time. Why do our leaders do this to us? Cartoons are therapeutic. The Dudus saga is dark, but Clovis brightens our lives. The cartoon is the ultimate press freedom. To express complex emotion using an image of face and body in two dimensions is great. Few lines, fewer words, memorable message! It reaches even the illiterate and the young. We have a rich cartoon heritage. I remember my dad deep in the pages of the Gleaner laughing out loud at Leandro's cartoon on some politicial faux pas. It's Clovis's time now!

Doonesbury, Peanuts, the Simpsons are dark, didactic, social marketing cartoons worthy of a doctoral thesis. But they also work as slapstick. The educated get all the messages and all get the fun part. The cartoon without words is sheer genius! Cartoons are a voice for the voiceless. Our rulers will not account to us, but we can laugh at our venal political masters through cartoons, as our ancestors did the slave masters in song and chant. It is an underused genre with a lot of potential.

The 'toonist works with expression, symbol and stereotype. In a Pub quiz I had to name a president and the clue was a big cigar between voluptuous lips — yes, him! A nobody is never cartooned. If you are 'tooned you have arrived — for good or ill! Bush was a natural; his idiot smile and malapropism was grist for 'toonists. Physical markers as Obama's long face, mawga man PJ, round-face Bruce, big-hair Portia are prime for a cartoonist's pencil. From our decoupage he uses the flaw all will recognise to capture our essence without words. Comedy and ridicule can bring self-important politicians down to earth. Even Hitler was discomfited more by cartoonists than enemies. Cartoons can go where words fear to tread! As a graphics journalist, Clovis proves that a cartoon is worth a thousand words. The law may muzzle the wordsmith, the cartoonist is more elusive!

Press politics

We were taught to stand up, speak up, be enterprising. But when we do, we hear, "Mind what you doin', careful, dem man deh nuh joke! Watch out!" Many politicians intimidate writers and stifle investigation. We have the form of democracy but little substance. Here "proactive" is a bad word. Greg Christie's sin? "Overzealous" for the public good! What? Sir, we stand shoulder to shoulder with you! JLP politicians hold the handle but they are in trouble. This is a new time! The UK's new PM is to unshackle the media. Last week Justice Minister Lord McNally said, "Freedom of speech is the foundation of democracy. We need investigative journalism and scientific research to be able to flourish without fear of unfounded, lengthy and costly defamation and libel cases being brought against them." Can we stay with the UK Privy Council? Please!

The press did a good job on the Dudus issue, our most damaging since 1962. But who sacrificed objectivity on the altar of loyalty? You tell me! Consider these points:

* What is news? Dudus was no news. Can a don, son of a don, known for years, trump a news story of a powerful man "oofa 'ed tek im"? Which one is news? Dudus is passé, Were you surprised? No! Bruce was and is news; we have never had so many major conflicts of interest around one person! Yet, some lost focus and missed the scoop!

* Objectivity and balance. Are some writers insecure? Why dilute a fresh story of JLP misdeeds with an old tale of PNP failing? Politics? Laziness? Did you not flog the PNP back then? Some are so concerned about their image they fail to treat with the new issue and by specious comparison degrade news. Is this balance? Your piece is not about you! You are not news! And balance is not in one isolated article. To report 9/11 and balance it with tales of past US injustice to Arabs is to pervert news. To dilute Bruce's boob with PNP acts well ventilated as past news is to con the public. The Lewin issue suffers journalist schizophrenia too. Can the judgement of a 40-year security expert who left and was invited back be trumped in his field by a tyro who is implicated in the issue and also a politician? Does high office trump deep expertise? To seek balance is wrong! You can't square this circle. Only one outcome is logical — the expert's opinion must prevail!

* Politics history. Some writers stir and trace, using old tales below evidence grade. The under 45s, our change makers, don't care for this "play-play" history! Who invented the garrison? Issued the first gun? This is of no use in scaling the barriers to growth and security. Anecdote is not analysis. Tales of the70s, 80s and 90s are irrelevant to our youth; only the over 60s relate to them. Our youth act on today's reality and tomorrow's opportunity. One young writer said he felt intimidated — he had no pithy old tales to saffron a column. Write, my young friend! By the time you have tales it's time to pass the baton!

* Image and language. A photo of a military grade machine gun and tripod was in the press some weeks ago. This weapon is not here. Why was it important to carry the photo? To condition us to accept official brutality? Was the press used? Some writers glamorise common criminals as "insurgents and combatants". Why? Too much CNN on the brain?

* Standards. Do we have set standards? Or are they relative? Is our moral measure who did worse than whom? Why refer to the PNP in Dudus reports? Grasping at straws? To score points? Is the PNP the benchmark for our conduct? If we have none of our own, why not copy standards of our developed friends whose lifestyle we so adore?

* Romanticising poverty and crime. The media is in love! The poor can do no wrong! Yet, the poor victim wailing on TV is no more hurt than the middle-class victim who craves privacy. They "big up" the don, his mother (Hitler's mother loved him too), his generosity — school fees, doctor money, etc, and so the boy learns a lesson which the school cannot erode! Proceeds of crime schooled him, so he knows crime pays! Stay conscious!

World Cup

Our neighbour, the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, about our size, is pro rata the best performer in the history of the World Cup. Their population is 80 per cent mestizo, literate — first to achieve one laptop per child, high transparency, GDP; and they have won two and placed fourth in three World Cups; won gold in World Club and Olympic football. Clearly, size does not matter. We have a lot to talk to them about. Let's start quickly!

Dr Franklin Johnston is an international project manager with Teape-Johnston Consultants, currently on assignment in the UK.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at


  1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
  2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
  3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
  4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
  5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:
  6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:
  7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy