Contrary to the opinions of a few in the local community, political cartoons are at the foundation of American culture. Politicians who cannot stomach a caricature or ridicule are in the wrong business in the wrong country. Americans are brash, rude, offensive and loud. Our way of life demands it, our politics are the product of debate, confrontation and insults. Humor has been used for over two hundred years as a method of “petitioning the government for a redress of grievances” along with exercising freedom of speech and the press all in one package.
Benjamin Franklin’s “Join or Die”, which depicts a snake whose severed parts represent the Colonies, is acknowledged as the first political cartoon in America. The image had an explicitly political purpose from the start, as Franklin used it in support of his plan for an inter-colonial association to deal with the Iroquois at the Albany Congress of 1754. It came to be published in “virtually every newspaper on the continent”; reasons for its widespread currency include its demagogic reference to an Indian threat as well as its basis in the popular superstition that a dead snake would come back to life if the pieces were placed next to each other Franklin’s snake is significant in the development of cartooning because it became an icon that could be displayed in differing variations throughout the existing visual media of the day– like the “Don’t Tread on Me” battle flag– but would always be associated with the singular causes of colonial unity and the Revolutionary spirit. In the same way that Biblical stories are an element of shared culture, “Join or Die” became a symbol to which all Americans could respond. Even though the Albany Congress was a failure, Franklin’s snake had established a connection between a drawing and a specific political idea in the American imagination. – Source: A Brief History of Political Cartoons – University of Virginia.
Satire has exploded over the last few years by virtue of the internet, cable or satellite television. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, the National Lampoon and the Onion are dedicated to political satire. Parody has received special consideration by the highest court in the land: In Hustler Magazine v. Falwell (1988), the Court extended the “actual malice” standard to intentional infliction of emotional distress in a ruling which protected parody, in this case a fake advertisement in Hustler suggesting that evangelist Jerry Falwell‘s first sexual experience had been with his mother in an outhouse. Since Falwell was a public figure, the Court ruled that “importance of the free flow of ideas and opinions on matters of public interest and concern” was the paramount concern, and reversed the judgment Farwell had won against Hustler for emotional distress. – Source Wikipedia.
Make certain, we have not turned a new leaf nor retired. Mississippi did not secede; Diamondhead remains part of the Union. We are still Americans and will strenuously exercise our freedom of speech whenever we choose with great vigor. To those thin skinned politicians that don’t get the rules of the game they are in: If you can’t stand the heat, who in the hell asked to you come in the kitchen?