The Anatomy of an Editorial Cartoon:

This post by Joe Malchow is pretty neat--it shows alternative editorial cartoons drawn by the same artist, conveying three different perspectives on the balance between "civil liberties" and "national security," drawn from liberal, conservative, and centrist perspectives.

Defending the Indefensible:
Each cartoon, viewed on its own, convinces beyond any doubt that Gregory holds that position to the absolute exclusion of the other two. Yet his one hand crafted all three.
I'm afraid I cannot agree. There is a clearly similar perspective to all three cartoons, inasmuch as they consistently show liberty in opposition to safety. Whereas a civil libertarian would not presume that surrendering freedom makes us safer at all.
1.27.2006 11:19am
Justin (mail):
I agree with DtI. I also think some of Machow's statements are absurd. If he doesn't understand how authoritarianism could lead to the collapse of empires, he needs to go back to high school and retake history class. Or does he assume that any form of government that has lasted for 250 years will last forever?
1.27.2006 12:28pm
The analysis of each cartoon is interesting. I'd like to know how much of it is informed by the artist's commentary on what he was trying to convey and how much is Joe's take on the cartoon.

I wonder about the conception of what makes one a 'centrist'. From the description of the 'centrist' cartoon we have:
This is the centrist view: the futility and fatality of infighting while a foreign enemy, a real and deadly one, lurks. There is undoubtedly a debate to be had about balancing the two demands of security and privacy. But, this cartoon says, it can be had later.

Can such a debate really be had later when (perhaps) something needs to be done now? What is to happen in the meantime?

I think the centrist position is to encourage an ongoing debate on how to balance the needs of both security and civil liberty.

And from analysis of the 'left' cartoon:

Left unexplained (by both the cartoon and civil liberty demagogues on the left) is how a breakdown of such protections at the admitted bolstering of defensive and offensive ability is considered by Islamists to be a positive return.

Well, here's a simple-minded (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) explanation: if the terrorists hate our freedoms (as the Bush administration has repeated many times), they would be happy if our freedoms were restricted. Sure it may be tougher to inflict physical damage, but at least one object of their hatred would be eliminated/curtailed.

Of course, the real issue is whether or not the 'left' cartoon really reflects the view of those on the left. I'm not sure it does.
1.27.2006 12:35pm
mike weber (mail) (www):
Liberty is not shown in opposition to safety. Liberty is shown in opposition to "National Security", as in such wonders of recent years as the "Patriot Act" (somehow the song "Patriot Game" comes to mind...) and "Homeland Security"... and, of course, unauthorised NSA wiretaps.

A lot of people -- more on the Left than the Right, true, but hardly exclusively so -- beg leave to doubt that such measures and agencies indeed lead to actual safety.

One would find it difficult to fault the credentials as patriot and champion of freedom of the man who said "They who are willing to give up essential liberties for the sake of some temporary security will soon find that they have neither."
1.27.2006 12:40pm
Mike Z (mail) (www):
Poor Ben Franklin keeps getting brought up. The least we could do is repeat what he actually wrote, rather than what we'd rather he wrote: 'They that can give up essential freedom to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.'

The keys here are "essential", "little", and "temporary". Today we are not talking about giving up essential freedom. Michael Moore and his ilk (like Sheehan and Belafonte) are still free as birds to waddle around disparaging their - and our - country.

And the safety we seek is neither little nor temporary.
1.27.2006 2:44pm
Wintermute (www):
Check out the toons in my post, "History Repeats Itself," with a link to many more of Herblock's. You can't be too obscure in that medium, although there are historical examples with a lot of meaning intended in details.
1.27.2006 2:47pm
JW (mail):
Did any one else get the sense that the "conservative" cartoon didn't convey the message it meant to? To me, it looks like "National Security" is attacking "Civil Liberties" (not the other way around), while "Civil Liberties" is looking over his shoulder and pleading with "National Security" to pay attention to the real terrorist threat.
1.27.2006 3:43pm
Defending the Indefensible:
JW, I didn't see the "conservative" one that way, but such a depiction probably would be more consonant with the actual civil libertarian position.
1.27.2006 6:47pm
George Gregg (mail):
JW, interesting. It actually does look like National Security is the aggressor in the "Conservative" cartoon. Or, at least, it's a confused tableau. Security has his arms tightly entwined around Liberties' back. You don't do that if you're fending off an aggressor.

For that matter, and given the puzzling shift to blue jeans, the embrace looks almost homoerotic. Which would bring another, perhaps broader, interpretation to explain the Conservative concern with Civil Liberties' obstruction of National Security in this cartoon.
1.29.2006 11:41am