Terrible Political Cartoons, #GamerGate Edition

October 22, 2014

A few months back, Andrew Ferguson* wrote a rather scathing takedown of a HBO documentary on the notoriously dreadful cartoonist Herbert Block. Block's biggest weakness, Andy wrote, was that, well, he couldn't really draw. To make up for this talent deficit, Block would simply label all of his cartoons with the points he was trying to make. Here's Andy:

Thick-lined, weighed down with gray masses, the drawings lumber across the screen, and you have to hit the pause button if you want to read any one of them. Dickensian waifs get labeled "school needs" or "urban needs" or "needs of the poor" or "unmet needs." Businessmen ("Big Business") chomp cigars while four bandits appear labeled, respectively, "gun lobby," "cigarette commercials," "drug industry practices," and "auto industry." Vampire bats sweep across a skyline, their bellies covered in writing: "takeover tactics," "raiders," "greenmail specialists," "junk bond finances," and "stock manipulations." (This must be Wall Street!) And there’s always a caption, too, another 15 or 20 words. "If you don’t get my meaning," Block seems to be saying to his reader, "I’m going to make you sit here until you do."

The critique here has to do with a lack of specificity. A good political cartoonist will try to make a point with the pictures he's drawing by having the pictures actually relate to the issue at hand. A bad political cartoonist will just use generic images, throw a label on them, and pretend that they're making some sort of deep point.

Which brings me to this rather dreadful cartoon that is ostensibly about #GamerGate (background here and here on what, exactly, #GamerGate is) but is so generic it could be about almost anything at all, ever. Here's the cartoon, which appears to have authored by one @MattZetaBaen:

Terrible GamerGate Cartoon

I mean, just consider the depiction of "NEO-REACTIONARIES." While it bears a suspicious resemblance to Randy from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, it's so generic it could be a stand-in for literally anything. That cartoon works just as well with the following labels:

Terrible GamerGate Cartoon 2

Oh man, look! Harry Reid thinks he's controlling the ladies with his "War on Women" rhetoric, but the REAL puppet master is an evil dark money group. I just blew your mind, didn't I, with my logical cartoon and all these truth bombs at my disposal.

Or not. If you have to label your political cartoons for them to make sense, do us all a favor and just give it a rest, okay?

*Andy is a contributor to The Seven Deadly Virtues, a book that you should buy.