The Guardian’s Martin Rowson uses slave imagery in cartoon about Obama and U.S. budget deal

There’s a line by Woody Allen’s character, Alvy Singer, in the movie Annie Hall, I’ve always loved:

Allison: I’m in the midst of doing my thesis. 
Alvy Singer: On what? 
Allison: Political commitment in twentieth century literature. 
Alvy Singer: You, you, you’re like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y’know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself. 
Allison: No, that was wonderful. I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype. 
Alvy Singer: Right, I’m a bigot, I know, but for the left. 

That line came to mind when I came across Martin Rowson’s latest work for the Guardian.

First, a little background:

Rowson is the political cartoonist most used by the Guardian.

His views seem to be quite consistent with the Guardian’s ideology and, as an artist, he is, to put it mildly, not someone who has mastered the fine art of subtlety.

A Rowson piece on the 2010 Flotilla episode contextualized the incident by using Biblical imagery to convey what he evidently felt was Israel’s savagery – an included an IDF soldier aiming his automatic weapon at a unicorn. Another soldier is seen stomping a dove of peace to death.

Here is the cartoon titled Biblical Stories Retold“, (and accompanying Guardian headline), which Israelinurse commented on in July of last year.

Now, here’s Rowson’s most recent work, which comments on the U.S. budget deal, and what he evidently feels was the political victory by Republicans and the Tea Party Movement – and the Koch Brothers, American billionaires and outspoken anti-Obama activists who have funded Tea Party Groups. 

First, it’s quite difficult to imagine that Rowson didn’t fully understand the American slavery connotations of depicting a chain tied around the African-American President’s neck – being pulled by a group of white people.

Tea Party activists are simultaneously pulling a chained Obama and pushing the Koch Brothers up a steep hill – at the top of which we see pigs (Rowson’s typical imagery when portraying rich Republicans, reinforced by an image of the animal associated with the GOP, the elephant) pushing corpses into a dirt pit, which is no doubt Rowson’s characteristically subtle allusion to what he feels will be the injurious effects of the (budget-deal) agreement to cut funding from social programs.

While this blog is not concerned with the American political debate, it’s fascinating to observe the depths to which Guardian contributors will go to demonize targets who they see as their political opponents – be they Israelis or simply Americans on the wrong side of the political fence.

Most disturbing, however, is the cartoon’s implicit suggestion either that a black President is acting like a slave by making political concessions to his political opponents or that Republican activists are treating America’s first black President as a slave.

Indeed, the former narrative has been advanced quite explicitly by the extreme left political cartoonist, Carlos Latuff.

Either way, the viciousness and gross racial insensitivity of such imagery is simply undeniable.  

But, as Alvy said, it’s ok, because Rowson’s doing it for the left. 

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