Cartoon’s use of hate symbol a controversial statement

Editorial cartoons are the visual equivalent of a guest column or a letter to the editor. They are one person’s opinion about a topic of importance in our world. Often, they are amusing, but the primary objective is to make readers think. The cartoonist wants to convince you, to change your mind, or at least to consider things from their perspective. The best ones are provocative. They convey conflict, an inanity or an obvious incongruity.

Last week’s Islander News contained a cartoon from longtime contributor Peter Evans that was timely, topical and effective in conveying a strong point of view. It showed President Trump giving a speech, saying “Chuck the Constitution.” The accompanying text contrasted the First Amendment’s words that people have the right to peaceably assemble, with Trump’s admonition to “dominate” Black Lives Matter demonstrations (some of which have turned violent). “Arrest and try people.”

What some readers have taken strong issue with is the inclusion on Trump’s jacket of a partial swastika – a visceral reminder of the Holocaust, the extermination of six million Jews, and Nazi Germany’s quest for world dominance. Perhaps the most powerful symbol of hate we know, it remains associated with White Power extremists worldwide, including the US -- groups that support the President, and who Trump has refused to condemn.

Given that reality, and the president's authoritarian words that fly in the face of our Constitution, it’s clear why the cartoonist employed that symbol to hammer home his point. It was also heavy handed, inelegant and inadvertently insensitive. The Islander News would likely not invoke it in our editorials. But it is not libelous or slanderous. As with other opinions expressed on this page that we disagree with, we respect the creator’s right to express it.

Tom Clifford

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