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The Impact and Import of Cartooning and Caricature as a Medium of Expression of Opinion

by williamgurumayum
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Contd. from yesterday issue

Impact and Import of Cartoon and Caricature:
Despite the perception in some quarters that cartoons constitute an important medium for framing social issues, they are often dismissed on the grounds of political absurdity and ideological insignificance. Cartoons are seen as offering just “passing chuckles” rather than any “deep reflection” on social issues. The perception may be related to the cartoon’s discursive spatial limitation and its very nature s a visual mode of communication. Visual modes of communication are deemed deficient in performing analytical communication.
Chris Lamb’s book, Drawn to Extremes : The Use and Abuse of Editorial Cartoons in the United States, paints a picture of the shrinking role of editorial cartoonists who are increasingly sidelined by a newspaper industry focused on the bottom-line. However, the recent Jyllands  -Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy in Denmark, which sparked violent protests around the world, speak to the continuing important and potential media scholars still see cartoons as an important medium for the formation of public opinion on salient social issues. They are seen as both opinion-molding and opinion-reflecting. Cartoons are intended to transform otherwise complex and opaque social events and situations into quick and easily readable depictions that facilitate comprehension of the nature of social issues and events. In doing so, they present society with visually social issues and events. In doing so, they present society with visually palpable and hyper-ritualized depictions (selectively exaggerated portions of reality) that attempt to reveal the essence and meaning of social events.
There are four main functions of editorial cartoons : an entertainment function, which derives from the ability of cartoons to make us laugh at situations and individuals; an aggression-reduction function, which derives from the fact that cartoons provide a symbolic avenue for the public to vent its frustrations against social leaders; an agenda-setting function, through providing readers with a sense of the most salient issues and topics in society; and a framing function, the product of its spatial limitation (its condensed nature) and therefore its need to distill complex social issues into a single frame that captures the essence of an issue. Editorial cartoons, as an integral part of the media, also play an important role in this process. While they occupy a very limited space in the print media, they are considered as playing a very important role in the editorial content of newspaper.
In a public opinion poll published on web portal worldpublicopinion.org on 16 February, 2006 after analysis of a series of national public opinion polls conducted in the wake of the cartoon controversy of Prophet Muhammad in Denish newspaper Zyllands Posten, Angela Stephens wrote in her article : Publics in Western Countries Disapprove of Muhammad Cartoons that “the prevailing attitude across several Western nations – Norway, Britain, France, the United State and Australia – is that while the media have the right to publish the cartoons, it was not the right choice to do so.” Her analysis covers polling results about the cartoon controversy on a country-by-country basis.
An opinion poll of Palestinians living in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem about Denmark in between February 9th and 11th conducted by Near East Consulting (NEC) through 702 telephonic talks found that out of those surveyed, 24 percent believe that Denmark is a friend of the Palestinians, 42 percent believe that Denmark holds a neutral position, while 34 percent view Denmark as an enemy of the Palestinians and 59 percent view Denmark as an enemy of Islam. Only 4 percent believe that the Danish government has been acting appropriately regarding the cartoon crisis.
Gallup and other nationwide surveys of Americans 18 years and older on the subject of religion and with reference to the cartoon crisis found that while 61 percent believe the European newspapers that printed the cartoons acted irresponsibly, the same percentage find that the controversy is due more to Muslims’ intolerance of different points of view, 57 percent think that the U.S news media have an obligation to show controversial items that are newsworthy even if they may offend the religious view of some people.
Manipur Scene: Cartoon is a regular feature in the local newspapers of Manipur. Mention may be made of Onthokpanida in the Sangai Express, Bhalohe in Poknapham, Ash Loirehe in Hueiyen Lanpao, Hawado Leirangdo in Naharolgi Thoudang, Loiredana in Sanaleibak and Neirehe in Ichel Express. Caricature and editorial page political cartoons are however hardly seen in local newspapers.
Even in these local newspapers the impact given by the cartoons are tremendous. Not only thousand words are expressed by a single cartoon but many things which cannot be published as news items or articles so originally are expressed by the cartoons.

By:Dr. Aribam Ibomcha Sharma, IIS
New Editor and Head
Regional News Unit, AIR, Imphal

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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