Political Cartoons and the Struggle against Censorship
- 2022 PROSE Award Finalist, Media and Cultural Studies
- 2022 PROSE Award Finalist, Nonfiction Graphic Novels
448 pp., 7 x 10 in, 624 figures
- Published: August 31, 2021
- Published: September 21, 2021
A lively graphic narrative reports on censorship of political cartoons around the world, featuring interviews with censored cartoonists from Pittsburgh to Beijing.
Why do the powerful feel so threatened by political cartoons? Cartoons don't tell secrets or move markets. Yet, as Cherian George and Sonny Liew show us in Red Lines, cartoonists have been harassed, trolled, sued, fired, jailed, attacked, and assassinated for their insolence. The robustness of political cartooning—one of the most elemental forms of political speech—says something about the health of democracy. In a lively graphic narrative—illustrated by Liew, himself a prize-winning cartoonist—Red Lines crisscrosses the globe to feel the pulse of a vocation under attack.
A Syrian cartoonist insults the president and has his hands broken by goons. An Indian cartoonist stands up to misogyny and receives rape threats. An Israeli artist finds his antiracist works censored by social media algorithms. And the New York Times, caught in the crossfire of the culture wars, decides to stop publishing editorial cartoons completely. Red Lines studies thin-skinned tyrants, the invisible hand of market censorship, and demands in the name of social justice to rein in the right to offend. It includes interviews with more than sixty cartoonists and insights from art historians, legal scholars, and political scientists—all presented in graphic form. This engaging account makes it clear that cartoon censorship doesn't just matter to cartoonists and their fans. When the red lines are misapplied, all citizens are potential victims.
“This brilliant tribute to political cartoons is not only a visual feast, but also an in-depth treatise on contemporary threats to freedom of expression posed by governments, corporations, and grassroots forces ranging from religious extremists to well-meaning champions of social justice.”
Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law Emerita, New York Law School; President, American Civil Liberties Union (1991–2008)
“Few books grab a reader as Red Lines does. A history, an analysis, a cri de coeur, a celebration of ideas and art and human rights, all wrapped in an endlessly fascinating example of 'show, not tell.'”
David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression (2014–2020) and Clinical Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine, School of Law
“The political cartoon is the art form of our deeply troubled world, and this brilliant, disturbing, and ultimately hopeful book is far and away the definitive guide.”
Vincent Mosco, author of The Political Economy of Communication and The Digital Sublime
"An absorbing read [...] Red Lines is an invaluable almanac for anyone who has been involved in the defence of cartoonists over the last few decades."
Cartoonists Rights Network International
"Engaging and accessible."