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The old English saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true; due to the dominance aroused by visual communication in our world. Today, tons of words can be easily reduced in a single image. In this respect, Gunther Kress and Theo Van Leeuwen in their reviewed version of their book, “The Grammar of Visual Design “ state that “…what is expressed in language through the choice between different word classes and clause structures, may, in visual communication, be expressed through the choice between different uses of color or different compositional structures.”
Thus, the political cartoon has occupied niches in “media discourse” as a prevalent sub-genre beside magazines, newspapers, TV channels, posters, and prints. It has also invaded the social media platforms such as Facebook, Blogs, Websites, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter…etc. All over the world, cartoon becomes a mirror of the social and political life of countries. It has been known as a weapon of criticism and propaganda rather than an art form. The Political cartoon proved its capacity and effectiveness to trivialize the most complex issues and conflicts. Unlike texts, articles, or speeches, the political cartoon has the power to expound immediately the most sophisticated issues. In similar words, Neighbor states that Political cartoons “…can often have more veracity and insight than hundreds of words of text-based analysis.” Its ability to transmit messages to people with minimal reading abilities was the reason behind its wide popularity.
History has always been evidence of the power and danger which political cartoon has; especially in totalitarian countries. For instance, Charles Philippon; a French lithographer caricaturist, and journalist, was arrested for depicting the emperor Louis Philippe as “le poire” (meaning a fathead) and got away with a fine and an apology. Also in Britain, during the reign of Queen Victoria, drawing members of the royal family in cartoons was regarded as an offense; indeed in nowadays, it becomes a fashion in the west. Unlike the west, where cartoonists enjoy their freedom of expression, the cartoonists in the Middle East still suffer from the repressed forces exercised by the dictatorial regimes. In my paper research, I am going to focus on investigating the power of political cartoons and how we can see Tunisia before and after the revolution through the eyes of political cartoons.
Cartooning is subversive art. Totalitarian regimes suppress it because dictators are frightened men and cannot risk ridicule! In Tunisia, before the “Jasmine Revolution” and during the presidency of Zine Din Ben Ali, all kinds of freedom including “the freedom of expression, press, and art” were almost non-existent or under the censorship of the government. It is evident, therefore, that the power of the cartoon has threatened the authorities. It can articulate thoughts which may only be at the back of people’s minds. It can clarify nebulous and ill-formed attitudes and make them alive. Cartoons can be emotional, partial, extremely critical, taunting, and teasing all at the same time; where other printed modes of communication cannot tread.
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