Cartoon our politicians into fools

Blog post 4:

Critique or analyse a text

Infamous political caricatures became popular in the 19th century and still are today. Bringing humour to the op-ed pages of our newspapers as we get to see our usually serious politicians in the most extravagant ways possible. However, how far is too far between political satire and freedom of speech?

The idea that a political cartoons function in political debate could be one of the main reasons why Australian’s find the satirical nature of them so amusing.


Manning and Phiddian (2004) researched this idea in three methods:

an analysis of political cartooning as an established and understood element of free speech in Australia;

a provisional taxonomy of the types of political cartoon, judged by the effects they are liable to have on readers;

and some empirically based scepticism about the capacity of cartoons to directly influence public opinion.

Topic and position:

Manning and Phiddian’s (2004, pg 26) motivation was to ‘define what constitutes ‘the political cartoon’ and to discuss how cartoons function in political debate’. Their position on the idea was the ‘right of cartoonists to be freely provocative as a sign of health in a liberal democratic polity like Australia.’ (Manning and Phiddian 2004, pg 26) This may clash with other opinions as people could take the cartoons in an offensive manner. An example of this was Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a terrorist with a bomb in 2005. 


The headline, “Muhammeds ansigt”, means “The face of Muhammad”, published in September 2005 by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten



Turning it onto Australia, when we see this image how funny do we find it and who are the people that find it funny?

The concept is evident to myself as an Australian, I understand the cartoonist is attempting to achieve a hypercritical tone on Tony Abbott’s bid to ban burqas in the Parliament House. Similarly, Manning and Phiddian (2004 p27) argue that ‘they may make us laugh, but we are responding to humour rather than satire’.


Manning and Phiddian (2004) section their evidence into subheadings including the descriptive cartoon, the laughing satirical cartoon, the destructive satirical cartoon and cartoons displaying savage indignation. Referring back to Tony Abbott’s cartoon I believe this would come under the the laughing satirical cartoon category. Manning and Phiddian (2004 p28) say ‘many cartoonists draw their way into the debates of the day, calling knaves and fools to account so that society might work better.’ Meaning, society is aware of Abbott’s controversial plan to ban burqas in the Parliament House and may not agree, however the cartoon’s intention is not a political target, rather criticising individual politicians with humour.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 1.23.40 pm

Because these cartoons aren’t harmful compared to the destructive satirical cartoon or cartoons displaying savage indignation they have become an integral part of our society. Beginning with ‘the prime minister or president down to those of us who read the op-ed pages of newspapers’ (Manning and Phiddian 2004 p30) the laughing satirical cartoons are purely for amusement purposes.

Manning and Phiddian’s conclusion:

Manning and Phiddian admit they are unable to conclude whether or not cartoons influence their reader’s political positions. However, I believe they are successful in stating that ’as readers and citizens, it is our responsibility to judge whether particular cartoons express healthy scepticism or lapse into cheap cynicism’ (Manning and Phiddian 2004 p40). These cartoons keep politicians on their toes whilst at the same time keeping them down to earth alongside ‘commoners’ who read the op-ed pages of their newspapers each day.

Manning, Haydon, and Robert Phiddian. ‘In Defence Of The Political Cartoonist’s License To Mock’. Australian Review of Public Affairs 5.1 (2004): 25-42.


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