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425FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestStumbleUpon Can Cartoons Teach You a New Language? ON APRIL 8, 2015 BY KATY FRENCH Cartoons are an ancient art form, present throughout human existence―and in unique iterations throughout our lives. Their simplicity can communicate a story simply and powerfully, from the earliest cave paintings to modern-day versions, which is why they resonate with people around the world. Today, cartoons are perhaps more popular than ever. Children worldwide enjoy animated films and TV shows; advertisements feature classic characters. Adults are attracted to them, too. Worldwide, large subcultures have formed around the cartoon. Take the rise of the manga comic in Japan, for example. Japanese commuters engrossed in Mangacomics. Cartoons present information through engaging storytelling, creating an easy entrance to worlds one might not otherwise explore. For example, in 2012, professional poker player Vivian Im discovered she was the subject of a growing and popular comic about playing the game. She was initially surprised to be the subject of a cartoon, but as the popularity of the cartoon grew, she was able to collaborate with the illustrator, share stories of her life as a poker-player, and develop her storyline. Although it was romanticized fiction, the cartoon added layers of drama and brought an audience that perhaps wouldn’t have engaged with poker in the first place―all thanks to a cartoon. And while cartoons appeal to children and adults as entertainment, we’ve also witnessed their power to communicate more serious topics in the form of political cartoons. Publications like Private Eye and VIZ feature social satire. Why are cartoons so impactful? Because they project images but allow for some emotional distance. They are a representation, not a reflection, and therefore let us synthesize information in a different way. (Ever noticed that every airplane flight safety card features illustrations―not photos―to tell us what to do in an emergency?) Cartoons as a visual medium have the ability to entertain and educate, and entrepreneur ShaoLan Hsueh is looking to use the medium in a completely new way: To teach people Chinese. Chinese is a global language spoken 1.3 billion people, but its symbol-based language is challenging for Westerners to comprehend. What if there were a hyper-visual way to learn? Hsueh decided that there could and should be, so she created Chineasy, a new language-learning program that turns the seemingly impenetrable symbols into beautiful and memorable cartoon illustrations. Chineasy was born out of Hsueh’s frustration in trying to teach British-born children to speak Chinese. She found it incredibly difficult to help them easily learn the basics. And it’s no surprise: There are 20,000 symbols in the Mandarin language, a daunting task. An understanding of 1,000 symbols is needed for basic literacy, 200 to do basic things like understand road signs and order from restaurant menus. To solve this challenge, Hsueh broke her teaching down into a fun system that is effective and quick to understand. Chineasy uses cartoon illustrations to teach the Chinese. It starts with a simple set of building blocks, giving you a fundamental understanding of the basic 8 characters. For example, put the symbols of a tree and mouth together and you get “idiot,” because a talking tree is pretty stupid. It’s this sense of humor and the boldness of the illustrations that make Chineasy an ingenious way of learning. As Hsueh explains on her successful Kickstarter: “The magical power of the Chineasy method is that by learning one small set of building blocks, students can build many new words, characters, and phrases. Master a few building block sets and your learning will accelerate to a whole new level. With very little effort, learners are able to read several hundred Chinese characters and phrases whilst simultaneously gaining a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural influences behind the vocabulary.” Who knew that cartoons could be homework? For more info, visit Chineasy.org. 425FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestStumbleUpon cartoons Chineasy illustrations languageSHARE Katy French Katy French is Managing Editor of Visual News. She writes about beautiful things and tells jokes on stage sometimes. Follow her @katyifrench Sent from the ether

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Michael Ramirez on the Power of Editorial Cartoons

Posted By Frontpagemag.com On April 17, 2015 @ 12:42 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | No Comments

Editor’s note: Below are the video and transcript to Michael Ramirez’s talk at the Freedom Center’s 2015 West Coast Retreat. The event was held March 6-8 in Palos Verdes, CA. 

Michael Ramirez: There is this young man on trial and the judge was chastising him.  He was saying, “How can you possible justify such a heinous crime, killing a California condor?  There are only 22 left of them in the wild.  What could possibly have been going through your mind to allow you to do such a terrible, terrible deed?”  He said, “Your honor, I was lost in the wilderness.  I was camping and as I went to look for some food, I fell off this ledge and landed on this ledge on a cliff, and I was stuck there for 4 days and 4 nights with no food, no water, and I must have looked pretty bad, and this giant buzzard landed on top of me. And with the last ounce of strength in my body I picked up a rock, I bashed him in the skull and I ate him.  It was a matter of sustenance.” The judge said, “Well, that’s a pretty good reason. I may just let you off.  Just out of curiosity, what did it taste like?” And he said, “Well, it’s kind of a cross between a bald eagle and a spotted owl.”

The story with a twist, with an element of humor to capture your attention and then the fatal blow: In essence, that’s editorial cartooning.  When people ask me what is an editorial cartoonist, I often say we’re kind of a hybrid.  We’re a cross between Edward R. Morrow, Ted Koppel and the Son of Sam.  Editorial cartoons are about concept.  The illustration is merely a vehicle to convey a point of view.  We’re here to protect and inform the public, to attack and repel those who do not agree with our long-term shared interest.  Basically, I say I get paid to be obnoxious.  It’s the only other profession besides dentistry where you get paid to be obnoxious.  Politicians think that they’re paid to be obnoxious.  They’re not.  They’re just obnoxious, which is why we have editorial cartoonist.

It’s a profession about ideas.  Ninety-five percent of what I do is concept or pushing a particular point of view.  We are the pit bulls of journalism.  We’re trained to attack at the slightest provocation.  We’re the prosecution pushing for a rapid conviction and an immediate execution.  We are the defense punching holes in the arguments raised against our cause.  We are judge.  We are jury.  Fortunately, I am not the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals so my judgments actually make sense.  We stand in judgment over the issues and the sentence that we levy is swift and harsh.

In order to do that one must read and research, so I’ve got really the most boring job in the world to some people.  I love it.  Now basically I start off the day around 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning watching the news at every half hour trying to get a sense of what’s being absorbed by the American consciousness.  I read four papers a day.  I do read the LA Times still.  I read both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.  Some people say the truth lies somewhere between those two editorial pages.  The truth lies in the editorial pages of Investor’s Business Daily.  Now I co-manage the editorial pages there.  I’m a senior editor, but I’m proud to say I think it’s the best editorial page in America today.  We’re not politically correct.  We’re only concerned about the truth.

I’m a political analyst.  I’m a political wonk.  I read everything I can get my hands on as a contributor to the Weekly Standard.  Of course I read that.  I read the National Review on the right.  I read Mother Jones on the left.  If I want a good laugh I’ll watch MSNBC or read The Nation.  I think it’s important to view the issues on the broadest possible reference plane.  In fact, if you firmly believe in any issue I urge you to read the opposite of it.  Most of the time it’ll merely reinforce your original beliefs, but on the rare occasion it might change your mind. But either way I think you’ll have a larger, more comprehensive view of the issue, and that’s the problem today is then American public is uninformed because we have the media that takes them hostage and refuses to tell them the truth.  I believe it’s important to understand all sides of an issue and that entails knowing the contrary point of view.  I’m a firm believer in the statement “know thine enemy,” and since I’m in the media, I am among them.

As editorial cartoonist we spend our time gathering information.  We process the information to draw a conclusion to draw a cartoon and hopefully to draw blood.  Unfortunately, the modern trend in editorial cartooning has been to make simple statements and simple jokes about current affairs.  I think humor without a substantive statement diminishes the importance of the editorial cartoon.  An editorial cartoon is not just a funny picture.  A good editorial cartoon is a fine instrument of journalism.  At times it’s sharp and refined.  Its message cutting quickly to the point.  At times, blunt with its dark imagery seizing the reader’s attention.  As with any editorial the cartoon, it has to have a point.  That is the most important element.  It tells a story.  It defines an issue.  It challenges hypocrisy.  It reveals the best and the worst of humanity.  It calls the readers to arms against the complacent, the lethargic, the evildoers — and by that I mean politicians — the indolent body politic, the champions of the status quo, exposes the sordid predators of society — by which I mean Congress. But a good editorial cartoon should not only be well researched. It has to be carefully contemplated.  In fact one of the biggest trials that I have every day is deciding what to print and what not to print.

I remember when Johnnie Cochran died.  He was most well known for the OJ Simpson trial and getting OJ Simpson off.  The immediate image that came to mind was having Mr. Cochran at the gates of heaven with Saint Peter saying, “I’m sorry, Mr. Cochran. If the halo don’t fit, we don’t admit.”  It was a pretty straightforward cartoon.  Johnnie Cochran had gotten a murderer off, but on closer examination of Johnnie Cochran’s life and career, it revealed a more generous man. A guy deeply involved in charitable causes.  Hence, I didn’t feel like I could use one image to capture who Johnnie Cochran was.

And on the other hand, we don’t do editorial cartoons just to gain notoriety or try to use controversy just for the sake of controversy.  For example, when the space shuttle Challenger blew up, there was a big story about whether NASA’s efforts to curb spending and cutting corners had actually put the mission in jeopardy. So I imagined this cartoon in my head of little pieces of the shuttle flying through the air after it exploded with a bubble that said, “Man, these NASA cutbacks are killing us.” And it makes a really dramatic point, but on the other hand, seven heroes had died and the controversy surrounding the cartoon overshadowed the point I was trying to make. So you make these decisions every day.

An editorial cartoon is not humorous for the sake of humor.  It’s not controversial for the sake of controversy.  It is neither conservative nor liberal, whether you agree with it philosophically or not.  A good editorial cartoon engages the reader in debate and informs and challenges.  It draws a reader into the democratic process which sort of brings us to Paris.  You see, editorial cartoons should do more than offend, but the right to offend must be defended.  There’s a quote often attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it.”  It was actually Evelyn Beatrice Hall who wrote the biography of Voltaire.  It is the spirit of that quote that acknowledges the right to free speech.  The despicable act of terror in Paris was not just an attack on cartoonist, it was an attack on freedom and liberty. An attack on freedom-loving people everywhere.  The cowards who committed this heinous crime should not only be condemned for the evil acts perpetrated, but for the evil they represent.  The right to freedom of expression preserves our liberty.  The idea of a universal freedom of speech has been around for over four centuries and is even acknowledged as a human right in 1948 in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that everyone has a right of freedom of opinion and expression.

Now we’ve seen, despite the vociferous assertions from the Obama administration that the war on terror is over, that Al-Qaida is on the run — he said that I think 32 times during his election in 2012, even assuring us in the State of the Union that the shadow of crisis has passed and we’ve turned the page on terror, and that his expert military and diplomatic leadership has made the world a safer place.  Secretary of State John Kerry said exactly the same thing, none of which is true.  He was directly contradicted by his own Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.  Clapper, who said when the final accounting is done, 2014 will have been the most lethal year for global terrorism in the 45 years such data has been compiled.  Stephen Hayes, who you had speaking last night, broke that story, that the former Director of Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, said while the administration was saying Al-Qaida was on the run, the DIA was telling the President the exact opposite. Al-Qaida was growing. But that didn’t fit into the presidential campaign narrative, so they lied to the American public.

What do you expect from an Administration that won’t even use the words radical Islam?  What do you expect from an Administration that sees Israel as its enemy and Iran as a partner?  It’s a naïve belief that disengagement from the world will make America safe.  Our policy of leading from behind has left a vacuum of power that has been quickly filled with chaos and malefaction.  This Administration is trying to utilize its relationship with Iran to try to manage ISIS.  Well the good news is Iran has agreed to stop ISIS.  The bad news is they’re going to use nuclear weapons against them.

Now imagine a world that did not have the freedom or the journalists or the editorial cartoonists and a free and unrestrained press to point that out.  As the light of liberty is dimmed, so are the prospects of a peaceful and safer world.

Now, Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But while these rights were indeed endowed by our creator and guaranteed by our Constitution, it is government that upholds these liberties. It is men who constitute the government. And there are those that believe the Constitution is merely a starting point for negotiation, the President being one of them.  James Madison wrote, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom by the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”  I think that’s going on today.

Journalism, editorial cartoons are a check to the erosion of our liberties and are part of the first line of defense to the advance of the unrestrained power of government.  One good editorial cartoon can have a significant impact on the political dialogue of the day.  If done well, it can influence those who govern, to govern responsibly, and expose them when they do not.

Einstein once said that two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe.  Einstein was right.  It’s this axiom that makes political cartooning important.  The people who ultimately govern will make mistakes.  They’re human after all. But history has demonstrated that power can turn leaders into monsters.  As editorial cartoonists we will gladly point out the shortcomings of the powerful in an effort to keep them human.  The reason our Founding Fathers included the right to a free press in the First Amendment of our Constitution is information is a necessary component to guide you in a political system based on self-governance and individual liberty. Information is power. Thomas Jefferson once wrote our liberty depends on the freedom of the press and that cannot be limited without it being lost.

The reason our Founding Fathers included the right to a free press in our Constitution was because they knew the communication of ideas and information, the right to inform and be informed, the dissemination of ideas and expression of opinion, are all necessary components in a political system based on self-governance and individual liberty.  A reporter’s job is to be the purveyor of fact, to point out the injustices of the world and to shine the hot spotlight of exposure to wound the perpetrators of those injustices with the truth.  As editorial cartoonists we just go back and shoot the wounded.

Now I’m going to make a distinction here between objective news reporting and the subjective editorial page.  I find it funny when people call me up and they say, well, I can’t tell you exactly what they say, but they say you are way too opinionated. And I have to say, well, now that’s why I’m on the opinion page. But I realize these days it’s hard to distinguish between the two. That’s a failure of today’s journalism.  The truth is the mainstream media does an awful job, and that’s why people trust the media less than they do politicians, and we know how much people trust politicians.  It’s a fact that circulation numbers are going down. Why pay for misinformation when you can get it on the Internet for free?  Now obviously there’s a convergence of media where people are relying on the web for information, but I think media bias plays a huge role in dictating what we believe and what we see.  I think there’s a widespread manipulation going on in the media.  The mainstream media has been perpetuating a lot of myths and burying the truth to push their agenda.  It’s amazing when you look at this President’s record and his drift from the Constitution.  I’m amazed every single day that there aren’t at least 15 reporters out they’re just trying to get a Pulitzer.  There’s a Pulitzer Prize in every single one of these scandals.

A reporter’s job is to be the purveyor of fact to point out the injustices of the world and yet that’s not being done today.  I think the distinction between objective reporting and the subjective editorial page have been blurred into manipulation and half-truths.  I think it’s time to give them the truth, and the people have to play a part in that.  You have to demand it because that’s the way things work today.  You have to call the stations.  You have to write to the newspapers.  Newspapers and the media have an obligation to give the readers the truth, not a filtered version of the truth, not a politically correct version of the truth. It’s simply the truth.  We’re all human beings and most journalists are as well and therefore will undoubtedly have their own interpretation of events, but that’s what makes it so important to cover an issue in its entirety.  Differing perceptions can easily color an issue.  Let me give you an example.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip, and as they lie down to sleep Holmes turned to Watson and he said, “Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see.” And Watson thought about it for a minute and he replied, “Well, I see millions and millions of stars.” And Holmes said, “What does it tell you?” Watson thought about it and he said, “Well, astronomically it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.  Theologically it tells me that God is great.  There must be a God to create something so magnificent and God is great and we are small and insignificant.  Meteorologically it tells me it’s a clear, beautiful evening sky and it’s probably going to be a beautiful day tomorrow.”  Watson turned to Holmes and said, “What does it tell you?” And Holmes looked up and he said, “Somebody stole our tent.”

We have a participatory democratic republic, the best system of government in the world.  Truly a government of the people, by the people and for the people, but only if you, the people, participate. That’s why I love being in front of groups like this, especially David’s group.  David’s a hero of mine. To see you guys engaged.  That’s what a self-governing republic is all about.

Let me tell you this other story because I just love it.  There was this duck.  This duck waddled into a store and went up to the manager and said, “Got any grapes?”  The manager looked at the duck and he said, “No, we have no grapes.”  Duck said, “Oh” and walked out.  Ten minutes later this duck comes waddling in, goes up to the manager and says, “Got any grapes?” The manager looks at the duck and he says, “No, we have no grapes.”  Duck goes, “Oh” and walked out.  Ten minutes later, the duck comes waddling in, goes up to the manager and says, “Got any grapes?” The manager says, “What’s wrong with you?  I just told you twice we have no grapes.  I have no fruit section.  We will never have grapes.”  Duck goes, “Oh,” walks out.  Ten minutes later the duck comes waddling in, goes up to the manager again: “Got any grapes?” Manager says, “What’s wrong with you, duck?  I have no grapes.  I will never have grapes.  I don’t like grapes.  I don’t like ducks.  Get out.”  Duck goes, “Oh.”  Ten minutes later the duck comes waddling in.  The manager says, “Hold it right there, duck. If you ask me for grapes one more time I’m going to nail your little web feet to the floor.  Ask me for anything else.  Do not ask me for grapes.”  Duck looks at him and says, “Got any nails?”  He says, “No.”  “Got any grapes?”

See this joke provides a good working analogy of how I view Washington bureaucracies at work.  You see, because in Washington, D.C. things are not always represented as they truly are.  For example, a lower increase in Medicare payments is not called a “rational” effort to save Medicare.  It’s called the “draconian cut.”  A balanced budget amendment which stipulates Congress can only spend the amount of money/revenue that they take in is not called “common sense.”  It’s called “extremism.”  Making illegal immigration illegal is not called “following the law.”  It’s called “insensitivity.”  Judging someone not by the content of their character, but strictly by the color of their skin is not called “racism.”  It’s called “affirmative action.”  Aborting a human fetus in its third trimester is not called “killing.”  It’s called a “choice.”  When governments have a surplus, it doesn’t mean that we paid too much in taxes.  It means we spent too little in services.  And a tax is no longer a tax.  It’s called an “investment in America.”  No, Biden calls it “patriotism.”  There’s no global war on terror.  It’s called an “overseas contingency operation.”  The Fort Hood attack was called “workplace violence.”  They called the Muslim Brotherhood a largely secular group which has eschewed violence.  The Muslim Brotherhood — secular. It has the word “Muslim” in its name.  The Islamic State is neither Islamic nor a state.  They won’t use the words “radical Islam” or “Islamic extremist,” and blowing up buildings is no longer called “terrorism.”  It’s called a “man-caused disaster.”  Frankly, I think this Administration has been a man-caused disaster.  I don’t know about you, but I believe in the old adage if it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, it’s usually a duck.

As an editorial cartoonist it’s my job to nail that duck to the floor because people need to watch over the institution for the intellectually challenged — excuse me, Congress — on behalf of the American public.  Politicians often forget who they work for because of the pomp and circumstance that surrounds these career political celebrities who are lulled into thinking it is we who work for them, when in fact it is they who work for us.  The problem with this country is that it’s not that we pay too little in taxes.  It’s that we support a government that has gotten too big and too intrusive.  Our country was built around the idea of self-governance and independence, and 39 percent of Americans are in some kind of government program.  One in six Americans are on direct government assistance.  Fifty percent of Americans do not pay federal taxes.  The last election we had a less than 58 percent turnout of all registered voters.  If you took the real numbers of the eligible electorate, less than a third, 29 percent voted for the President.  The most powerful country in the world.  Is this the America you want?  It’s certainly isn’t the America that Ronald Reagan envisioned.  It’s amazing when you look back into history at a small group of colonies united to fight taxation without representation.  It’s clearly evident now that we face the same challenge.

This is a nation founded on the principals of limited government, individual liberty, self-responsibility and a strong national defense.  In 2008 Barack Obama promised hope and change, but all that he’s delivered is doubt and division.  He wanted change all right: A radical transformation of our country, and he hoped nobody would notice.  It’s time to take the country back.  Past presidential terms hold the key to future presidential successes.  George Washington once said that government is not reason. It is not eloquence.  It is a force like fire.  It is a dangerous servant and fearful master.  Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan found that a solution to our economic problems rested not in the government, but in the ingenuity of our people.  They believed in the doctrine of American exceptionalism.  In their eyes America was a place where the extraordinary could be extraordinary and be rewarded for their success.  And in turn their success would create innovations and jobs that benefited the average American and give those average Americans incentives to work hard and to dream and to become extraordinary themselves, so that others could simply remain as community organizers.  President Kennedy believed in an America that could reach for the moon, not for the taxpayer’s wallet.  President Obama can give a good speech, but it takes more than words and a great speech to make a great President.  It takes great ideas.  I think Ronald Reagan was an exceptional President because he truly believed America was an exceptional country.  Ronald Reagan saw America as the shining city on a hill, not just as a city among many other cities.

As we start to embark on a new presidential election cycle, I think it might be wise to look at the past to determine our future.  I’m going to try to encourage you by showing you some cartoons.  This is my book, and I’m a capitalist pig, so buy this book.  You can find my cartoons at Investors.com/cartoons and on Twitter, @Ramireztoons.  Now here’s a picture of President Clinton looking over the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.  If you read the text it says Clinton looks in the binoculars, which still have the lens caps on, which is why I love my job.  There’s George Bush doing the same thing.  I’m an equal opportunity offender.   [Reading cartoon captions:] “It is a mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it — Aristotle.”   “Al-Qaida is on the run.” On foreign contributions: “What difference at this point does it make?”  “We must fight emblems, radical islands, regional Islam, radical flimflam, vertical Islam, radical logjams, radio Islam, radial tires, radiological Islam, rabbinical Islam.”  “Just say it! Radical Islam.”  “Look — free college!” “If you were aware of the evil back then would the world have prevented it?”  “And you will owe over $20 trillion. The end.”  “I hate his bedtime stories.”  “I could not afford a government email account.”  “Hillary’s looking way too vulnerable.” “Let’s not be too hasty.”  The State Department claimed the lack of jobs is behind the rise of ISIS:  “I couldn’t get a job beheading people in the private sector.”  “It’s illegal.” “It’s illegal” 23 times.  “What do you mean it’s illegal?” (Executive amnesty.)

This is my new book.  It’ll be out on October 27, “Give me Liberty or Give me Obamacare.”  I couldn’t decide on the title.  I was thinking different ones, “Fifty Shades of Stupid: The Barack Obama Story.”  I thought of “Conservatives are from Mars, Liberals are From Uranus,” “An Illustrated Guide to Impeachment,” but it’ll be “Give Me Liberty or Give me Obamacare.”

I brought this up this morning earlier if you look at the Articles of Impeachment under Richard Nixon, of course they never pressed him because he was lying, but he could apply any one of those to the articles ignored by the press.  [Reading cartoon captions:] “The Obama Principle: I’ve now been in 57 states. I think one left to go.”  “The Peter Principle is when a person rises to their level of incompetence. The Obama Principle is when that person gets elected President.”  “The Imperial President: Congress is in session when I say it is.”  This is a young Barack Obama, if you notice all the answers equal government except for one question: “Democracy is a form of social inequality?”  “He certainly has a lot of Secret Service for protection.”  “Those are journalists.” “The Tip of the Iceberg: I still I can’t get on the web site.”  “Porous borders.” “Thank you.”  This is the President Obama warning system: “DEFCON 1, fore! DEFCON 2, give a speech, DEFCON 3, hold a press conference, DEFCON 4, cancel fundraisers, DEFCON 5, cancel golf.”  Now I notice that that’s actually backwards of the way the system works, but of course we’re talking about the Obama Administration. “We recommend boots on the ground.  We recommend boots on the ground.  We recommend boots on the ground.  We recommend boots on the ground.” Obama has boots on his ears.

One thing I love about doing cartoons on the president, every once in a while I hear from the inner circle the things that the president hates the most. I always put the “I love Me” coffee cup in the foreground, and when you’re in your office, you have pictures of your loved ones in the background.  If you notice, all the pictures in the Obama White House are of himself.  [Reading cartoon captions:] “Can you hear me now?  Can you hear me now?  Can you hear me now?  Can you hear me now?”  NSA: “Yes.”  “The selfie.”  “American Hustle.” “If you like your health plan you can keep it. Period. And it won’t cost you a dime.”  “The fading light of liberty.”

So when you think about it editorial cartoons are sort of like advertising, television commercials.  You have about 1 or 2 seconds to capture somebody’s attention, make them interested in your image, and then you want to deliver the message as quickly as possible. So the ones that I think that are just media consciousness of what you’re seeing are the most powerful ones. [Reading cartoon captions:] “Never mind. It’s not a red line. It’s just blood.”  “The wave. The election wave.”  This is the Joe Cocker song.  “Russia just invaded Ukraine.  ISIS is even getting jet planes and nuclear Iran is being born.  Our credibility is gone, but baby I wrote me a letter.”  “We the government.” “The letter of intent from a nation of achievement to nation of entitlement,” and the stamp is a food stamp.  “Limited government? You bunch of extremist.”  “Relax I’m going to hit him on the upper 2 percent of his body.”  “Attention everyone as you go into battle the most important thing for you to know is Jones here is gay.”  “The Green Economy.”  “You didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.  King George III built the roads.”  “Chris Matthews’ Lap Dog.” “Beating swords into food stamps.” “Mind if I play through?”  “Good news. We have a full ship: 7.1 million passengers on the Obamacare Titanic.” “Some day all this will be yours.”  “Don’t worry Mr. President, you can’t be impeached for just being completely incompetent.”

I thought I’d show the process, so — it’s good thing you can’t see what’s in my head.  When I think of ideas I’ll immediately jot them down on napkins, whatever I can get my hand on. My fiancée’s shirt, whatever, and I’ll sketch it out.  That’s the sketch, and then I turn it into a black and white composition and I’ll scan it into a computer and add layers of texture to it, and then put color to it, and then a little shadowing and that’s the final product.

Now my schedule at IBD, because I co-manage the editorial pages, I wake up around 5:00 in the morning, prepare for the editorial meetings.  We have editorial meetings from 8:00 to 10:00.  Then I talk to reporters and writers for about an hour or so and then start working on the cartoon. So at the LA Times I had until 9:30 at night for my deadline.  At IBD, because we’re a financial newspaper, we go to bed at 3:30, so I have a 3:00 deadline on the cartoons.  So basically I start working on the cartoon around 11:30 or noon and have it done by around 3:00, so a lot of the stuff is just fake. I just roll through it pretty quickly.

This is from the ’94 Pulitzer collection, William Jefferson Clinton. [Reading cartoon captions:] “It depends on what the meaning of is, is.”  “Japan’s Economy: aren’t they supposed to face you when they bow?”  “Liberal Catholics: in the light of modernization of society, we’d like to renegotiate the 10 commandments down to 4½.”  “Moral Values: If it were not for reporters, I would tell you the truth — Chester Arthur.”  This is from the first book, so if you get the book, you’ll get all these cartoons.  “Our Moral Fabric” — this is one of my favorite cartoons and it’s instantaneous.  “Father, you can’t say prayers during graduation ceremonies, but if you print them on condoms, we’d be happy to distribute them.” “What I wanted to do on Father’s Day: Meet my father — the erosion of the nuclear family.”  A white man with a white kid, a black man with a black kid. The black man’s thinking “white.” The white man’s thinking “black,” and the kids are going “Look! another kid!”  “If parents don’t raise your kids, the gangs will.”  “You two here to be married?  Yes.  Well, step up and be counted.  Why a society that would try to impose its moral values on us is beyond me.  It’s perfectly natural for two people in love to want to get married.  Your father should be proud.”  “He is my father.”  It’s New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.  I’m sorry, it’s early. They should have scheduled me in the afternoon.

On the shootings at the elementary school: “Why?”  Sometimes you’re just trying to catch the emotion of the moment.  [Reading captions:] “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time — Abraham Lincoln.” “Hollywood: In ancient times, people worshiped the stars out of ignorance.”  They’re giving the Kardashians $100 million.  Can somebody please explain that to me?  You know, I have to confess.  I took my mom to Italy for her birthday and we were wandering around Florence, and all of a sudden a big group of paparazzi and cameras went by — and I don’t know what’s her name is. Snooki or something from the Jersey Shore — I’ve never seen the show. Snooki, yeah.  Snooki is wandering by with her rolling luggage in the middle of Florence and there’s this parade of cameras behind her, and I was just saying oh, my gosh, this is what people think is America. Watching Snooki. And I can’t believe that people watch these shows.  Our public has just gotten so dumbed down, and I turned because I was talking to my sister-in-law and she was off running after Snooki, trying to get her autograph.

“Who would callously glamorize drugs and tobacco just for profit?  Hollywood.”  “Son, your father and I decided not to let you watch television anymore because it promotes violence.”  Touch my remote and I’ll kill you.”  Remember Michael Jackson holding the little kid?  The little kid was thinking Michael Jackson’s my father? Oh, please, let go.  “Wardrobe malfunction.”  “Today on Martha Stewart Living, I’ll be demonstrating how to cook your own goose.”  “Junior, it’s time to take your Lipitor.”  “Not now, mom, I’m playing baseball.”  “Reality television.” Now, I live in Coto de Caza, which apparently is the place where the Real Housewives of Orange County live.  It’s sad because I used to say I’m from Coto de Caza, and people would go, “Where?”  Now, they say that’s where those housewives live.  “I’m not just a reader of the news, pause, next paragraph.”  “Sharyl Attkisson leaves CBS News.”  “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have — Gerald Ford.”  “Marlboro Country.”

I was telling people earlier that I have two brothers and two sisters.  They’re all doctors except for me.  I’m the black sheep of the family.  The only way I can show up at family reunions is I say well, when you think about the issues that I deal with, and I deal with Congress and politicians, I’m sort of like a proctologist.  [Reading cartoon captions:] Because of the soaring cost of medical malpractice insurance, we don’t have any doctors left.  However, rest assured we have the best lawyers operating on you today.”  “Don’t ask, don’t ask, don’t ask.”  Still to this day, I can’t believe the LA Times let me run this cartoon.  “Affirmative action.”  Whether cell phones distract you while you’re driving: “Can I call you back?”  This was after the Ninth Circuit rules against the Pledge of Allegiance:  “Bryson, Bobo the Clown was all booked up so we got the next best thing.  Are you really from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals?”  “Viva Bilingual Education: And here to share his personal success story through bilingual education is Miguel.”  “Que?”  “We need better immigration laws.  Profiling is politically incorrect, besides they pose no real threat to us.”  “Well, you have a slight temperature and we’re not sure why, so we’re going to have to amputate your legs.”  “Social Security and Medicare: It’s nice to know we have $128 trillion in unfunded liabilities today.”  “I was kind of hoping for a regular doctor not a witch doctor.”  “Well, we have to pay for this health care bill somehow.”  “Freeze!”  “Homicide? Burglary?” “Worse. Trans fat.”  “Raise your hands and step away from the chicken.”

Barry Bonds proving that steroids do not make you bigger, trying to fill Babe Ruth’s shoes.  Here’s a U.S. Border Patrol fence with a service entrance.  See now, that’s not exactly right because I should have illegal immigrants’ building the wall.  [Reading captions:] “What do you call doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?  California.”  “De Blasio’s New York City.”  Should say underneath “I hate police” too.  “If I can make it there I’ll make it everywhere.”  “The hitchhiker.”  “I have a degree in scatological poetry and $160,000.00 in student loans and I need  help.”  “Get a degree in basic math.”  “Mr. Border Patrol, tear down this wall.”  “Global cooling, global warming, climate change, climate disruption …” “It’s called weather.”  “The business of America is business — Calvin Coolidge,” one of my favorite Presidents.  “Saving Social Security.”  “Well don’t just sit there, pay the man.”  “How Electric Cars Work.”  Yeah, it’s funny how many people believe in the electricity fairy.  “I’m okay. I landed on a taxpayer.”  “Made in China.”  “I wish we had free medical care like in Cuba.”  “I wish we had good medical care like in the United States.”

I actually went down to Havana several years ago with the PBS — speaking of releasing toxic emissions, job-killing industry, crippling regulations.  And I got to interview the interior minister down in Cuba.  This is after the Elian Gonzalez thing and I asked him about the brothers in arms flights that were shot down in international air space, about Elian, about the 12 journalists that had just gotten arrested prior to us being there.  And I’d spoken to the reporters and the cartoonists in Cuba at their national newspaper, and the cartoonists can’t even draw Fidel Castro or Che Guevara.  And the writers had to have their stories approved by a political board as well as the editorial people.  And so I was asking the interior minister all these questions and he just refused to answer any of them.  And so I finally said look, let me just ask you one last question.  In America, we believe that a country that can’t make fun of its leaders is usually imprisoned by its leaders.  Your cartoonists can’t draw Che Guevara or Fidel Castro.  Let me just ask you one last question: what’s your favorite Fidel Castro joke?  And his face just went blank.  Little beads of sweat started gathering on his head.  About 30 seconds passed, which is an eternity on television, and he finally said, “I don’t know one, but I’ll tell you one later.”

[Reading cartoon captions:] “The Obamacare Death Panel: Let’s start with jobs.”  “Government is not reason. It’s not eloquence. It’s a force like fire. It’s a danger servant and a fearful master — George Washington.”  These were the Clinton years, some of my favorite.  This is the Lincoln bedroom. I thought they should just put the meter right next to the bed. This is the stain.  Sorry. Aw, I’m sorry.  “I did not have factual relations with the American people.”  Now I have to say, after I won my first Pulitzer in ’94, I did get a wonderful letter from the President and her husband, and congratulating me.

So I gathered all my Clinton cartoons and I wrote them a note back that said, “Thanks. I couldn’t have done it without you.”  Which I thought it was funny until I got audited 4 months later.  So really, who had the last laugh there?  [Reading cartoon captions:] This is with his dog Buddy at the vet: “Like I’m the one who needs to be neutered.”  “Contempt.”  See, I had to draw that at the exact right angle there.  “The Clinton Autobiography with Pullout,” and that’s Miss January.  “Bill’s problem and Hillary’s problem.”  The U.S. Senate at the spending trough.

Now, Nancy Pelosi, when she was speaker, said that she needed her own form of transportation.  I thought she already had it.  Jimmy Carter.  This is anatomically correct.  See I get paid to be evil basically.  [Reading cartoon captions:] “The Mad Hatter: We have to pass this bill so you can find out what’s in it, and this is the most-ethical Congress ever.”  Nancy Pelosi, and that is her real hair.  “I’m sorry Ms. Warren but Bolsheviks are not an Indian tribe.”  “I too was in love with my boss.”  “Four score and 7 years ago … Four Presidents during a crisis.”  “Nothing brings out the lower traits of human nature like office seeking — Rutherford B. Hayes.”  There’s John McCain and the parting of the GOP.  You know, and it helps when you actually nominate a Republican for Republican presidential candidate.  “Kerry Sutra: The many positions of John Kerry.”  “Is there anything in the wardrobe to make him look thinner?”  “The Answer: Ronald Reagan 1,000 times.”  “Dennis Kucinich: Of course I’ve seen a UFO. How do you think I got here?”  Can you imagine waking up in surgery: Don’t worry I have experience.  I’m not a surgeon but I was married to one for 8 years.  “Obama’s Rhetoric. Obama’s Policies.”

This was when Hillary was running for President the first time.  Barack Obama had poured water on her 100 times, but she would not disappear. [Reading cartoon captions:] “I can reach across the aisle.” “The Democrats.” “The Republicans.”  “I was dead broke.  That’ll be $200,000, please.”  This is “The Road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”  “Obamacare.”  “Hillary Rodham Clinton: My accomplishments.” “Chapter 1, the end.”  “Hello tattoo removal service?”  “A Coyote Ugly Election.”  “Did you vote for Obama?”  “I cannot confirm or deny it but let me just say, my campaign has been clear on the issue of the question.”  “Do you think voters are stupid?”  “I cannot confirm or deny it, but let me just say, my campaign has been clear on the issue of the question.”  “I was named for Sir Edmund Hillary. In Bosnia we landed under sniper fire.  I learned how to make a killing in futures by reading the Wall Street Journal.  The reset button.  Benghazi was caused by a video.  I was dead broke.  I didn’t really mean businesses don’t create jobs.  What difference at this point does it make?”

[Reading cartoon captions:] “We’re a nation is the government, not the other way around and that makes us special among the nations of the earth — Ronald Wilson Reagan.”  “Yes Elian, all this someday will be yours.”  “Is Russia reverting back to Soviet-style oppression?  You’re darn Putin.”  “America: Sex and gimme me my allowance.”  There’s Fidel.  There’s Mimi.  Let’s go back to that one.  “Let’s negotiate for a couple more weeks” on the nuclear arms in Iran.  “Kaddafi.”  “The short program.” “The reset button.” “Iran.”

I got a lot of threats, and that’s when I changed my photo to David’s photo.  And by the way, after my last ISIS cartoon, I’m now using your home address.  So if you get an insurance policy reminder at your house, just ignore it.  [Reading cartoon captions:] “The fat lady.”  “The Threat” to America.  “To the Foley family, I want you to know all my thoughts are with you.”  “For a civilization to survive, you must cultivate the science of human relationships, the ability of all people of all kinds to live together in the same world of peace — FDR.”  Here’s the Intifada.  “How dare you defend yourself?”  “The obstacles to peace.”  “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

Let me just show you some real quick ones.  This is a cartoon I did on 9/11.  I’m going to switch back to. This is my favorite pre-war cartoon.  This is Saddam at the psychic and she’s looking into the ball and saying, “Run.”  Let’s see, let’s skip through these here.  [Reading cartoon captions:] I like this one: “Don’t forget your golf clubs, Mr. President.  Get to the 2008 Pulitzer collection.  “I have no idea what it is, but I feel strangely attracted to it.”  “I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul.” Bush on Putin.  He was wearing contacts that day I think.  “Whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing ground, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender.”  Reid: “Run away.”  “Social Security.”  “Excuse me, but I’m gonna need that to run my car.”  “The Great Wall between product safety and the factories in China.”  “Hillary Clinton: I pledge no more personal attacks on my drug-addicted, possibly Muslim opponent.” “The Anchor,” CBS news anchor.  Skip these.  “For the last time, if you don’t tell us where you planted the nuclear device, we’ll have no choice but to appoint a lawyer for you.”  “The ATM and the AMT.”  And this is one of my favorite cartoons.  This is actually based on something Cheryl Crowe actually said.  “Meet Sheryl Crow, she uses only one square of toilet paper per bathroom visit to fight global warming.”  And she’s holding her hand out for him to shake.  All right, let’s go ahead and take some questions.

Audience Member: What did you think about the decision by even Fox and others not to show cartoons of the Charlie Hebdo massacre?

Michael Ramirez: I’ve got mixed feelings about it.  One, well first I think it’s cowardice.  I think that if it’s news-relevant they ought to show it.  I understand the controversy behind it.  When you look at those cartoons that these guys did, when it becomes a news event itself, I think that we have a responsibility to show exactly what we’re talking about.  So I think that’s cowardice by the media.  As far as reprinting the cartoons and just as a cartoon source, that’s everybody’s individual decision to make.  I think you had to have the freedom and liberty to print whatever you want.  In America we have the right to be stupid if we want to be stupid.  But I think you have to make careful decisions about why you’re doing it.  Like I said, with controversial subjects — and whether or not I would personally do a cartoon on Muhammad, if the situation suited itself — yeah, absolutely.  My reservation is, it’s a controversy around just having that content, would overshadowed the point I was trying to make.  So we’d have to work hand in hand with whatever point I was trying to make, but, yeah, it’s sad that we have a huge news event on these cartoons and they refuse to show the cartoons.  And the truth of the matter is, is if all the newspapers had done it, what are they going do? Blow up all the newspapers?  So they would’ve insulated themselves more I think.

Audience Member: You alluded to it, but how else can we influence the media to not just be handmaidens of the left other than support great organizations like the Freedom Center which try to educate the press and the world as to the real facts?

Michael Ramirez: Right. Well — and you should, by all means, support the Freedom Center.  I think institutions like that are an invaluable resources for America.  We need them more than ever.  Newspapers, television shows, they’re all economic interests.  If you stop watching them, you stop subscribing to them, you write letters, you start taking Investor’s Business Daily instead of the New York Times. I think the biggest threat — you know, David and I were having this discussion earlier.  The biggest threat to America right now is generational, I think.  The generational influences from the media.  I think they’re what I call the three pillars of influence.  You have the education, you have the popular culture and the media.

Now, with education, they’re basically propagandizing our children from a very young age, and they’re reinforcing these values in higher academia.  Right now is a great time to challenge that and to demand change in education.  Nobody could be happy with the results of our public institutions in education; the bureaucratic monopolies that insulate teachers from responsibility.  I was telling somebody earlier that when you look at statistics, up until sixth grade, the United States leads the world in science and reading and writing comprehension and math.  After the sixth grade, we just go off the cliff.  We’re at the bottom of the industrialized nations in all categories.  It’s time now to demand reform, local responsibility and getting them to actually teach the fundamentals of education instead of trying to manipulate the children with this progressive, liberal propaganda.

Second, popular culture: I’ve got a friend of mine who’s been trying to get a Reagan movie done for the last 6 years.  Ronald Reagan, who’s the icon of what America stands for, and yet he’s really having trouble getting the last $5 million of it funded.  What Ami’s doing is just phenomenal.  Projects like this, they need to be funded.  Because these institutions in popular culture have a huge effect.  I mean, when you think about what’s on radio today and in the words, the language they use, you wouldn’t think 20 years ago that you could use that language in public and yet it’s a commonality.  It’s because we don’t have conservative influences in popular culture.  “Friends” was one of my favorite shows on television, but the huge place that it represented in history in the debate on gay marriage.  These things have a huge residual impact every time they’re played, and it’s absorbed by our consciousness and accepted as a norm of society.

Conservatives need to take more of a role.  I was talking to the Koch brothers and I said look, it’s great that you’re funding these political campaigns and stuff, but you have to go beyond that and get to these kinda cultural influences, because they have generational impacts.

The last thing is the media.  The media is supposed to be an objective referee, and they’re not.  They reinforce what’s taught in education.  They reinforce and they validate what’s being seen in popular culture.  The Daily News I heard was up for sale.  Conservatives ought to buy it.  And you don’t have to present the news in a conservative fashion.  Just be objective.  If you look at Fox News and why it’s so successful, you look at the Rush Limbaugh show and why it’s so successful.  People are dying for an objective resource.  Get Investor’s Business Daily.  We’re an objective resource.

Audience Member: When we were chatting a little bit earlier, you had mentioned that you had had a visit from the Secret Service.  And we didn’t really have an opportunity to continue that conversation, but what I was going to ask is, was there a particular cartoon?  Was it a body and when was this and did they ever actually speak with you?  I know that the lawyers for the newspaper barred them from coming in. So I was just wondering if you could tell us a little more?

Michael Ramirez: What Phyllis is talking about is, I lived in Memphis, Tennessee for half the year.  I had a house in Memphis and a house out in California.  I’ve worked for a newspaper out there called the Commercial Appeal, and USA Today.  And I got to know the local rock DJs, who were actually very conservative.  And I used to go on the show every once in a while.  And then I moved to the LA Times and so they’re 2 hours ahead.  So one morning I get a call at my house and it’s these guys and they’re going, hey, what are you doing? is the Secret Service there? Are you in handcuffs?  And I had no idea what they were talking about.  And so I said they’re not here. I have no idea what you’re talking about.  And then we started talking about politics and I forgot about it.

So I went into the office at the LA Times, and apparently Drudge had headlined a “Political Cartoon Being Investigated by the Secret Service” on the Drudge Report, and it was me.  The cartoon that I had done was defending George Bush and the Iraq War, and basically I took that the famous iconic Vietnam photo where the police chief in Saigon is executing the guy that he just found that murdered the colonel and his entire family.  I had that person as the media and he was actually executing George W. Bush with lies about the war as a cartoon.  So it was actually defending George W. Bush.

Now, to this day we’re not sure if there was actually an investigation launched.  I just know that the west coast Secret Service actually dispatched somebody to talk to me after it became a big public deal.  All these morning shows were calling and people were calling.  I was telling Phyllis that I got a call out of the blue.  I was responding to phone calls. We set up an entire phone bank to accommodate the news.  And a caller got through and I said hello, this is Michael Ramirez and I’ll tell you the story about being the only Pulitzer Prize winner that protested myself, ’cause that’s a funny story too.

And so I get this call and this guy says, “Hello is this Mr. Ramirez?” and I said, “Yes.”  He said, “We’d like to speak to you.” And I said, “Great. You’ll have to get in line.”  And he said, “I’m with the Secret Service, and I said, “Well how do I know you’re with the Secret Service?” and he said, “Well I’ve got a badge and dark sunglasses.”  And I said, “Okay, well come on down then.”  He said, we’ll be there in 15 minutes.  And so I just laughed about it and in fact I went out of my office and I said to Janet Clayton, who was the editorial page editor, and I go Janet, I just got a phone call from the Secret Service.  It’s hilarious. And I told her the whole thing.  We laughed about it. Ten minutes later I get a call from the secretary and she says, “Mr. Ramirez, the Secret Service is here to talk to you.”  And I thought about it and I said, “Well, you see, I haven’t counterfeited since faking forged office slips in high school so I’m pretty safe so I’ll go down and talk to them.”  But the LA Times stopped me dead and they sent a whole dispatch of lawyers down there to block them.  So they didn’t allow me to talk to them because they thought it would set a precedent, and so I never did speak to the Secret Service.  And Representative Cox, who is a friend of mine, actually looked into it and we could never find out who the source of the initial investigation was.  But I thought that was kind of cool that I would be on a presidential enemies list.  I was kind of thinking it should’ve been this administration instead of that one.

Now, about the protesting: Let me just share that story with you. It’s kind of a funny story.  Just reminded me of it.  When I was in Memphis, Tennessee, AIDS was just beginning to be a big issue.  And so I did this cartoon where I had this guy sitting on a tombstone labeled “AIDS-related deaths.”  And the debate was whether or not people should be tested, and if those results got out how it could harm you your reputation and stuff.  But I thought overwhelmingly, the value of knowing whether you had the disease is far-more important because you could give the disease to other people and it was a death sentence back then.  So I did this cartoon where I had this tombstone labeled “AIDS-related deaths,” and I had this person sitting on top of it and he was saying, “But testing could severely curtail my lifestyle.”  And there was a bubble coming out of the grave saying, “Tell me about it.” What could curtail your lifestyle more than being dead, right?

So I got a call from the president of GLAD, and I have a policy where if you call me up, I’ll tell you exactly why I did the cartoon.  I can defend every single cartoon that I’ve done.  And so just give me a minute to explain why I did it and you can say whatever you want.  And usually it actually ends pretty cordially and we either agree to disagree or I can convince them of my point of view.  So I get this call from the president of GLAD, and she just wants to call me names.  So I said look, just give me 30 seconds to tell you why I think it’s important for your members — IV drug users, whoever’s exposed to this disease ought to be tested.  And she was calling me racist, sexist, homophobe, just wanted to call me a bunch of names.  And this went on for about 3 or 4 minutes, which is a long time on the telephone.  And I said please, just give a minute to tell you why I think it’s a responsible thing for you to do.  And she said you know what, you’re just a big racist, sexist, homophobe.  And I said look, I understand your frustration. I’ve been a lesbian all my life.  And so that was the genesis of the biggest protest ever at a Pulitzer ceremony.

The Pulitzer ceremony’s actually a noontime thing.  It’s a luncheon.  It’s at the Columbia campus library.  So we pull up in the limo, and I’m with my editor and my girlfriend at the time, and all these guys in pink tutus and brightly colored Mohawks, all come running over with signs that say Ramirez should die.  And so I get out of the car prepared to do battle.  I go watch this, this is going to be great.  And just as I’m about to say something, they hand me a flyer protesting myself.  They had no idea what I looked like.  And so before I could say anything, my editor grabs the flyer and he says, this Ramirez guy, I know him personally, excuse my language, he’s an asshole, and they all cheered.  And so I’m there with my best friend, who is Chip Saltzman, who is Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager, Paul Shanklin, who does the parody bits on the Rush Limbaugh show.  And we’re all in suits and we all get in the picket line.  So all these guys have these pink tutus and it’s me, Chip and Paul in suits and we’re holding placards that say ban Ramirez Pulitzer.  And it was so funny, they actually had to come out of the library and tell me that the ceremony was starting, to get me out of the picket line.  But Chip grabbed my banner and he saved it.  So to this day I have that banner hanging up in my office.

So listen, let me just say one last thing.  And I love David, and what he’s doing is so important, especially in light of what is going on today; this radical transformation of America.  People need to be informed, and the Freedom Center is just leading the charge to doing this.  So I thank you all for supporting it, I thank you all for being engaged and God bless America.

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Tunisian Graffiti The revolution in Tunisia didn’t spread through social media alone. Along with the internet, young Tunisians chose the street walls as the means to express their hope and rage. “The first sign of the 2010/2011 revolution was the graffiti on the capital’s walls, really,” says Italian researcher Luce Lacquaniti, author of the upcoming book The Walls of Tunis: Signs of Revolt. “For those who knew Tunis before the revolution, it seemed like the city filled with words almost overnight.” She explains that before the revolution, the walls were completely blank: “It wasn’t just the government that was erasing the writing from the city walls. It was also the citizens, who deemed writing revolutionary statements on the walls pointless if nothing ever changed. But when the revolution started, suddenly everybody wanted to have a say in politics.” Whereas in other countries graffiti is mostly decorative, 99 per cent of it in Tunisia is political. In her book Luce uses the writing as a key to understanding the period of transition in Tunisia – from the 2011 revolution to the elections in 2014 – pointing out transformations and contradictions. After studying Arabic and travelling the Middle East, Luce made Tunis her second home. In the beginning, she photographed the graffiti as simply a personal record, driven by her long-time interest in street art. On returning to Italy, however, she realised that foreign media had a very partial view of the events unfolding in Tunisia. “It was very difficult to understand what was going on in Tunisia from abroad,” she explains. “I thought that the writings could give an outsider a more precise picture of the everyday reality – what people in the streets and in the bars were thinking as opposed to the ‘official truth’.” For her, the graffiti is comparable to historical documentation. Luce started visiting Tunis on a regular basis. By then she already had the book in mind and an agreement with an Italian publisher. She went back to the same spots repeatedly to see how the writing had changed. “La Ville Nouvelle, the city centre, is where the writing is mostly concentrated. Other places are the Trabelsi family villas, the government headquarters and the Kasbah.” At the same time there were some graffiti crews that decided to work in the suburbs: “I see that as a reaffirmation of the outskirts, which have always been overlooked. Thanks to the graffiti they have become places for poetry and freedom of expression.” A section of wall in Avenue Bourguiba, called Les Arcades, was one of the spots that Luce came to photograph on several occasions. “Through the writing on these walled arches you could really observe all the phases of the revolution unfolding, from initial enthusiasm, to doubt, then to disputes, disillusion and eventually the total stagnation of the debate.” The first writing on Les Arcades dates back to the first months of 2011: “How beautiful Tunisia is without Ben Ali Baba and the 40 thieves!” This is an allusion to the Trabelsi family, the relatives of ex-president Ben Ali’s wife. In the following months, the graffiti was erased and a new slogan appeared: “Freedom is a daily practice”. A picture from 2012 shows three different messages overlapping, mirroring the three souls of the country. The first, in black paint, remains enthusiastic: “Long live Tunisia, free and democratic!” The red paint of the second is contradictory: “The revolutionaries say: you can’t fool us”. The third one is written in pencil: “There’s no god but God and Muhammad is His Prophet”. At this point the provisional government elections had been won by the Islamist Ennahda Party. Its presence is also affirmed in graffiti. “One would think that conservatives don’t write on walls, that it’s just young radicals who do so,” points out Luce. “On the contrary, writing is a phenomena that has involved the entire society.” This is because the walls are open and accessible to everyone. In that sense, walls have been far more democratic in spreading the revolution than the much-lauded internet: “It’s not the case that in Tunisia everybody owns a computer and knows how to use it,” Luce argues. “This holds especially true in the rural areas, which is precisely where the revolution started.” The issues discussed on the walls are the nature of revolution, forms of repression, the relationship between religion and politics, and problems involving gender. According to Luce, the writings are an integral part of the debate taking place in assemblies, newspapers, shops and private homes. While everyone participates, in her book Luce identifies three major militant graffiti crews, whose members are all in their 20s and 30s. “One group is called Zwewla, which translates as ‘the poor’. Their choices are tied to the concept that the revolution didn’t stem from politics or a desire to bring down the regime. It requested social justice first and foremost. For Zwewla, it’s not about secularists, Islamists or politics. It’s about the redistribution of wealth, more employment and economic growth, especially in the more marginal regions of Tunisia.” Zwewla’s members are themselves from poor areas and lives of hardship. “That’s why they encourage everybody from a similar background to sign their comment with the name Zwewla,” says Luce. “You don’t need an official subscription to the group to use their name. That’s part of their idea of social inclusion.” Another group, called the Molotov, gives a literary twist to their writing. “They express political concepts by quoting poems and making philosophical parallels. They are on a mass acculturation mission,” she explains. “That’s why for their writing they always pick the outskirts and neglected areas. Their intent is educative and didactic, always tied to current politics and events.” A third group is called Ahl al-Kahf and was formed at the art academy. Formally, it is much closer to street art. The group’s members have even written a manifesto in which they declare that their art is universal, a temporal and extendable to everyone who wants to join in. “They have studied art theory and French philosophy, from Michel Foucault and Deleuze to the Situationists, and they reference Mahmoud Darwish’s poems. Nonetheless, their aim is also to be inclusive.” In a similar way to Zwewla, Ahl al-Kahf also invite people to grab a spray can and sign an Ahl al-Kahf piece with their own name. “Because the work of art value is determined by its signature,” they say, implicitly criticising the art market. They too quote writers and philosophers from both Arabic and Western culture. Unlike the Molotov though, who are all about plain writing and the message, Ahl al-Kahf also create portraits. In 2012 two members of Zwewla were arrested for writing on the wall of the University of Gabès. They were accused of “spreading false news to disturb public order”. Thanks to the intervention of Amnesty International and other NGOs they got away with a hefty fine. Even though there is still a lot to achieve in terms of freedom of expression, Luce feels that things have improved since the revolution. “At least now when something like that happens, society reacts and the associations take action. In the past inconvenient people just disappeared.” Luce’s book concludes with the elections in 2014. Now that the transition period is over, she’s not able to predict the future for Tunisian graffiti. “Some think that a period of restoration is coming,” she adds, “so I don’t know if this creative and expressive ferment will be maintained.” The walls of Tunis share Luce’s uncertainty. “Last time I went to Les Arcade, the wall was completely blank.” “I Muri di Tunisi, segni di Rivolta” by Luce Lacquaniti, will be published in Italy by Exorma in April 2015 Naima Morelli is an arts writer and curator with a particular interest in the socio-political role of contemporary art. 2 3 0 5 Comments Please respect and abide by our Community Guidelines when leaving comments. Sent from the ether