Political cartoonists are out of touch – it's time to make way for memes

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The New York Times came under fire after a political cartoon appeared in print on April 25, 2019. In it, a blind President Donald Trump, wearing sunglasses and a yarmulke, leads, with a leash, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s depicted as a dog with a Star of David around his neck.

The Times later issued an apology, called the cartoon “anti-Semitic,” and announced that it would discipline the editor and enhance its bias training. The newspaper also indicated that it will no longer use the syndication service that supplied the cartoon.

To some, this might appear to be a significant move. But it fails to address larger problems with editorial cartooning – namely, the ranks of cartoonists are too white, too old and too male.

As a scholar who studies social media and memetics, I wonder if political cartoons are the best way to connect with today’s diverse readership. Many crave searing, cutting political commentary – and they’re finding it in internet memes.

What if internet memes were elevated – not only as a serious art form but also as an important form of editorializing that’s worthy of appearing alongside the traditional cartoon?

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