There are certain people out there who wake up every morning still missing the "The West Wing," who think that Hal Jordan's famous "blue, orange and purples skins" scene would have been better with a fat cat wearing a sash labeled "military industrial complex" in the background, and who want to start their day with some insufferable liberal smugness. Those people need to head over to Leftycartoons, a collection of left-leaning political cartoons, by Barry Deutsch.

Those people who do not wish for more politics in their cartoons, or who are conservative or libertarian, should refrain clicking the above link, unless their blood pressure is dangerously low and they need to drive it up a little. The man does not pull punches.Of course, the point of political cartoons has always been to enrage people, and not just the people being skewered, but those who agree with their points as well. Political cartooning is the art of taking a thousand words and putting them into a picture of the Statue of Liberty lying on the ground, being beaten with her own torch. They're not supposed to be even-handed looks at the complexity of economics, the practical struggles of a society, and the diversity of human opinion. They're designed to make one point of view look so ridiculous that people angrily ask what kind of a person could ever be so stupid as to think like that.

In this way, political cartoons are incredibly frustrating. Even the best of them both condemn and rely on a particular sort of willful blindness.


At their best, though, they can be a very powerful way of prioritizing values. Political cartoonists are not blind to the situations that they are simplifying. They are simply using cartoons as a way of dramatizing one particular problem. Sometimes it's the heart of the issue, sometimes it's only the fluff -- the most superfluous weapon in a political arsenal. Either way, a good political cartoon can use its literalism and simplicity to make logical flaws, human failings, or political themes so blindingly clear that they can't be hedged around or ignored. They focus an argument from a long speech into one panel, and force people to confront one problem. That's almost worth the tension headaches. Almost.