Satire in Action

An examination of satirical cartoons

Herb Block

All of these cartoons were drawn by Herb Block.


1) "What do they expect us to do, listen to the kids pray at home?" (1963)

Subject / Context

This cartoon came out June 18, 1963, just as the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to allow prayer in schools. The cartoon is a reaction to possible negative reactions to the ruling.


Persuasive Techniques

Symbols

- the father's reaction is representative of how some Christians undoubtedly reacted to the ruling

- the family is meant to be representative of the typical Christian family


Exaggeration

- the facial expression on the dad is over-the-top to emphasize how ridiculous it was to get over-angry at the news

- the father's commanding presence over the table is an exaggerated view at the patriarchal family structure present in many families at the time


Labeling

- "Supreme Court Ruling" on the newspaper is labeled just to clarify exactly what the father is getting angry about


Analogy

- The rather complex issue of church vs state is examined from the perspective of a family eating at a dinner table.


Irony

- the cartoon is meant to criticize those opposed to the Supreme Court ruling; praying at home instead of school shouldn't be a big deal

- the father is shouting about having to hear his children pray (which would probably be very quiet or have no noise at all)


Purpose of Cartoon

Herb Block is trying to say that he agrees with the Supreme Court ruling, that the separation of church and state should, by extension, keep praying out of public schools. His article poses people of the other opinion (that praying should stay in schools) as being close-minded and selfish. The cartoon does its job well, although it's hard to make that judgement (prayer has been out of public schools since then, so obviously it was a solid ruling). To make the article even more persuasive, though, Block could have toned down his rather forward, somewhat rude, incredulousness to those of the opposite opinion.


2) "Kindly move over a little, gentlemen" (1965)

Subject / Context

This cartoon addresses the place of health, education, and welfare in the United States. The cartoon, published on January 26, 1965, addresses LBJ dedicating more federal funds to each of these three things than had been recently afforded. The Vietnam War was also raging at this point, and the US war pouring money into that effort.


Persuasive Techniques

Symbolism

- Grade A milk represents growth, particularly the growth afforded to the three areas


Exaggeration

- the guns on the hips of the cowboys branded "military establishments" and "arms costs" are rather gigantic, emphasizing the unnecessary presence of such forces

- LBJ's features are extreme to induce recognition


Labeling

- The bartender, whose features are LBJ's, is labeled "LBJ budget" to emphasize that the focus of the article isn't on LBJ, it's on LBJ's decision to increase the funding of the three areas

- The two go-get-em cowboys are labeled "military establishments" and "arms costs" to show what was sacrificed to fund the three areas

- The child is labeled "health," "education," and "welfare" to show that these three areas have been forgotten lately in favor of defense measures.

- Grade A milk is labeled to show that the bartender, LBJ / his budget, is trying to help the child grow


Analogy

- The cartoon examines the funding of the military and arms vs the funding of health, education, and welfare to show where the country's values were at the time and time right before publication

- The whole situation is an analogy to the nurturing nature of LBJ's policies


Irony

- LBJ / his budget is wagging a finger (and flashing a taunting smile) at the two cowboys. Instead of pouring drinks for the men (in a bar), he instead quenches the thirst of a child by providing Grade A milk. This is meant to show how unusual it was for LBJ to pay attention to these three areas as the Vietnam war was going on.

Purpose of Cartoon

This cartoon addresses the place of health, education, and welfare in war time. Block seems to support LBJ's budgetary decisions; the smirk on LBJ's face could easily be Block's: "You've had your turn." The cartoon criticizes those skeptical of LBJ's decision through the representation of the three areas as a child; children need nourishment. Using the symbol of the child as an emotional crux works.


3) "Remember -- don't vote for anyone who would interfere with the way we've been handling things" (1974)

Subject / Context

The subject of the cartoon is the then-current problems of recession and inflation in the US. The cartoon was published on October 30, 1974. Gerald Ford's policies against recession and inflation were failing, but he was insisting that the public should vote for like-minded people.


Persuasive Techniques

Symbols

- The runaway horses of "inflation" and "recession" are meant to show that President Ford has let these things get a little out of hand

- Ford is hanging on for dear life to the horses' rein; he's still holding on, even if barely so

- The unlabeled man trampled by the horses represents a common man; Ford's failing policies have hurt the everyday man


Exaggeration

- Ford's physical features have been exaggerated for recognition

- Ford's expression doesn't match the situation, and is decidedly calm, almost stupidly so


Labeling

- The man holding on to the horses is labeled "Ford" to represent then-preseident Gerald Ford

- The runaway horses are labeled "recession" and "inflation" to detail Ford's relationship to these two things


Analogy

- The drawing is analogous in the way that it could be interpreted in two ways; Ford is keeping things in check, BARELY, or Ford has let things get this terrible. The duality of the image matches the duality of the way Ford saw himself (barely hanging on) and the way others saw him (failing).


Irony

- The caption reads "Remember -- don't vote for anyone who would interfere with the way we've been doing things." This is juxtaposed with the picture of the runaway horses; Ford wanting voters to stick with someone like himself when electing congressmen and senators is counterintuitive, as he's obviously doing something wrong

- It's not Ford who suffers, it's the commoner; this is representative of how recessions hit the middle and lower classes harder than the upper class.

Purpose of Cartoon

This cartoon examines Gerald Ford's insistence to the American populace that they elect people like himself for Senate and Congress. Block is critical of Ford's plea, juxtaposing it with a man (Ford) hanging of for dear life to runaway horses (labeled "recession" and "inflation"). What makes the article effective is the trampled man beneath the horses; that could be anyone. Anyone could be affected by Ford's runaway horses. However, though, are the horses Ford's, or were they handed to him? Arguably, it isn't Ford's fault that the horses are acting the way they are. However, Block seems to find Ford responsible. The article could be more effective if it just labeled the trampled man, even just to say "man." That would just clarify that his presence is meant to represent an everyday citizen.