Martin Rowson

Written By: Tribune web editor
Published: June 17, 2012 Last modified: June 14, 2012

This week I thought I’d describe my adventures with a website called Medialens over a cartoon I recently drew for The Guardian. It featured Bashar al-Assad, in the immediate aftermath of the Houla massacre, smeared in blood and pointing an equally blood-stained finger at his own chest. Also depicted were Vladimir Putin, Wen Jiabao, Ban Ki Moon, Kofi Annan, several cowled figures of Death, Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde lashing a pile of human bones with euro-laden cats-o’-nine-tails and the sleeping form of David Cameron, snuggled up to an enormous cat dressed in a blue pin-striped suit. The thing was captioned “Who? Me?!?”, although it’s by no means clear who’s saying these words, just as it’s not clear whose blood besmirches Assad, whether it’s his latest alleged victims’, from his earlier ones or, for that matter, whether the blood might be his own.

Anyway, I was asked by Medialens via Twitter (in 140 characters or less, even if a picture is, they say, worth a thousand words) what clear evidence I had for President Assad’s personal involvement in the Houla massacre. So far as I can tell, Medialens turn out to be a couple of blokes called David whose mission is to expose the lies, misrepresentation and manipulation in the “mainstream media”.

Of course, it’s an impossible question to answer. Anything you try to say soon starts spiralling into a kind of phenomenological vortex. What is our evidence, after all, for anything, least of all murders in a far away country enshrouded by the fog of war, where both sides have made a habit of saying each fresh outrage was the other side murdering their own people to blacken their enemy’s reputation? So it was probably my mistake to try explaining how I followed my “cartoonist’s hunch” based on Assad’s previous form, and how cartoons are more ambiguous than most journalism. And I certainly shouldn’t have allowed myself to get quite so

foul-mouthedly cross, even if foul-mouthed crossness is sort of my professional schtick.

Still, my responses gave them the copy they sought, and they had me duly pinned to their cork board as yet another example of a hireling of the “mainstream media” both swallowing whole and thereafter cheerleading an American/British/Saudi/Bahraini neo-conservative interventionist conspiracy to invade Syria. Or something. And, as Medialens exists in cyberspace and nowhere else, my pillorying as their patsy pursued its inevitable trajectory. Within hours of them blogging my infamy, I started receiving the usual tweets and emails telling me (in case I hadn’t hitherto guessed) what a cunt I am, sent in an instant by that silent global army of paranoid agoraphobics who, these days, don’t even have to find a bottle of green ink and a stamp to pitch in with their ten bob’s worth.

I’m still not sure what kind of Parallax literalism fuels Medialens. And, despite my repeated requests, they still won’t or can’t tell me why they don’t also demand my evidence for alleging that Merkel and Lagarde have really truly desecrated corpses, as depicted in my cartoon. If my picture of Assad bears the same weight of empirical objectivity as a photograph, why deny those same standards of truthfulness for Merkel? And I haven’t even got round to raising the subject of cats in pin-striped suits.

Maybe their failure to answer is because their claim to champion truthfulness and balance is all baloney, and they’re just another leftist groupuscle shilling for tyrants whose one redeeming feature is they hate the West almost as much as their own people hate them. Perhaps they genuinely don’t understand what metaphors are, and view the world in two dimensions, in black and white. After all, one of their sweeter observations was to ask how, without firm evidence, I could show President Assad with his mouth smeared with the blood of “massacred children” (their interpretation, not mine), qualifying the question by then asking if I’d ever depict Barack Obama, or David Cameron, or any other Western leader in the same way, with just as little direct evidence of personal complicity in the piles of corpses currently littering the world.

Well, as any Tribune reader could assert with the closest thing you’re likely to get to certainty this side of the Second Coming, they don’t know me very well, do they?

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  26. Rhisiart_Gwilym says:

    “American/British/Saudi/Bahraini neo-conservative interventionist conspiracy to invade Syria” You *state* it accurately, Martin. But you still seem not to *get* it. A necessary precondition of being a Within-the-Paler of the lamestream media, I guess. 

    Look into ML more extensively, I recommend. The Dafyddau are a couple of really good, straight, honest blokes, with a truly phenomenal capacity for staying calm and absolutely always courteous and affable in the face of flak (whatever we uncontrollable hectic rabble of their casual readership may do); and an equal capacity to skewer the obfuscations and evasions of the corporate media businesses, and the powerful-minority constituency whom they truly serve.
    BTW, the line of yours that I quote at the head of this note turns out to be literally true, you know once you get what really goes on behind the Permanent Bullshit Blizzard of the Western propaganda machine — what we’re all taught to think of as the major news media. A politically-minded cartoonist really ought to be up with this stuff. But then, if you got too mercilessly clear about it, you’d likely find yourself ejected from the Pale, and the pay and status that goes with it.When you’ve a mind, you might find it really fascinating to do a search on the ML site for stuff about ‘token radicals’ within the corporate media; and for anything by, or about, Jonathan Cook, who was a Graun staffer, before taking his own Within-the Paler life, in a RTDamascus crisis of awareness and conscience,  and decamping to freelance from Nazareth (sic), where he seems to be precariously poorer, but MUCH happier in his soul.Cheers Martin! Come back soon to the ML Message Board. Your input, whether en claire or in disguise would always be welcome. No-one there really hates you, you know; even if some silly buggers have been calling you a cnut. 🙂 The buddhistically-inclined Editors exhort everyone steadily, at all times, to eschew such useless maya permanently from their souls.   Best, RhG

  27. Ummm OK. Do you care to name these people who have suggested that Merkel and Lagarde have at some point in have desecrated a human corpse?

    The only certainty is that his “own people” are responsible for atrocities against others of “own people”. But there isn’t any massive weight of evidence against him personally.

  28. rippon says:

    Fuck off, you cunt!

    Only joking! Couldn’t resist – such an obvious joke.

    Seriously, though, this is a serious debate where nearly everyone (e.g. Rowson, ‘us’) has engaged respectfully.

    That’s excellent, but the problem remains: Tony Blair is amongst the most polite respectful people in the world, and “respects” people who “take a different view” over Iraq. But he similarly spun the brutality of a dictator, and that spin facilitated an invasion-occupation by duping fellow citizens into allowing the crime (because ‘something must be done’ about this ‘blood-drenched’ dictator).

    Of course we must engage with each other politely and respectfully, but our manners don’t actually make any difference to the millions who get killed/displaced by war.

  29. MartinRowson1 says:

     But unequivocally saying what? That Assad has committed atrocities. Is that true or not? Where’s the irresponsibility? And to whom? My loyal fans who’ll cry themselves to sleep because I appear – by your lights – to have sold out? The vast majority of humanity who look at the Guardian cartoon before they make their minds up on any and every issue? President Assad, who’d been depending on my support?

    The clincher remains in your phrase “in my view”. This is a disagreement, where you [plural] demand empirical evidence for my judgement, thus objectifying the whole thing to make my position untenable. It’s a clever tactic, but that doesn’t make it any the less a tactic.

    But please, if you’ve time, deconstruct the cartoon so it’s clear, rather than commenting on the bloodiness of Assad’s regime, it actively advocates Western Intervention. Because that’s what Medialens held me as an advocate of.

    Oh, and thanks for saying thank you. Most people who disagree with what I do simply seek to browbeat me into compliance by telling me to fuck off and calling me a cunt.

  30. Gwernog says:

    Your ‘visual comment’ does not ‘inexorably lead to’ propaganda or irresponsibility. It is, in my view, propaganda and it is, in my view, irresponsible. 

    As a cartoonist, you have your part to play in how masses of people view the situation in Syria. Your cartoon is a world away from the ‘I have my hunches but who knows what’s really going on’ type of picture you’re painting here. At risk of repeating myself, the cartoon is pretty darn unequivocal! It’s not about ‘tenets’ or ‘thought crimes’ – it’s about seeking truth and addressing hideous double standards. I’m grateful that you’ve taken the trouble to respond at such great length but a bit disappointed at your avoidance of the issue. It’s all a bit elephant-in-the-room. 

  31. coventrian says:

    Martin Rowson writes, ‘Maybe their failure to answer is because their claim to champion truthfulness and balance is all baloney, and they’re just another leftist groupuscle shilling for tyrants whose one redeeming feature is they hate the West almost as much as their own people hate them. ‘

    Maybe – but more likely – maybe not. 

    Do you have the slightest evidence for such a casual but damaging insinuation? 

    I’m sorry but It sounds like just the sort of language (i.e. ‘leftist groupuscle shilling for tyrants’) used by cruise-missile liberals like Nick Cohen and David Aaronovitch to smear the principled and anti-war Left.

  32. Attrition47 says:

    Was it something I said? ?

  33. MartinRowson1 says:

     This, I hope, will be my last posting here as I have other things I need to get on with. But just to give the hive a parting kick, I’m still concerned about your use of the words “irresponsible” and “propaganda”.

    I’ve already abrogated responsibility for the interpretation my work is subject to, but I detect a desire from you and Medialens’s other supporters on this thread to drag an admission of intentionality out of me. The question is, an intention to do what?

    It could just be that I was commenting on an existing and pre-existing situation in Syria where, albeit with alleged outside backing, Syrians are already killing each other with alacrity. However, you [plural] seem to want me to fess up to an intention of either directly advocating Western Intervention (hence “propagandistic”) or creating a public mood to make such an act possible (hence “irresponsible”), maybe even unconsciously (and so doubly “irresponsible”) and based on nothing more my judgement of one of the protagonists’ track records (and that makes me triply “irresponsible”, I suppose).

    But why? How does my visual comment, whatever its basis in my fevered mind, inexorably lead to either propaganda or irresponsibility?
    Unless, that is, either consciously or unconsciously, I’m guilty of some kind of Thought Crime against tenets you [again, plural] hold self-evidently to be true, but I don’t share?

    In the last couple of weeks that I’ve found myself in this maze of mirrors where nothing and everything isn’t and yet is what it seems, that seems to me to be a conclusion Medialens jumped to at the very start. To me, though, it looks like a syllogism.

    Though you [plural] are right: I keep at this because Medialens pilloried my reputation (see the message boards on their website for examples of this, based entirely on ignorance of anything except this ambiguous cartoon)  because it’s not nice being accused of cheerleading an invasion which actually doesn’t exist because it hasn’t happened. Nor, I suspect, will it, though that’s another argument.

    Still, there’s a drizzle of irony here, of being accused of Thought Crimes in a thread beneath a column originally founded by George Orwell. Or was he too mainstream for you?

  34. rippon says:

    “Where do I go to apologise humbly for previous errors?”

    I don’t know anything about your previous work, erroneous or not.

    But your recent Assad cartoon *is* an error – because it adds to the chorus for increasing the West’s military action in Syria (there is a degree of that happening already).

    So if you did indeed wish to “apologise humbly”, then, in answer to your “where do I go?”, I suppose, ‘to Syrians in neighbourhoods where we have added to the violence’ is the answer.

    (I would say, don’t bother, though; better to stay here and continue participating in the debate about the best course of action for Britain w.r.t. Syria.)

    Moreover, bolstering the chorus for military action is not only serving the Pentagon, but probably some Ba’athists too: extremists always see the chaos and misery resulting from war as an opportunity to start with a blank slate for their agenda. (That’s why the Pentagon named their Iraq operation ‘Shock and Awe’.)

    Your jocular sarcastic tone is typical of mainstream commentators and disturbing for this reason: the issue for you is the besmirching of your professionalism and integrity and therefore an argument you need to win. The issue for ML is that the human consequences of warmongering are horrific; therefore they will challenge anyone who contributes to the chorus for more wars.

    I didn’t think we were talking about your work. I thought we were just talking about this particular cartoon by you and how it relates to the wider military issues, e.g. potential bombing/invasion by us of Syria. (That’s why the Merkel thing seems off-topic to me.)

  35. Gwernog says:

    Thanks again for your responses. 

    I am not at all confused about the difference between a metaphor as depicted in a cartoon and what goes on in ‘real life’ and I don’t think anyone else is. 

    As I understand it, Medialens are not asking for empirical proof “from a medium”. They are asking for empirical proof from you the person, as the author of the cartoon in the real world, to back up the opinion expressed in this cartoon (however metaphorically you may have expressed it).

    I’m not sure that anyone  (apart from you) is suggesting that Merkel desecrates corpses, but plenty are stating as fact that Assad’s regime is (solely) responsible for the massacres in Syria. 

    The timing of your cartoon really is pertinent – how could anyone interpret it in any other way than as a response to the latest massacres, particularly given the helpful headline above it?

    So, the problem I have with your cartoon is not that it *is* open to interpretation – it’s that in terms of it’s main focus, Assad, it really, clearly isn’t.

    A challenge on Twitter does not preclude a measured response by other means or media. You are blaming the medium but your initial response spoke for itself – anger and obfuscation at being challenged over an irresponsible and propagandist piece of cartooning.

  36. MartinRowson1 says:

     Okay, I surrender. I’m an unwitting dupe of the Pentagon, servile to the interests of power (though clearly not the power nexus operated by the Ba’ath party in Damascus). Where do I go to apologise humbly for previous errors?

    Oh, but. That Merkel thing. Medialens won’t discuss it because it’s declared it unilaterally to be off message. From my point of view, seeing as we’re talking about my work in my profession, it’s essential to establish a common ground for debate before leading me into the Lubyanka cellars. So them and you saying “Not relevant” still won’t wash, if you want a conversation to continue. Sounds like you’re just sticking your fingers in your ears and trying to shout me down here, in my “tortured” rebuttals.

    Wonder where they got tortured. Syria?

  37. rippon says:

    MartinRowson says, “I suspect – and naturally I have no evidence whatsoever for this … – that they’ve [ML] reached a point where they suspect that everything in the “mainstream media” is compromised.”

    You don’t need evidence for that! That’s exactly right, and ML states it openly.

    ML’s perspective (as I understand it) is: mainstream media is intimately tied to the nexus of corporate-state power and therefore its output is inevitably compromised; there are strict bounds to what can be said.

    This intimate relationship which distorts journalism was stated explicitly by Cameron at Leveson: Cameron said that he and News International (Rebekah Brooks) were there to push the same political agenda.

    This symbiotic relationship is quite open and transparent with certain media, e.g. News International. ML argues that the symbiosis actually exists with the ‘liberal’ media too (far more perniciously so, in fact).

    There are strict bounds to what can be said, bounds which true ‘professionals’ understand. Thus, journalists don’t need to be banned from writing certain things (e.g. ‘Malaysia shames UK by succeeding where we have failed – judicial indictment of Tony Blair’), and cartoonists don’t need to be banned from drawing, say, a gleeful Cameron paddling in a pool of Libyans’/Syrians’ blood. Censorship is unnecessary because true professionals are intelligent enough to understand and absorb the prevailing culture – if you want to remain at a party, you do not behave rudely to the host.

    The whole point of political cartoons is to distil a message into its concentrated essence, thereby packing a quicker punch than journalists can with their prose.

    But journalism and cartoons can either be challenging and dissenting, or they can be servile to the interests of power (e.g. hi-tech militarised states with the power to bomb and invade).

    ML has suggested that Rowson might have (unwittingly?) performed a servile rather than dissenting role when they asked whether he would be equally prepared to draw a Western leader in such a defamatory light.

    It is this suggestion that seems to have riled Rowson and led to his tortured rebuttals. For example, one rebuttal, which makes no sense, is that ML’s challenge lacks credibility because they only asked about the cartoon portrayal of Assad and not Lagarde/Merkel. (ML, in this instance, chooses to focus on a military not economic issue, and on Assad rather than others. But Rowson suggests ML should have asked a different question. That’s nonsensical: ML is free to ask any question it likes; and anyone is free to ignore them.)

  38. MartinRowson1 says:

     Okay. Partly I think the heat – if not the light – of all this arose because of the medium, as John points out above. All nuances became lost – and Medialens chose to challenge me on Twitter, and then blogged my responses. Hence my understandably ungenerous interpretation of their motives, which included saying directly that Assad was depicted smeared in the blood of the children massacred at Houla. I know this is nitpicking, but that’s not what I depicted. I make the point again because Medialens then paraded me on their blog as another example from the pro-interventionist “mainstream media”. Again, not so.

    As I said to John above, this is a misjudgement if you think Assad is wholly unconnected with the massacre (and previous massacres, by my lights). But this is no more proven than that he was: both statuses require a judgement call, and my judgement – on his previous form – disagreed with Medialens’s – and, I assume, yours.
    To repeat myself, my beef is not with Medialens disagreeing with me, but with them demanding empirical proof from a medium that plays fast and loose with reality *by definition*.

    And I insist my point about Merkel stands. If you’re into auditing human misery, how do you balance a few score dead Syrians against the systematic immiseration of millions of Europeans by Merkel and the economic orthodoxies of the West? You don’t need to answer that, but Medialens’ continued failure/refusal to address the point about Merkel suggests they don’t mind it, because they agree with it. And that’s in spite of however many conclusions I’ve jumped to or however irresponsible or, for that matter, dangerous my depiction of an individual who is also the leader of one of our leading allies and trading partners as a desecrator of corpses may prove to be.

    Which is my point, and the point of all this. Political cartoons are a form of voodoo, and almost by definition visual libel. You can say a cartoon is morally or politically wrong, but you can’t say it’s factually wrong, because it obviously is.

    Your go.

  39. Gwernog says:

    Thanks, I’m really grateful for the explanation. As I thought, the cartoon posits Assad as a bloody tyrant in denial – but rather crucially this cartoon appeared in the wake of a widely-reported massacre which the vast majority of the media held Assad responsible for. 

    I agree with John Leach – I think you have misjudged this one. Making your work open to different interpretations is fine, but in the Assad cartoon I really think there was very little in the way of alternative interpretations. 

    You are adamant that Medialens’ assertion about the blood of “massacred children” is totally off the mark. However it now seems they are not far wrong, since you say your inspiration is  Assad’s denial  “while being caked in the blood of his previous victims” – which, if we are to believe the reports you relied on, could well include children.

    I think as a cartoonist in a national newspaper you should check the facts really carefully, just as a journalist ought to do, and not rely on a cartoonists hunch or a set of reports which, shall we say, don’t really seem to be offering the full picture. 

    I appreciate that it can be hard or even impossible to establish what is ‘going on’, which is why it is all the more important not to jump to conclusions. I think it is no exaggeration to say it is both dangerous and irresponsible to do otherwise.

  40. MartinRowson1 says:

     Quite. As I tweeted to someone yesterday, debate on Twitter is an impossible hostage to brevity, to the point where I’ve been accused of over-reacting because I can’t make my point in 140 characters or less. Would’ve thoroughly fucked Fidel’s 8 hour speeches, for sure…

  41. John Leach says:

    That is true – it’s only a miscall if you think Assad’s being set up for Western Intervention. Medialens just find it notable that your cartoonist’s hunch went the other way on this one 🙂

    I’m beginning to think that part of the problem here is indeed the limitations of twitter. The discussions here in the comments have been much more nuanced.

  42. MartinRowson1 says:

     If you really really need a message in the cartoon you can’t tease out for yourself, see my reply to Gwernog below…

  43. Gwernog says:

    I understand that subs wrote that, and I understand you are saying the headlines are at odds with the message. My question to you is – what is the message? 

  44. MartinRowson1 says:

     Well, I miscalled this if you assume that I follow the Medialens line that Assad’s being set up for Western Intervention. I don’t necessarily believe that, and anyway, I’m not a member of any party that demands a party line. That, it seems, is what Medialens want – given their history of targetting colleagues like George Monbiot and Seumas Milne. I suspect – and naturally I have no evidence whatsoever for this, but you might be getting used to that by now – that they’ve reached a point where they suspect that everything in the “mainstream media” is compromised, and therefore you can trust nothing. Maybe that’s true, but right now I still prefer to dodge and weave through the shadows of ambiguity.

  45. John Leach says:

    Thanks for replying Martin.

    I still think Medialens asked reasonable questions and you could have answered reasonably. I just don’t think you liked what your answers were.

    I think your cartoon was heavily influenced by media reports which mischaracterised the situation. It’s more common that your cartoons shine a light on this kind of thing and not echo it. So it’s understandable that you’d be angered by Medialens’ line of questioning imo.

    From out here, it really does look like you miscalled this and are understandably uncomfortable about it.

  46. MartinRowson1 says:

     I disagree entirely. I’m trying to get Medialens to admit to the possibility of metaphors that can’t be backed up with concrete evidence – and in the Merkel case, according to their leights, the libel is much much worse because there is no evidence whatsoever that she and Lagarde have ever ever done anything like that. Yet that’s how I’ve depicted them. Just as I depicted Assad smeared in blood, when there is a massive weight of evidence, conceded by Medialens as well, that he is responsible for atrocities against his own people. Also, it’s part of the vocabulary of cartoons to use political leaders as synecdoches for their countries, parties, etc. So again, Medialens’ request that I come up with evidence that Assad is personallly complicit fails to address cartoons on their own (widely accepted) terms. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the Syrian state is culpable (Assad Senior certainly was) while Assad Junior is a wholly innocent stooge. That doesn’t invalidate the cartoon though, as he is a stand-in for the state.

  47. MartinRowson1 says:

     Subs wrote that, not me, and as is often the case they headline my work in ways at odds with the message of the cartoon. And your interpretation of what a cartoon is is at odds with my practice. As I’ve said, Assad has form – that’s the blood of his former victims, and maybe – maybe – his latest ones too. Who knows? I seek to encourage other to think or reflect, not just hammer home a point. If you find that an uncomfortable mystery, my apologies.

  48. Gwernog says:

    It says very clearly above your cartoon (as published in the Guardian online): ‘Martin Rowson on the latest Syrian massacre – cartoon’ (my emphasis).

    Presumably  – since you are repeatedly asserting it is ‘not clear’ and the cartoon could conceivably be about some earlier Assad crime, or some other blood somewhere  – you are unhappy about the Guardian’s own interpretation of your work?Let’s put it another way – if you didn’t depict the blood of innocent children, whose blood is depicted in this cartoon? You are very clear about what you ‘didn’t do”, but what did you do? What are you saying? I don’t understand why it has to be a mystery.Of course ambiguity and multiple interpretations in art are wonderful, but I thought the whole point of a political or satirical cartoon was to absolutely nail an issue in some way, to tell a sort of truth, however uncomfortable, not leave us all floundering around wondering what on earth it is supposed to be about if not the most obvious as stated on that Guardian heading…

  49. MartinRowson1 says:

     Sorry – posted that before I’d finished. Which is with this: Medialens were seeking to get me to admit that, with no evidence whatsoever, I was claiming that Assad was complicit in the latest massacre. As (unlike several of my colleagues) I had the grace to respond (shrilly, frantically or desperately – take you pick from the adverbs ascribed to me) I was duly reeled in and hung up as another mainstream journalist who was cheerleading an invasion of Syria based on nothing. That, I believe, was always Medialens’s intention, so they got their result. That doesn’t mean they didn’t misprepresent me, as the blood being that of “massacred children” is entirely their interpretation, not mine.

    That’s why I keep picking at this scab. It’s because Medialens were acting politically, as is their right, but in using the language of evidential objectivity they were failing to address a cartoon on its own terms. I also insist they misinterpreted it for their own ends (as have many other people over the years with other examples of my work – offence, I worked out long ago, is almost always in the eye of the offended).

    And, for the record, I think Assad is a murderous bastard who should be strung up by his own people. So take that as a “no” to intervention but a “yes” oto blood caked complicity in atrocities, even if the jury’s out on this one.

    Doubtless this one will run and run…

  50. The “Merkel and Lagarde have really truly desecrated corpses” straw man defence here doesn’t make any sense. No one is suggesting that Merkel and Lagarde have desecrated a corpse while many have suggested Assad was behind the Houla massacre, depsite the lack of any convincing evidence.

  51. MartinRowson1 says:

     This will, I know, sound like a cop out. Nonetheless, it’s the case. I deliberately make my work open to different interpretations, so it’s debatable whose blood it is (though not likely to be Assad’s, it’s true). However, my inspiration was that Assad was denying complicity in this atrocity while being caked in the blood of his previous victims. It’s a bit like that old gag about George Washington holding  an axe and saying, “Me, dad? No way!” Given the presence of the other figures in the cartoon, who’d likewise deny complicity in either the emiseration of parts of the Eurozone or the shielding of Syria as a client regime in defiance of the UN and so on.

  52. Gwernog says:

    I think it’s perhaps a little disingenuous, Mr Rowson, to say that it’s not clear who’s blood Assad is covered in, given this cartoon followed in the wake of a massacre widely reported to be his responsibility. It seems you are loth to explain what your cartoon is about. Could you explain please? Or is it just open to any old interpretation, including the highly unlikely one that the blood could be Assad’s own? 

  53. MartinRowson1 says:

     John – some of what you say may well be true, though clearly I’d disagree. However, as I keep trying to explain, my beef with Medialens is the nature of their response: they called for evidence of Assad’s complicity, and how I justified depicting him smeared with the blood of “massacred children” [their interpretation]. I didn’t do that. Moreover, I certainly didn’t call for Western Intervention. So they’ve misrepresented me for their own ends.

    I have no problem whatsoever with people disagreeing with me: many do, very vociferously, hence the occasional death threats, I suppose. But they led with a request for something which doesn’t apply with cartoons. That’s why I asked them again and again why they haven’t asked me for evidence that Merkel and Lagarde have truly engaged in desecrating corpses. However, they don’t answer, which sort of proves my point.

    Weirder still, though, is the sense I get from some quarters that, when misprepresented I’m not allowed to respond by defending myself. Perhaps I’m just meant to wear the dunce’s cap in the corner of the paddy field with gratitude.

  54. John Leach says:

    Rowson has done some great cartoons, challenging far more then the typical journalist but in this case his work really does seem to toe the establishment line (ignoring much evidence to the contrary) – and I think Medialens highlighting this hit a nerve here with Rowson.

    All they really did was politely ask him a question and it results in an article aimed squarely at belittling and smearing them as “maybe” “shilling for tyrants”.This is actually a common reaction to Medialens’ polite questioning. It’s an understandable reaction to be honest – it’s quite upsetting when our own line of thinking is uncovered like this.

  55. MartinRowson1 says:

     Yes, repeatedly. Check my archive throughout the interweb.

  56. Attrition47 says:

     Julian you need to get out more.

  57. Attrition47 says:

    Rowson, have you portrayed Bliar Bush, Obama and Cameron astride their corpses? Have you lampooned Bliar the prating hypocrite, wiping the blood of hundreds of thousands of civilians off with the Pope’s robes, as the old boy ushers him over the threshhold?

  58. rippon says:

    Thanks. That certainly was, as requested, worthwhile reading – but only in terms of entertainment value.

    I enjoy your colourful portrayal of me and your turns of phrase, e.g. ‘I’m afraid of the world’, ‘find refuge in a fantasy’, ‘rub myself against’, ‘get smacked in the kisser!’

    You lost me with ‘I want you to know that I can use a Greek word’, but here is what I definitely do want you to know (since the blindingly obvious has apparently passed you by) – what this thread is about:

    Rowson is riled by ML’s suggestion that: he would never dare, on equally scant ‘evidence’, to cartoon a Western leader (e.g. Cameron, Obama) as a blood-thirsty mass-murderer (e.g. over Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan); whereas he is happy to do that with Assad because it’s easy (and professionally advantageous) to join the chorus of propaganda that paints us as the good guys and Assad/Gaddaffi/Saddam as the bad guys.

    Rowson seems to suggest that, as a cartoonist, and not an evidence-led journalist, he *would* dare to do that; but that’s not clear, and that’s why my original post at the top of this thread (which, it seems, you might be struggling to follow and comprehend, given the tangents you have gone off on) asked for clarification.

    Rowson is absolutely correct that, as a cartoonist, evidence is not crucial to his craft, and it is (and should be) fine for him to indulge a degree of poetic licence.

    But ML is also correct that he is indeed merely contributing to propaganda if he cannot demonstrate that he is equally prepared to cartoon Western leaders in an equally defamatory way.

    It doesn’t look good if a journalist or cartoonist is only prepared to cast doubts/aspersions on one side in a conflict.

    Now, that’s what this thread is about, namely, what the OP (Rowson) makes it about. Your comments about me are entertaining; but your comments about the *subject of the thread* would be interesting (and perhaps entertaining too). You seem to have a lot to say; I hope you can make it relevant.

  59. This thread is not about ‘propagandistic contributions for/against war/dictators’. It’s about the way pseudo-intellectuals frottageurs find a home on the ML message board . Like all solipsists you’re afraid of the world, suspect it may be against you, and find refuge in a fantasy of sole possession of the truth.  You venture out so as to sort of rub yourself up against the world, and then you get smacked in the kisser!  Then you want me to know that you can use a Greek word.  (Or is it Latin?).

  60. rippon says:

    Do you have any comment to make on the *subject* of this thread – beyond this vacuous faecal nugget? Btw, bearing in mind your censure that “Literalism is indivisible!”, by which I’m assuming you mean that spelling and meaning of words are important, I have checked ‘faecal’ in the dictionary and can assure you that the word does indeed apply accurately to your contributions ( – your contributions, so far, that is; hopefully, you might try to engage your brain a bit more in future and give us something worthwhile to read).

    There are many phrases that come to mind w.r.t. you, but it would be pointless to follow your example by defecating my idle reflections onto this thread – the subject of which, if you can be bothered to think about it, is actually highly significant: propagandistic contributions for/against war/dictators.

  61. rippon says:

    Julian, you dipstick: I was replying to Kevinegan13 and chose, tongue-in-cheek, to echo *his* spelling. Do try to keep up. This is a *thread* – so it’s important to take note of what’s come *before*.

    Two questions for you: do you have any comment to make on the *subject* of this thread (rather than people’s spelling)? What do you mean by “Literalism is indivisible!”? (Or is that just a cretinous narcissist’s way of saying that spelling is important?)

  62. ML are fascinating to the casual observer of human behaviour. The phrase ‘agoraphobic obsessive’ comes to mind.

  63. Rippon old mate, you spell it ‘censorious’, not ‘censurious’, you dipstick.  If you want to be literalist – and you obviously do – then at least get your spelling right. Literalism is indivisible!

  64. coventrian says:

    Martin, if you can’t take it – don’t dish it out. 

  65. rippon says:

    The “censurious edict of ML”?

    ML posed a question/challenge/criticism to Rowson. No matter what one thinks of ML (positive/negative), what they do cannot be classed as “censurious” – not least because they do not even possess the power to censor anyone.

    By your logic, Kevinegan13, ML could characterise your criticism of *them*, e.g. “neo-Stalinist”, as ‘censurious’. They won’t, though, because you have made no attempt to stifle their output; you have merely criticised/challenged it. Now it is their job to answer that challenge (if they can be bothered).

    There’s nothing wrong with what Rowson has done or with what ML do. They both challenge/criticise each other. That’s what we expect people to do in a democracy. ML challenged Rowson with the question, ‘would you ever cartoon a Western leader as blood-thirsty with zero evidence as you have with Assad?’

    Rowson has written at length about the challenge (e.g. he thinks it’s a silly one, apparently), but, for some reason, chooses not to answer the question (as far as I can tell).

    Rowson is perfectly entitled to ignore people (e.g. ML); ML is perfectly entitled to continue challenging him.

  66. Kevinegan13 says:

    Earlier ML ruled against Chris Riddell’s cartoon, depicting Assad “devouring his people”, based on an imaginative reference to a classic dark image by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya.
    So Martin Rowson is not the only one who has come under the the censurious edict of ML, who  have adopted a neo-Stalinist insistence that art must be answerable to “evidential criteria” according to a party line.

  67. Attrition47 says:

    ~~~~~ if I’d ever depict Barack Obama, or David Cameron, or any other Western
    leader in the same way, with just as little direct evidence of personal
    complicity in the piles of corpses currently littering the world.~~~~~

    Put up or shut up.

  68. rippon says:

    Mr Rowson,
    It would have helped if you had pasted or linked the actual cartoon. That would have made it much clearer what you (and Media Lens) are talking about. 🙂

  69. rippon says:

    Mr Rowson,

    I haven’t followed you completely.

    There is the question (from Media Lens): would you ever depict any Western leader (e.g. Obama, Cameron) in the same way with just as little evidence?

    Your answer to that question seems to be: “they don’t know me very well, do they?”

    That response seems to be a ‘yes’ in answer to the question, but it’s not clear (to me).

    Please could you confirm/clarify.


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