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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]


Having spent half-a-lifetime confronting, facing down and baiting my left-wing compatriots, I have the benefit of knowing exactly what words, names and phrases to use in order to elicit a dramatic response.

For example, the very name of George Bush has become the etymological equivalent of a nerve agent. One only has to drop it into a conversation and then watch the lefties convulsing themselves in spasms of bug-eyed hatred-cum-delirium. At the moment there is no antidote.

Robust political partisanship of this kind is nothing new nor is it confined to the left; the name of Tony Blair will turn the face of most Conservatives into a rictus of horror. For most of the time, this kind of mutual baiting is fun and, in many ways, indicative of a healthy society.

However, I have found evidence of something a little darker in this quite awful cartoon in the Guardian.

The two figures are supposed to be those of Messrs Bush and Blair but it is the image of George Bush, portrayed as a sort of cross between a pointy-eared alien and an ape, which I find just a little disturbing. Presumably the cartoonist is trying to convince his audience that George Bush is less than human.

The art of caricature is a time-honoured British tradition which I particularly enjoy and it is right that all political figures should be regarded as fair game. But this is not just caricature, it is deliberate dehumanisation; a process with a very unfortunate provenance.

Nor can this be simply dismissed as the work of an ‘unrepresentative fringe’ as the Guardian is undoubtedly the most important organ of the British left. Given their alleged commitment to ‘humanitarian’ policies, depictions of human beings as apes is the kind of thing I though they would go to any lengths to avoid. As it is, they have provided us with a window into the kind of psychosis which lies at the heart of at least some portions of the ideological left.

When George Orwell wanted to warn us all of the horrors of communism he did so by portraying animals as human beings. My feeling is that those who portray human beings as animals have a far less worthy agenda.

18 comments to Spiteful

  • Jonnathan

    David, have you seen the cartoon in the Independent on Thursday, by the way? It portrayed Sharon eating one of his victims. It’s play on anti-semitic themes was clear. I urge all readers to contact the Press Complaints Commission about this. The Independent has already gotten a lot of complaints. That paper is getting worse by the day.

    Caricatures, are as you say, part of the stock in trade of life, and long may they remain so. But something pretty nasty has turned up in the mostly leftist media.

    Of course the left hates Bush. They are envious. Bush has more moral backbone than most of them put together, which is a pretty damning state of affairs, since Bush has plenty of faults from a libertarian perspective.

  • Try criticising the secular Saint: Mandela. Oooh they get so mad!


  • The “Press Complaints Commission”?? Good god, man, this is a place for libertarians.

    Get ahold of yourself.

  • VAMark

    They’re showing Blair as a DOG, for crying out loud. “Dehumanization” looks like a bit of an overreaction to me …

  • It’s a rotten cartoon qua cartoon, too. The whole idea of portraying Bush as an ape isn’t just dehumanizing, it’s incomprehensible. It merely distracts from the message he is trying to convey.

    And who or what is that white thing meant to be? Is it meant to be Tony Blair? Doesn’t look like him. Is it meant to be a dog or a space alien or what?

    There’s a quite well known Victorian picture called “Sympathy” of a kid in disgrace being comforted by a doggie, which obviously gave Steve Bell his starting idea. A straightforward parody of that would make sense in Bell’s own terms, but the ape features and the ears and the vagueness as to the identity of the white creature just distract and confuse.

    Never mind, though, back in the real world nine EU countries have signed a letter of support for Bush and Blair. I would do a cartoon myself of the French and German leaders comforting each other on the stairs, except that they are such nonentities that no one would recognize them.

  • Jacob

    Why did you put this under “libertarian views” ?
    Are only libertarians disgusted by this ugly and vicious drawings ? Are libertarians more disgusted by this than ordinary people ?
    The nazis specialized in this kind of caricatures in “Der Sturmer”, and nowadays you can find them in the Arab press.

  • Fred Boness

    How did I know it was going to be Steve Bell? Unfortunately, this is nothing new for Mr. Bell and this malice is not limited to George Bush.

  • Duncan Richer

    There’s a lot of criticism here of Steve Bell portraying Bush as an ape-like creature in this particular cartoon. The fact is that Steve Bell always portrays Bush as this ape-like creature.

    It is a common feature of a lot of British satire and political cartooning that public figures are caricatured in one consistent way, to the point where the original meaning of the caricature (other than the fact that it is meant to be disparaging) is lost.

    Steve Bell has also famously portrayed John Prescott (UK Deputy PM) as a spayed British bulldog. He has a history of dehumanising politicians in his cartooning; it is applied to figures from both left and right.

    When you criticise Steve Bell for dehumanising Bush, you are criticising Steve Bell for his cartooning style.

  • Ah, isn’t this cartoon a cross of an ape and a pig? That’s the impression I get from Bush’s colour and ears. Makes David’s points on Orwell more relevant

  • Kevin Connors

    I haven’t seen this particular cartoon. But my general attitude is “get over it.” It’s not as if dehumanization in political cartoons is anything new.

  • Miranda

    The art of caricature is a time-honoured British tradition which I particularly enjoy and it is right that all political figures should be regarded as fair game.

    Pure curiosity on my part: how does this cartoon compare to “The Independent”‘s recent one on Sharon? Having arrived here directly from the “Indenpendent” site, I perceived it as quite friendly, almost cute in comparison.

  • David Carr


    ‘Libertarian views’ is the only category that seemed remotely appropriate. There is no other implication.


    Yes I am aware of the publication of that cartoon in Der Sturmer…sorry, the Independent. It is quite grotesque and clearly illustrative of a sentiment that goes quite beyond being merely anti-Sharon or even anti-zionist. I think it is rather worse than the Bush/Blair cartoon but I always get a little concerned ape-caricatures.

  • Bill

    Some kind of takeoff on the “sons of monkeys and dogs” theme, no doubt. The least he could have done would have been to portray Mr. Blair as a bulldog.

  • “Press Complaints Commission”??????

    What the hell is this? If this is what it sounds like, then would their action be better than the offensive cartoon? I certainly think the state acting against offensive speech (with a small number of exceptions) is far worse than the speech itself. There are essentially two options here: you’re either in favor of freedom of speech for speech you don’t like or you’re not in favor of freedom of speech. There isn’t much middle ground. If you’re in favor of the state oppressing people’s freedom, then you aren’t in the right place.

    (The noted exceptions include honesty in business dealings, like protection against fraud or false advertising–it’s a very short list, which emphatically does not include political cartoons or editorials)

  • I sympathise with Lucas’s concerns here. Free speech. Both Duncan and Natalie seem to be making sense too.

    I’ve liked Steve Bell’s cartoons for a long time, though almost always disagreeing with them politically. His cruel depiction of Geoffrey Howe as Bungle the Bear from the British TV series ‘Rainbow’ was spot on, for example.

    But this cartoon is a bit boring, apart from anything else. Not up to his usual standard.

  • I think it’s sort of silly to criticize the cartoon for the reasons stated in the posting, but free speech is of course different from freedom from criticism (contrary to what some people seem to believe). I was just reacting to the idea that the government should be involved in it, as stated in the first comment. Scary stuff, that.

  • nikki

    I personally see donkey’s ears in the cartoon – in France, donkeys (or asses) have long symbolized (in cartoons, folk tales and popular symbolism) a general and demonstrated lack of intelligence, conmmon sense and wits. If that was the cartoonist’s intent… then who would dare deny its pertinence??
    And also, please enlighten me: how to reconcile the paradox of being a “libertarian” and being “pro-W”???

  • campanologist

    steve bell’s done a lot worse than that – but he’s funny, accurate and honest