Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cartoon is No Laughing Matter to Pentagon Brass

Editor & Publisher reports all six members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have signed this letter protesting the pictured Tom Toles editorial cartoon in the Washington Post.

Aravosis of AmericaBlog first reported the letter's existence Wednesday morning. E&P reports:

"Aravosis from AmericaBlog told E&P: 'Now that the Joint Chiefs have addressed the insidious threat cartoons pose to our troops, perhaps they can move on to less pressing issues like getting them their damn body armor.'"
The editorial cartoon is in response to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissing two Pentagon commissioned reports last week that warned the military was being stretched thin in Iraq.

The letter ignores the link and focuses instead on the depiction of a wounded soldier representing the US Army.

More than 15,000 US troops have been wounded in the Iraq War.

Culture Clash

Mr Toles and the Post seem to have run into a cultural conflict they never expected. Based on anecdotal experience I've had today -- service members I've talked to universally see the cartoon in bad taste, civilians don't.

When journalists -- including editorial cartoonists -- produce a piece of work they need to take into account the "stakeholders" in that article, column, or cartoon. In this case, it appears Mr Toles and the Post failed to factor in the "culture" of the military.

Almost universally, the Service Members I've heard from cringe at the image. It's a "whistling by the graveyard" image. A "there but by the grace of God" thought that stays in the back of their minds.

The military culture isn't as obvious as those of other minorities in this country. But it's doubtful Mr Toles would have used a character in black face to draw attention to African American issues. Using a severely wounded soldier to draw attention to Service members' issues has a similar effect. (E&P)

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