Political Cartoons in Egypt

        Cartoons in Egypt within the past few years have gained national awareness and recognition. Amongst the categories of cartoons, political cartoons are known to identify and express the emotions of the Egyptian people on a more daily basis. Currently in Egypt, media censorship is of debate amongst the country. With the current media censorship, more cartoons, specifically political cartoons, are being published in remarks towards Sisi suppressing political freedoms. Some of the most prominent perspectives that are seen throughout Egyptian political cartoons are political liberalism, political realism, and radicalism.  This blog will first go into an overview of political cartoons in Egypt, the different perspectives seen throughout these cartoons, how military intervention has played a role in Egyptian cartoons, and how my new understanding of political cartoons in Egypt has changed my standpoint on the Middle East.

Cartoons in Egypt have been around since the 1870’s (Morsot 2). However, little sociology work have been done on Egyptian cartoons. Cartoons, like most, try to influence the spectator either to be for or against something through imagery, such as distorting a figure. The underlying element in cartoons is satire which aims at creating or influencing the public opinion through social and political criticism. It is also serves the function of being a commentary for daily events. However, in times of war or a national crisis, a cartoon can act as a safety value as well, such as symbolizing the enemy as evil. For Egyptian cartoons, these function as well as others are seen throughout. Some of the difference that can be noted between Western and Egyptian cartoons are the use of them for political developments. Egyptian cartoons depict more of the daily lives Egyptians face such as power outages, military interventions, and suppression from the government. Another difference is in mannerism. Egyptian cartoons include harsh imagery, such as beheadings, which are not typically seen in Western cartoons. Cartoons in Egypt appear to be a coping mechanism for many of the people throughout Egypt and reflect the harsh reality they live in before and after their current uprising. Another important factor in Egyptian cartoons is the different perspectives, such as political liberalism and political realism, that can be noted in them (Guyer).

In looking at the different perspectives of globalization found within Egyptian cartoons, there are several standpoints and themes that are commonly repeated. In relations to the Egyptian youth, cartoons mostly portray them as having a political liberalism viewpoint towards the government. In the perspective of the youth, cartoonists try to capture their views on their disapproval for the government, specifically their use of military intervention. Another theme that can be noticed about these types of cartoons is how they capture through imagery the youth’s ideologies that are against Sisi’s suppression of  political freedoms. These cartoons also try to illustrate the youth’s standpoint of the use of multilateralism, encompassing everyone’s views, and their use against Sisi’s political realism and radicalism. Most of the political cartoons about Sisi are indirect and portray him as a political realist and radical. These themes can be seen in political cartoons specifically when talking about media censorship and the use military to enforce laws. Political realism is illustrated in cartoons in regards to current military enforcement, such as arresting publishers and cartoonist that have publish sensitive information or things that go against the state. Radicalism, on the other hand, is seen more specifically with the current suppression of political freedoms. This ideology is captured by cartoonists through more bright and violent colors, such as red and bright yellow. It is also portrayed as altering social structures of political freedoms, such as media censorship. Cartoonists have been illustrating the government as a more radical institution as Egyptians’ political freedoms keep being taken away and are censored. Another aspect in Egyptian cartoons is how they portray the military and the idea of military enforcement (Guyer).

The current standpoint of the government is to use military interventions to enforce new laws and to keep the public at ease from protesting. However, the current youth and population disagree and do not like this idea of a realist ideology to enforce and restrict the people. As seen in Controversies in Globalization, the use of military intervention is a complex issues and heavily debated. From a political realist standpoint, military intervention can be justified as mentioned by Jack Donnelly, a professor from University of Denver, in Controversies in Globalization. However, Donnelly merely justifies the use of military intervention for only reasons of humanitarian concerns and this idea of there being a responsibility to protect. From this perspective, Sisi’s use of military enforcement cannot be justified from the Egyptians’ standpoint. Although people may publish images and articles that go against the state, there is no humanitarian justification for using military force to restrict people from doing so. From a different standpoint from Doug Bandow, from the Cato Institute, encompasses this idea of how military intervention cannot be justified on any grounds to promote good, especially for a humanitarian intervention. Although Bandow is talking more on the use of foreign military intervention, his ideology can be encompassed with the people of Egypt’s perspective. Most of the people in Egypt, specifically the youth, see the military as a sign of fear and not something that promotes good as Bandow mentioned. Furthering Bandow’s standpoint in relations to the Egyptian youth, military enforcement has harmed thousands of Egyptians and by no means have given the people of Egypt their demands. With the current president of Egypt using more military enforcement, political freedoms are being taken away more readily and is empowering the government more to Sisi’s ideas than the demands of the people. This can be seen throughout different political cartoons and the current media censorship (Haas 189-214).

One of the topics that I researched on within political cartoons was how they were used for in expressing the people’s responses to the current suppression of the media and essentially the idea of free speech. Of the political cartoons I have researched, most of the cartoons indirectly incorporate Sisi’s demands for media suppression. The emotions centered around this current debate in Egypt give this sense of dismal disparity of the people, with the influences of black and white imagery and the expression on people’s faces. In response to military enforcement of the media censorship, political cartoons incorporate more brightly colored imagery, indicative of the government’s use of radicalism. On another note, some of the political cartoons are more unilateral, giving only the perspective from the media. Interpretation of these types of cartoons represent this idea of distrust people now have towards the media, bringing in cultural aspects to indicate this. Throughout my research my ideas on the influences of political cartoon has changed over the course of my research (Guyer).

Some of the main influences that have changed my understanding of the Middle East and more specifically Egypt are from interviews of political cartoonists and through following a twitter blog by Jonathan Guyer. My previous knowledge of political cartoons did not encompass how other countries might use them and this idea that they only mock the government in ways that are not beneficial for the public. However, in researching political cartoons in Egypt, I found that political cartoons can be used for other means. Some of the other functions of political cartoons, specifically in Egypt, are a way for people to cope with current events, such as beheadings, and as a means of news. Most of the Egyptian cartoons discuss more of political developments that are not necessarily faced here in the United States, such as power outages. Another way this research has changed my understanding is the different cultural components that go into cartoons. Staying within the same country for so long, certain cultural aspects of other countries are not seen and are forgotten about. Within researching this topic, I have become more culturally aware of the Middle East and with the Egyptian culture. Like any type of art form, culture is a great influence in different artwork. In looking at the political cartoons in Egypt, I learned many new culture innuendos and components. With this, I have also gained more of an understanding of the current events in Egypt and how political cartoons are greatly influenced by them.

Furthermore, in looking at an overview of political cartoons, the different perspectives seen in Egyptian political cartoons, and how military intervention has played a role has shaped my new perspective and understanding of the current events in Egypt. Political cartoons are used as news outlet and as a means to influence people on different perspectives. In times of war, cartoons can also be used as a safety value. Some of the main perspectives I saw in researching political cartoons in Egypt were political realism, political liberalism, and radicalism. In regards to the Egyptian youth, most the political cartoons reflect this political liberalism standpoint and how the youth are against Sisi’s use of realism and radicalism with the use of military enforcement. Military intervention has played a key role in the cartoons I researched, specifically about the current media censorship. Although both the authors regarding military intervention in Controversies in Globalization differ, both do not represent Sisi’s reasonings for military enforcement. Throughout my research, some of the main influences that have changed my perspective on the current events in Egypt are through interviews from cartoonists and through following the twitter and tumblr blogs by Jonathan Guyer. Some of the new understandings I have gained are cultural and how cartoons can influence the public. Political cartoons in Egypt are a great news and coping outlet for the population and many different cultural aspects can be seen in them.

Works Cited

Haas, Peter M. “Military Intervention and Human Rights.” Controversies in Globalization: Contending Approaches to                      International Relations. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: CQ,   2010. 189-214. Print.

Marsot, Afaf Lutfi Al-Sayyid. “The Cartoon in Egypt.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 13.1 (1971): 2-15. Web. 7 Dec.    2014.

Guyer, Jonathan. Web blog post. Twitter.Web.7 Dec. 2014.

Guyer, Jonathan. Web blog post. Oum Cartoon. Tumblr. Web. 7 Dec. 2014.

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