The unsolved problems that have dominated the national discourse this year will only intensify as we make our way into another election year.
2013 was the first year that I kept a consistent schedule, working with The Gabbler’s editors to pitch ideas and angles for cartoons. Again and again, I found myself focusing on certain themes: the intimate relationship between moneyed interests and the government; technology and the perpetually-multiplying powers of the executive branch; and political events that are shaping the direction of the world.
The closeness between the government and moneyed interests is clearly on display in the legal treatment of banks for their far-reaching crimes. My first cartoon this year – an admittedly conventional and unimpressive illustration of an unidentified character shouting at the DOJ’s Lanny Breuer and an oversized personification of HSBC – was a reaction to small fines for heinous money laundering practices. This topic came up again in October, when J.P. Morgan Chase and their acquisitions WaMu and Bear Sternes also avoided criminal charges for recklessly tanking the economy.
This theme will likely be even more pronounced in 2014, as corporations continue to shape our government by blatantly using massive amounts of money to choose who gets elected, and the gap between the rich and poor widens.
I also spent a lot of time considering the terrifying pace of technology in 2013. This shows in different ways, from the Facebookification of our Daily News to shadowy government agencies’ abilities to gather and store every piece of information we transmit (and we transmit a lot). The revelations from hero-of-the-year Edward Snowden fostered a forceful public awareness of the burgeoning domestic security state. For me, this was prominently seen during the manhunt for Boston Marathon Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev less than a mile away from my apartment, as the overwhelming force of the nation’s many-pronged security apparatus came down on an enemy of the state.
Internationally, President Obama’s drone wars became the iconic image for cartoonists looking to portray Obama succumbing to the seductive power of new technology in service of a boundless global war. The administration’s memo legally justifying the assassination of U.S. citizens made the increasing use of a “national security exception” even more frightening. Despite all this, the GOP continued to fixate almost exclusively on criticizing the President’s health care reform.
Elsewhere in the world, Syria continues to be a tragic and seemingly immutable catastrophe; Turkey’s Prime Minister holds on to power; and a series of power changes leaves the autocratic foundation of Egypt’s state intact. The U.S. winds down in a chaotic and corrupt Afghanistan, admitting after 12 years that we’re much better at destroying states than we are at fixing them (and maybe we aren’t the best role models).
I’ll be looking at these persistent issues in 2014, as well as looking at some new trends in our fascinating world ( like private prisons in America). Over the past few months, I’ve felt that certain topics are so rich with irony and absurdity that they require a more narrative and research-based cartoon – like the recent one below. Hopefully trying out new formats and formulas will help cartoons be engaging, and keep the robots from taking my job.