Blog Syndicate

Apple vs. the FBI and Third World Despots

The legal battle between the FBI and Apple promises to be epic. I come down on Apple’s side; we’ve seen how important technology is in undermining evil despotic regimes around the world. If courts can force tech companies to become foot soldiers in regime efforts to spy on their populations that will be a loss for freedom around the world.


I drew this one as a live stream. Watch me color it in Photoshop in real time in the YouTube video below (scroll past the timer at the beginning).

Click on the YouTube video below and it should start at 2:48:40 where I start drawing the Apple vs Despots cartoon. This was a long afternoon of work, and I drew the previous cartoon before this one. Sorry for the lack of editing, but hey, you see everything. I have nothing to hide.


Obama and the Constitution

134245 600 Obama and the Constitution cartoons


Not So Funny In China

Not so Funny in China

I just got back from a speaking tour in China as part of a cultural exchange through the U.S. State Department, talking to college audiences about my political cartoons and what it’s like to be an editorial cartoonist in America.

The best measure of political freedom is political cartoons and whether cartoonists are allowed to draw their own leaders. Chinese cartoonists almost never draw their leaders, and my Bush-bashing cartoons seemed very foreign to Chinese audiences, who seemed genuinely concerned for my safety; they thought I was in danger from the politicians I lampooned. The questions were the same, wherever I went:

Q: Do your cartoons hurt your personal relationships with the politicians you draw?

A: No, I don’t have personal relationships with the people I draw.

Q: Do you worry that your drawings will hurt the reputation of someone you have drawn?

A: No, if one of my cartoons hurts the reputation of a politician that I am criticizing, then I am pleased. (Sometimes the crowd murmurs when I say this. It doesn’t seem to be what they expect me to say.)

Q: Do you ever apologize for your cartoons?

A: Sometimes, but only if I make an error or if the cartoon is misunderstood. Usually the people who are angry about a cartoon are the people I intend to make angry, and I am happy to make them angry. (The crowd murmurs at this answer, too.)

Q: Do you ever draw cartoons that are supportive of China?

A: No, I don’t draw cartoons that support anything. I just criticize. In America we have a special term for positive, supportive cartoons, we call them: “greeting cards.”

Q: Now that you have visited China, and have learned more about China, will you be drawing cartoons that support China?

A: Probably not.

Q: What do you think about the terrible things that Jack Cafferty from CNN said about China? What can be done to make CNN apologize for these remarks?

A: Most Americans don’t know Jack Cafferty and haven’t read about his remarks, but most Americans have a negative view of China and would probably agree with Jack Cafferty’s remarks. I wouldn’t expect CNN to apologize. (The students murmur.)

It’s interesting that CNN’s Jack Cafferty is a big, continuing issue in China; the students all seem to know about the guy and seem personally insulted by him.

The students ask whether I am excited about the Olympics (no, I’m not) and what I think about the earthquake (it was terrible, but I wish President Bush had responded to Hurricane Katrina as quickly as the Chinese government responded to the earthquake).

I learned what the Chinese think are funny — pigs and homosexuals. If I ever give a speech in China again, I’ll be sure to show all of my cartoons that feature pigs and homosexuals.

I didn’t show cartoons about China. I just wanted to show how I draw disrespectful cartoons about American leaders. That was enough to shock these audiences and show how different our press freedoms are. I was always asked how China is depicted in cartoons, and I answered that there are four symbols of China in international editorial cartoons: a panda bear, a Chinese dragon, the Great Wall, or the guy standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square –- the audience gasps –- many of the students have never seen the famous photo, and the subject of the Tiananmen Square “incident” is rarely discussed. At one speech, I mentioned the four symbols, the audience gasped, and one student jumped up, saying, “Oh! Oh! What kind of dragon?!”

I explained to the college kids about “censorship” in America, and that the government never censors cartoonists, but that freedom of the press belongs to the guy who owns the press and cartoonists often complain about their editors. This seemed to be a difficult distinction for them to grasp, in a country where the government owns or controls the press.

The Chinese have embraced capitalism; the country is booming, but the Chinese are eager to prove that economic freedom and political freedom are separate matters that don’t go together. The willingness of the Chinese to accept the restrictions on their press is shocking to my American sensibilities – just as my cartoons were shocking to the Chinese.

Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for; he is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 850 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. Daryl runs the most popular cartoon site on the Web at His book “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2008 Edition,” is available in bookstores now, and he has a new book coming out this fall, “The BIG Book of Campaign 2008 Cartoons.” See Daryl’s cartoons and columns at


Cartoons As A Measure Of Freedom

Cartoons as a Measure of Freedom

We all know that cartoonists can get into big trouble for drawing the Prophet Muhammad, but cartoonists around the world regularly get in big trouble for drawing all kinds of things. One cartoonist in Iran is in prison for drawing a cockroach.

Mana Neyestani drew a child talking to a cockroach; in the cartoon, a boy says the word “cockroach” in different ways, and the cockroach replies, “What?” in the Azeri language of Northern Iran. Mana has a lot of Azeri friends and colleagues, a minority group that constitutes about 25 percent of Iran’s population and which is often the butt of local ethnic jokes.

It would seem that the Azeris have thin skins; when they saw Mana’s cartoon, they rioted. Thousands of Azeris filled the streets to protest the cartoon; they set fire to a newspaper office then pelted government buildings and police with stones, injuring several policemen. Dozens of rioters were arrested. Mana and his editor were abruptly fired from their jobs at “Iran Friday,” the weekend edition of one of Iran’s largest newspapers, which ran a front-page apology for three days following the riots.

Iranian officials blamed America and Israel for the riots fueled by the cartoon, but threw Mana and his editor into Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison where they face trial on charges of “insulting the Azeri minority.” Mana’s cockroach cartoon was published on May 12; the newspaper was closed down on May 23 and is awaiting a court decision on whether it may resume operations.

Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, is pressing the case against Mana and his editor. Mortazavi is best known for closing about 80 pro-reform newspapers in Iran and is rumored to be in line to become Iran’s next Justice Minister. He is also wanted in Canada in connection with the murder of a Canadian photo-journalist. Mortazavi ordered photographer Zahra Kazemi’s arrest and imprisonment on charges of “photographing a prison;” she died after being beaten and tortured. The Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister also accuses Mortazavi of falsifying documents to cover up his involvement in the case.

The Canadian Press quotes Prime Minister Steven Harper, “We’re appealing to the international community to use all manner of law available to detain this individual (Mortazavi), and have him face justice. I don’t know whether we’ll see a willingness or an ability to do that, but we want to make it absolutely clear that the government of Canada has not dropped this matter.” According the same Canadian Press report, Canada condemned Mortazavi’s appearance at a United Nations human rights conference this week and narrowly missed an opportunity to extradite him when he skipped a scheduled stop in Germany on his trip back to Iran.

My friend, Nik Kowsar, alerted me to Mana’s story. Nik used to be Iran’s top cartoonist; he escaped to Canada after receiving death threats. Back in Iran, Nik was recently tried and sentenced in absentia to four months in prison for insulting government officials and clerics. Nik tells me that Mana’s brother, Touka, who was another of Iran’s top cartoonists, has given up his profession out of fear.

I run a popular political cartoon web site on (at where I feature Nik’s cartoons, and I used to run Touka’s work. The government of Iran recently blocked access to my site and I’ve been getting e-mails from Iranian readers, wondering where the site went and how to find it again.

Cartoons are more powerful than words. A cartoon on the editorial page screams louder than the words that surround it. The response to the Danish Muhammad cartoons shocked the West, but came as little surprise to Third World cartoonists who are used to seeing nutty reactions to their cartoons. Cartooning is a dangerous profession in much of the world where the accepted response to an insult is vengeance. The fact that a murderer is prosecuting a cartoonist should be seen as a measure of Iran’s dysfunctional society.

Most people in the West came away from the Danish Muhammad cartoon imbroglio with the idea that we need to be more tolerant of other religious views, and that drawings of Muhammad should be forbidden out of respect for the sensitivities of Muslims. Nothing could be more wrong as we see crowds riot in response to a drawing of a cockroach. The lesson to be learned from the Muhammad cartoons, from Mana, from Nik and from many other cartoonists who suffer from unreasonable Third World reactions to their cartoons, is that cartoonists are on the front lines in exposing the repression, intolerance and underlying chaos in totalitarian societies.

Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for He is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 800 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. His books “The BIG Book of Bush Cartoons” and “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2006 Edition,” are available in bookstores now.