Cartoonists Wrestle with the Freedom to Insult

The World
Cartoonists battle on the front line of freedom of speech. And events this week have put to the test just what responsibilities that freedom entails. Kevin Kallaugher draws for The Economist and The Baltimore Sun, and Patrick Chappatte cartoons for the International Herald Tribune. They're both in Washington, DC where they're attending a cartoonists' convention. Chappatte warns, "You have now the capacity to insult anybody, through very cheap and very provocative comments. And that's not what freedom of expression should be about." Kallaugher says the story of perceived abuse by the West of the prophet, or anything to do with the Muslim religion is a "dangerous explosive subject to deal with." "When you're a cartoonist, you have to manage it carefully, but at the same time you don't want to avoid it. You want to embrace these very important subjects," he says. Kallaugher adds, "You can judge the maturity of a society by the amount of satire it can endure." The two cartoonists have also been observing and satirizing the American presidential campaign: Their cartoons are both detached and smack right in the middle of the campaigns' slings and arrows. You'll see President Obama trying to conjure up the old magic of 2008; Mitt Romney shooting rhetorical blasts at a dragon (China); Obama arm-wrestling with the economy – and losing; and Mitt Romney looking in the mirror and seeing the reflection of a past Republican president with a last name that starts with R.