“If we didn’t laugh, we’d go mad with existential terror”


By Ally Hamzey

Often, guest speakers and lecturers for college students are reserved, and exhibit a sense of censorship. As students, we can usually sense when a speaker is holding back from expressing their entire opinions on a matter, or the full truth. Today, political cartoonist Martin Rowson, displayed a refreshingly unapologetic presentation of his opinions and knowledge.

As a journalism major, I found Rowson’s interpretation of the roots and components of journalism alluring.

Rowson described journalism as a “capacity to witness the world around us, to filter it, and to recreate it.” That description of journalism, in addition to his view that journalism helps us “understand and control the world around us through our narrative” resonated with me as a truthful analysis of journalism.

Rowson used the concept of “control” frequently in his talk. He spoke on the power of using humor as a device to cope, and the methodology of using humor in cartoons specifically. Rowson explained that visual satire, or political cartoons, have existed for over 300 years in Britain. Their long ranging history of political satire in Britain is a factor for the country’s provocative and daring humor in political cartoons.

Apple workers carry Steve Job’s casket, AKA an iPad, at his funeral. Cartoon by Martin Rowson.

Compared to the United States, the UK’s political cartoons and media in general is far more uncensored and blunt. Admittedly, it was shocking to see the bold and unfiltered depictions of politicians that Rowson showed us. In the US, there would be major offense and outcry taken to the same cartoons produced in Britain, because there is a far higher degree of censorship in the US.

British humor is something that is clearly different than American humor. In order to understand UK culture, I feel as if it is crucial to comprehend British humor and its significance in the culture. Rowson explained that “a British company would never sue for a cartoon because that would be even worse publicity.” In Britain, there is a national consensus that a good sense of humor is a positive, crucial trait as a person . In America, companies or powerful people sueing others for what they see as offensive is seen as normal, as there isn’t such a strongly similar humor in the U.S.

I found a new perspective of journalism today and I feel motivated to create even more truth and art within those truths as a journalist. As Rowson said, “journalists are part of the checks and balance system.”

The London Bridge. 


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