Patrick Chappatte: The power of cartoons

Patrick Chappatte: The power of cartoons


So yeah, I’m a newspaper cartoonist — political cartoonist. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it — newspapers? It’s a sort of paper-based reader. (Laughter) It’s lighter than an iPad, it’s a bit cheaper. You know what they say? They say the print media is dying — who says that? Well, the media. But this is no news, right? You’ve read about it already. (Laughter) Ladies and gentlemen, the world has gotten smaller. I know it’s a cliche, but look, look how small, how tiny it has gotten. And you know the reason why, of course. This is because of technology — yeah. (Laughter) Any computer designers in the room? Yeah well, you guys are making my life miserable because track pads used to be round, a nice round shape. That makes a good cartoon. But what are you going to do with a flat track pad, those square things? There’s nothing I can do as a cartoonist. Well, I know the world is flat now. That’s true. And the Internet has reached every corner of the world, the poorest, the remotest places. Every village in Africa now has a cyber cafe. (Laughter) Don’t go asking for a Frappuccino there. So we are bridging the digital divide. The Third World is connected, we are connected. And what happens next? Well, you’ve got mail. Yeah. Well, the Internet has empowered us. It has empowered you, it has empowered me and it has empowered some other guys as well. (Laughter) You know, these last two cartoons — I did them live during a conference in Hanoi. And they were not used to that in communist 2.0 Vietnam. (Laughter) So I was cartooning live on a wide screen — it was quite a sensation — and then this guy came to me. He was taking pictures of me and of my sketches, and I thought, “This is great, a Vietnamese fan.” And as he came the second day, I thought, “Wow, that’s really a cartoon lover.” And on the third day, I finally understood, the guy was actually on duty. So by now, there must be a hundred pictures of me smiling with my sketches in the files of the Vietnamese police. (Laughter) No, but it’s true: the Internet has changed the world. It has rocked the music industry; it has changed the way we consume music. For those of you old enough to remember, we used to have to go to the store to steal it. (Laughter) And it has changed the way your future employer will look at your application. So be careful with that Facebook account — your momma told you, be careful. And technology has set us free — this is free WiFi. But yeah, it has liberated us from the office desk. This is your life, enjoy it. (Laughter) In short, technology, the internet, they have changed our lifestyle. Tech guru, like this man — that a German magazine called the philosopher of the 21st century — they are shaping the way we do things. They are shaping the way we consume. They are shaping our very desires. (Laughter) (Applause) You will not like it. And technology has even changed our relationship to God. (Laughter) Now I shouldn’t get into this. Religion and political cartoons, as you may have heard, make a difficult couple, ever since that day of 2005, when a bunch of cartoonists in Denmark drew cartoons that had repercussions all over the world — demonstrations, fatwa, they provoked violence. People died in the violence. This was so sickening; people died because of cartoons. I mean — I had the feeling at the time that cartoons had been used by both sides, actually. They were used first by a Danish newspaper, which wanted to make a point on Islam. A Danish cartoonist told me he was one of the 24 who received the assignment to draw the prophet — 12 of them refused. Did you know that? He told me, “Nobody has to tell me what I should draw. This is not how it works.” And then, of course, they were used by extremists and politicians on the other side. They wanted to stir up controversy. You know the story. We know that cartoons can be used as weapons. History tells us, they’ve been used by the Nazis to attack the Jews. And here we are now. In the United Nations, half of the world is pushing to penalize the offense to religion — they call it the defamation of religion — while the other half of the world is fighting back in defense of freedom of speech. So the clash of civilizations is here, and cartoons are at the middle of it? This got me thinking. Now you see me thinking at my kitchen table, and since you’re in my kitchen, please meet my wife. (Laughter) In 2006, a few months after, I went Ivory Coast — Western Africa. Now, talk of a divided place — the country was cut in two. You had a rebellion in the North, the government in the South — the capital, Abidjan — and in the middle, the French army. This looks like a giant hamburger. You don’t want to be the ham in the middle. I was there to report on that story in cartoons. I’ve been doing this for the last 15 years; it’s my side job, if you want. So you see the style is different. This is more serious than maybe editorial cartooning. I went to places like Gaza during the war in 2009. So this is really journalism in cartoons. You’ll hear more and more about it. This is the future of journalism, I think. And of course, I went to see the rebels in the north. Those were poor guys fighting for their rights. There was an ethnic side to this conflict as very often in Africa. And I went to see the Dozo. The Dozo, they are the traditional hunters of West Africa. People fear them — they help the rebellion a lot. They are believed to have magical powers. They can disappear and escape bullets. I went to see a Dozo chief; he told me about his magical powers. He said, “I can chop your head off right away and bring you back to life.” I said, “Well, maybe we don’t have time for this right now.” (Laughter) “Another time.” So back in Abidjan, I was given a chance to lead a workshop with local cartoonists there and I thought, yes, in a context like this, cartoons can really be used as weapons against the other side. I mean, the press in Ivory Coast was bitterly divided — it was compared to the media in Rwanda before the genocide — so imagine. And what can a cartoonist do? Sometimes editors would tell their cartoonists to draw what they wanted to see, and the guy has to feed his family, right? So the idea was pretty simple. We brought together cartoonists from all sides in Ivory Coast. We took them away from their newspaper for three days. And I asked them to do a project together, tackle the issues affecting their country in cartoons, yes, in cartoons. Show the positive power of cartoons. It’s a great tool of communication for bad or for good. And cartoons can cross boundaries, as you have seen. And humor is a good way, I think, to address serious issues. And I’m very proud of what they did. I mean, they didn’t agree with each other — that was not the point. And I didn’t ask them to do nice cartoons. The first day, they were even shouting at each other. But they came up with a book, looking back at 13 years of political crisis in Ivory Coast. So the idea was there. And I’ve been doing projects like this, in 2009 in Lebanon, this year in Kenya, back in January. In Lebanon, it was not a book. The idea was to have — the same principal, a divided country — take cartoonists from all sides and let them do something together. So in Lebanon, we enrolled the newspaper editors, and we got them to publish eight cartoonists from all sides all together on the same page, addressing the issue affecting Lebanon, like religion in politics and everyday life. And it worked. For three days, almost all the newspapers of Beirut published all those cartoonists together — anti-government, pro-government, Christian, Muslim, of course, English-speaking, well, you name it. So this was a great project. And then in Kenya, what we did was addressing the issue of ethnicity, which is a poison in a lot of places in Africa. And we did video clips — you can see them if you go to YouTube/Kenyatoons. So, preaching for freedom of speech is easy here, but as you have seen in contexts of repression or division, again, what can a cartoonist do? He has to keep his job. Well I believe that in any context anywhere, he always has the choice at least not to do a cartoon that will feed hatred. And that’s the message I try to convey to them. I think we all always have the choice in the end not to do the bad thing. But we need to support these independent, critical and responsible voices in Africa, in Lebanon, in your local newspaper, in the Apple store. Today, tech companies are the world’s largest editors. They decide what is too offensive or too provocative for you to see. So really, it’s not about the freedom of cartoonists; it’s about your freedoms. And for dictators all over the world, the good news is when cartoonists, journalists and activists shut up. Thank you. (Applause)

Danny Hutson

78 thoughts on “Patrick Chappatte: The power of cartoons

  1. @SSPX3 You're missing out on some good stuff – it's quite entertaining. I dont know why the prejudice, but you should watch it, then decide to up/downvote.

  2. The first thing I look at in the news paper here is the "Klier" cartoons.
    Usually this 1 cartoon sums up the main stories better then the 10 pages of text the other reporters wrote about the subjects.

    Great presentation and keep up the good work Patrick!

  3. It's worth reiterating. People DIED because of cartoons. Islamic extremism is basically ignored in this country and it's absolutely sickening. Why does it take a Frenchman to express disgust by this!?!?

  4. @HDvideosaregood Since you just say "this country" and don't specify what you mean, i'm going to assume you come from the country where your language derives it's name, England XD
    You're right, Islamic extremism is largely ignored in England.
    (btw, i know, it's 100x more likely you are from USA, this is just to point it out to you that the internet and Youtube is not only in the United States of America)

  5. i like how he insert cartoons that attacks iran , syria , Christianity , but didn't import anything about the nazi/jews toons !

  6. How many people die in acts of terror every year?
    How many people die in civil wars every year?
    * (international) warfare?
    * genocides?
    * transporation accidents?
    * preventable/curable disease?
    * natural disasters?
    And now the question nobody raises: relative to the nuber of deaths by each cause, how much money is used to prevent deaths, and how much publicity is given to the topic?
    Journalists and politicians need to "get real". Hopefully cartoonists can help drive change if they reckognize it.

  7. @ericleb01 More like comparing "Dennis the Menace" with "Superman".

    Doesn't change the fact that one is probably more entertaining than the other. *pshrug*

  8. @ericleb01 My webcomic has a certain point to it; it addresses certain social, scientific, and philosophical issues while simultaneously bringing people a rousing adventure in the old-school Space Opera style.

  9. @ericleb01 No worries! 🙂

    If you wanna make it up to me, you could read it! It's called "The Adventures of Kanira Baxter", and you'll find links to it on my YouTube profile! 🙂

  10. @SSPX3 Mandelbrot died on 10/14/10 (cancer). For those not knowing.. he's the "father of fractal geometry" in mathematics. He was 85 years old.

  11. @ericleb01 Unfortunately, no; my computer won't run Mass Effect, so I've never played it.

    If I were to pitch it in movie terms, I like to think of it as being the ship and crew from "Firefly", with "Star Trek's" mission, in a "Star Wars"-style universe, with a "Babylon 5"-style plot arc, all glossed over with a kind of NASA-meets-The-Jetsons look and feel. 🙂

  12. @SirPwn4lot I'm sorry, i can't tell if that was sarcastic or honest. Defs = definitly?
    If positive, thanks a lot. If not, please expand 🙂
    I'm hoping someone will make a statistic on this so i have something concrete/ilustrative to point to when people are being irrational about threats.

  13. @LeadPaintSandwich The reason for the rejection is that intellectual thought requires effort and the mental tools to deal with the issue, and this either disqualifies or repells the large majority of the public audience from the conversation unless it's condensed and simplified, which requires a huge effort on the few who both are capable, cares, and engages. Visual statistics are the most common way, and are absolutely needed to get public attention.
    Also, more than sex and hate, FEAR sells.

  14. @LeadPaintSandwich part2:
    Since fear is effective at capturing attention and selling, and does not require much thought or journalistic effort, it's mass produced. Making an article on my points about real threat vs actual effort and coverage uneconomic.
    It's not very scary, is very complex, and paints a disillusioning picture of the world which most would either not comprehend or respond to with apathy.
    If tackled step-wise in a collaborative effort, much could realisticly be done in a decade.

  15. freedom of speech should not be offensive, insulting or fuel hatred .. example .. I am free to say your mother is a bitch but this would be offensive and would lead to a conflict regardless of your mothers situation .. maybe your mother is not going to create a big conflict .. but one should think twice before insulting over 1 billion people in the core of their belief .. it only lead to great hatred and a larger conflict

  16. I wont go to this extreme .. It does not have to be black and white, But dont you think it has to be reasonable and have moral values in to it ?

  17. @globuspallidos "freedom of speech should not be offensive" there is the problem. Freedom of speech has not, and should not have, any limitation based on offensiveness. If what is said is true, or is a subjective oppinion expressed, there is no valid reason for censoring it.

    How would you establish if something is offensive, and how offensive should things be allowed to be? If i state that everything negative about computers is offensive to me, that should not limit your right to say it (FFS).

  18. @gulllars I have to agree with you .. you could say some thing bad that offend all computer users or you could be objective and reasonable in showing your opinion in regard of what you dont like in computers… both are freedom of speech but the first is offensive .. I think

  19. essentially every ted talk comes down to this. be integral and stand for making the world a better place however you can even in the face of imminent danger. good stuff for information… good stuff keep it up

  20. @globuspallidos Sure, you can make statements meant to offend someone, and that's mean, but not illegal. However you can make true statements not meant to offend anyone, and even so, people may get offended. The fact that someone may, or will, get offended by a statement does not limit your right to make it. 🙂

  21. @globuspallidos but what r we seriously talking about here? Should ppl ever serve jail time for calling someone else's mom a bitch? Should ppl ever serve jail time for insulting a BILLION mothers at once? I don't like rude people anymore than anyone else, but saying it shouldn't be allowed is a tricky because you then need to create a punishment for those who do it anyway. And I can't think of anything that isn't absurd overreaction, beyond defriending ppl in facebook.

  22. @Darvinisti Yes of course all those people were just crazy Muslims. I'm sure their anger had nothing to do with the three ongoing occupations of Muslim countries, the hundreds of thousands killed, or the humiliation of living under the boot of foreign armies. No, couldn't be all that…

  23. @Darvinisti Yes of course all those people were just crazy Muslims. I'm sure their anger had nothing to do with the three ongoing occupations of Muslim countries, the hundreds of thousands killed, or the humiliation of living under the boot of foreign armies. No, couldn't be all that…

  24. there is no wit in this. no "tongue in cheek" comments… maybe i'm just stupid though, cause idiots can't recognize genius and this seems terribly moronic to me. "…ham in the middle" wtf O.o *laughter* …wtf?

  25. People didn't die because of cartoons. They died because of their irrational stupidity and that they are superior to everyone else and shall not be mocked.

  26. @globuspallidos So people should be free to say things others won't object to? That isn't freedom. Speech that is popular or inoffensive doesn't need protecting. You also say that "surely speech has to have some reasonable and moral value". Well who in the hell determines that?

  27. An excellent talk – & rallying cry to cartoonists (& entertainers in all walks) to shame the politicians into getting all these issues sorted instead of perpetuating the "divide & conquer" approach in keeping their citizens squabbling over relative loblicks (ie 'moot points' & the 'obvious' that shouldn't need copious 'debate').
    Enough is enough if & when enough people ditch mutually exclusive fundamentalist ideologies to get jiggy over shared values instead of finding excuses to destroy us all.

  28. boo politicians suck…from the day they are born you can tell a politician is gonna suck. Isnt that right? They are like another breed, nothing like me or you…we would do much better jobs and be more caring and competent than almost any politician!

  29. @Darvinisti They didn't die because of Islam. They died because of the forces of oppression, manipulation, lack of education, poverty and the deplorably low living standards of those living in third world countries. Their interpretation of Islamic law is based contextually on these factors. Don't tell me intelligent, middle class muslims in the developed world would even consider killing someone over a cartoon.

  30. @Darvinisti Completely untrue. I have many muslim friends that completely condemn the acts of violence done by those in the east. What do you say to that? I have shown clear evidence that there are muslims that do not believe in fundamental positions. You have no evidence, you are just using words without value.

  31. @Darvinisti Well, it seems to me that you yourself have a fundamentalist view of this matter. Generalization is what leads people to fundamentalism. You generalize.

  32. @Darvinisti My compliments. Other than generalizing you also excel in assuming things you cannot possibly know. FYI I study history. If you study history you need to learn how to understand things without judging them, and to do this you need to know that things are complicated. Whenever people come out with a slogan, i.e. islam is always fundamentalist, I know that something is wrong, something has not been taken into consideration. And quite often, this kind of slogans is also dangerous.

  33. @SuperTwit But Islam is only responsible because it just happened to be the retaliation method. If Islam didn't exist, there would be some other medium that allowed these people to take out their anger. This violence is only a symptom of a much greater problem here. The ones I stated in my first comment.

  34. @Darvinisti You just contradicted yourself there.. if Islam is a force causing "lack of education" then how can there be "Intelligent muddle class muslims in the west"? Do you think before you write these comments?

    If Islam didn't exist it would NOT solve the problem. There would be some other medium for them to take out their rage. Rage which is caused and exacerbated by this inequality! You are complaining about a symptom of a much more dangerous disease.

  35. @SuperTwit I am not contesting the fact that islam in this case was used as a levering mechanism… I am saying Islam is not the problem, it's a symptom of a much greater problem. Maybe you misunderstood. What I mean is that if Islam never existed, there would still be a problem. The oppressed people would just use another medium to justify violence. And the cycle repeats.

    Do you understand what I mean?

  36. @Darvinisti I agree with you at the heart of issue, copyright laws prohibit creativity, everything is formed from something prior. but man, scientists don't work for free, they get compensation, perhaps not at the rate of musicians primarily because the corporations they work for including the gov. have a greater lockdown on scientific patents, lets more importantly free science from the money making corporations!

  37. @Darvinisti i don't get any of that blither you are spouting from what i said, i think you are cruising with the 40 watt, i never said i supported copyright laws as they stand and even said "copyright laws prohibit creativity, everything is formed from something prior" where the hell are you getting that i support that? Yeah i wathched the recent TED talk on fashion as well, I get it. What you are missing is a larger issue that i brought up in light of your mentioning science.

  38. @Darvinisti name me some scientists that work for free, or whose advances are totally free and open knowledge for the world. It isn't happening. You are an idiot for making a statement like that with no basis. How are you getting that I don't like change when i clearly stated that the area of scientific advancement is even more locked up by greedy capitalists and not open knowledge for the common good. Maybe when you see the TED talk on that you will get it. So read all of what i have said.

  39. @SuperTwit He "Darvinisti" does not wish to debate you anymore because he can not intelligently answer your questions, his answer is to keep calling people stupid. He is the epitome of " a little knowledge is dangerous" our middle class breeds people like this who latch on to an opinion and shout it over and over with turning the issue around and examining every facet, in other words they learn how to repeat not how to seek further knowledge. He thinks scientists work for free…

  40. @Darvinisti How is that a misrepresentation of your argument? You say "Islam is the force of oppression, manipulation and lack of education", then go on to say that "Intelligent middle class muslims in the west flew some plains on buildings back in 2001"

    If we use logic, Islam cannot be the force causing a lack of education because if that were true, there would be no educated muslims. If you do not understand this, I can't talk to you anymore. Just admit you were wrong.

  41. @Lily2U1515 most scientists. Peer-Reviewed Scientific journals, you can get at them if you try. they are where good science comes from.

  42. @willowtreephoto okay, hello, i didn't say anything against good science. I was replying to the above, guy, who stated that scientists work for free. Science journals are great sources, but not complete, knowledge should be "open source" not locked up by special interests for $. agreed?

  43. Ideas and concepts should be made free, however, the means of applying those can be used for monetary stability. Islam was the catalyst to the violence but not the cause. Music copyright laws are in good shape as they are with the invention of the internet; this being because there IS no middle man. People pay for things they want to see more of, ie good software, because they know if they pirate it they lose that opportunity for more. So that sums up all the arguments stop calling others stupid

  44. This talk comes perilously close to being a stand-up routine, but like the best TEDtalks, it offers a startling simple and elegant solution.

  45. @Darvinisti haha ur gonna use some 5 year old retort on me: "I know the answer, but I'm not gonna tell you?" When you're beat you're beat man, you can mask it as long as you want but it's a clear contradiction. If you can't see it you're just stupid, sorry… nothing more to say.

  46. 0:52 anyone else notice that there is a bubble in that picture with a funny line? For some reason it shows up there but not in the image we see in the beginning.

  47. @steve0281 Why is not wanting to be mocked equated to superiority? I don't consider myself superior to anyone, but I hate being humiliated and I hate it when my belief system is subjugated to mockery

  48. @crudhousefull It isn't, but that isn't the case here. The Qu'ran teaches that Muslims are superior to everyone else on the planet. According to Sharia violence against unbelievers is justified. I don't like being mocked, either. Unless I am assaulted I am not going to resort to force of any type.

  49. @steve0281 You are misinformed bro. According to sharia violence is only permitted when you are under attack. If US troops were out of the Middle East (mostly Muslim countries), the west would have no problems with the Muslims. I'm a Buddhist Sri Lankan btw

  50. @crudhousefull Well, if you understand the concepts of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb there exist the idea that Islam is ALWAYS under attack. Do I want US troops in Islamic countries? No. At the same time I don't want Islam in the West.

  51. @steve0281 So armed people abusing natives in another country (where there's armed men there is always abuse), is equated to Islam in the west. I'm Asian and most Asians can't believe how horrible US actions are around the world. We are behind the Muslims 100%. Everyone has the right to defend their motherland. I've lived in Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia. All peaceful great people

  52. @crudhousefull In a word? Yes. I do not like/endorse/approve of what the US has been doing all over the planet. There is a plan in action here and if you don't like it you need to become educated on it so that you know what you're dealing with. I lived in Saudi Arabia and I have visited Egypt. They are charming, handsome peoples. Despite Islam.

  53. @steve0281 I've lived for years in these countries. Takes a little time to know people (and faiths). Anyway, at least this was a civil discourse lol. Best of luck with whatever you're working on right now

  54. I don't think I'm superior to everybody, but I still don't like being mocked. The error was that the person who mocked, mocked people that aren't too interested in tolerance. Also, this was done in a setting where white people continuously harass and rape their homelands (the Middle East). The insults were against by white people against the thing that they hold most sacred, so the anger generated was incredible

  55. These things were done by people that are visitors to other's lands to their hosts. Also remember that the Crusades were a defensive action. Muslims had been pushing on the borders of Christendom for hundreds of years before Christians finally hit back.

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