Visual Argumentation: Gary McCoy’s Political Cartoon

Last Updated: 26 Jan 2021
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The election fever has once again struck the land. Now more than ever, nationwide attention has started to zero in – quite lopsidedly in fact – on key political figures such as Barack Obama and John McCain. The two have been landing in major news headlines, as well as figuring in major media outfits as they try hard to convey their respective political programs to the public. As expected, they too – as indeed their proposed policies – have been subjected to a numberless of analyses, if not criticisms from all fronts; from television to radio shows, news magazines to dailies, as well as in various rallies and party conventions.

One potent example of such analyses or criticisms is an editorial cartoon. Despite being just a single drawing about certain persons or issues, it nevertheless conveys powerful statements. For this paper, it would be wise to take Gary McCoy’s political cartoon, specifically depicting Barack Obama, as a specific example to concretely cite the case in point. Gary McCoy’s Caricature of Barack Obama It has to be firstly mentioned that the strength of an editorial cartoon lies in its ability to both convey the message hidden in the scene it portrays and engender “an opinion about someone or something prominent in the news” (Cartoon 217).

But any evaluation of a political cartoon would also have to make a factual description of the piece as it is drawn – i. e. , a description of the cartoon as it appears. This entails suspending inherent biases, immediate judgments or initial impressions that one may already develop at the first sight of the cartoon. Gary McCoy’s caricature of Barack Obama portrays the politician while giving a speech. Therein, Obama’s face is visibly elongated; his forehead and chin thinly protruding.

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His right hand holds a microphone while his left hand is raised and points – that is, using his point finger – on to his supposed audience. Atop Obama is a speech-balloon which reads: “Random noun, miscellaneous verbs, blah, blah, Hope, Change”. Two creatures that appear to be kangaroos donned in coat and tie are portrayed talking to each other down the left corner. The creature to the right talks to his companion with the words: “This is getting easier by the minute”. While another balloon referenced to Barack’s supposed audience reads: “Cheer!

Applause!! Yeaa!! Cheer!! Applause!! ” The audience is depicted nowhere in the cartoon. It seems needless to argue that the cartoon is effective in conveying its message to its audience. This is because at first sight, one can already glean from the cartoon the central argument which it carries: that it is a criticism of Barack Obama in the first place, and the entire political system of the United States along the same vein. First, it is evident that McCoy makes a statement against Barack Obama.

It can be specifically against his political strategy or the direction into which his campaign particularly treads. As indeed, the criticism can very well be against his innate giftedness to rouse a political audience, him being a gifted orator to say the least. “Random nouns and miscellaneous verbs” represents McCoy’s perception that Obama either has run out of new ideas to offer or does not have anything substantial to say in the very first place. In fact, the two kangaroos bolster the criticism being leveled. This is getting easier by the minute” appears to say that many people have in fact become used to, or have gotten tired of hearing Obama talk about his hope and change messages. The cartoon may very well be a statement against Obama’s credibility; for to imply that Obama’s hope and change messages – read: his main benchmarks – barely say anything is tantamount to saying that the heart and soul of his political agenda is bereft of sense and direction altogether. Second, the cartoon is likewise effective in drawing related reactions beyond the intended Obama criticism.

On the one hand, the cartoon is also a criticism of the people’s implied gullibility or perceived lack of critical thought in receiving Barack Obama. Obama, as mentioned, is a gifted speaker. And many people, it needs to be argued, are drawn to persons who can comport themselves authoritatively in public conventions and rallies. The cartoon therefore takes on how people appear unable to go beyond Obama’s charisma as a speaker. This is most notably seen in how the cartoon depicts the crowd applauding Obama’s speech, despite its implied lack of reasonable substance.

McCoy therefore implies that, on account of this tendency, the general public is not able to give Obama’s message much needed second thoughts. On the other hand, it would be wise to cite that the cartoon can also be interpreted as a statement against the manner by which politics is exercised in this country. The conversation of the two kangaroos is telling – “this is getting easier by the minute” may be taken as a an unfortunate resignation over a political exercise marked by lack of substance on the part of politicians and lack of depth on the part of the voting public.

If taken into this context, the cartoon may not specifically be against Barack Obama as the whole political system of the United States. Far from being offensive, the cartoon can in fact be ultimately taken as McCoy’s call to reform the exercise of politics in this country. Conclusion This paper now concludes that Gary McCoy’s political cartoon is effective in conveying its message to its audience. At the very least, the cartoon is clear in that it depicts its message without much ambiguity.

In the discussions which were developed, it was learned that the cartoon is firstly a criticism against Barack Obama. As it depicts the politician’s speech as something that consists in nothing but the recurrent rhetoric on hope and change, the cartoon therefore implies that Obama either has nothing new to say or his message has no substance. But far from being offensive, it is also argued that the cartoon may be taken as McCoy’s call to reform the political practice of this country.

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Visual Argumentation: Gary McCoy’s Political Cartoon. (2017, May 10). Retrieved from

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