Faculty colloquium on 28 November: “Cartoon Censorship: Despots, Markets, Mobs and the Endangered Art of Ridicule.”

Red Lines: Cartooning at Risk

7 December 2018 • Annenberg School for Communication • Philadelphia

Cartoons are among the most basic forms of political commentary, but their evocative power also renders them and their creators vulnerable to attack. Today’s threats range from direct attacks by governments to self-censorship by publishers and the crossfire of the culture wars. This symposium brings together leading artists and experts to discuss the power and precarity of cartoons in America and around the world.

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Morning panel: Confronting state power

Rob Rogers

After 20 years with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Rogers achieved the unenviable distinction of becoming the first journalist to be fired for being too anti-Trump. His case highlights the truism that press freedom belongs mainly to those who own the press.

Vilma Vargas

A former Artist in Exile under Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum program, Vargas is back in Ecuador following the country’s transition away from outright repression to subtler forms of control. Vargas will talk about threats old and new to political cartooning in her country.

Ted Rall

Rall is a syndicated cartoonist who emerged from the alternative weeklies scene. An unapologetically left-of-center political commentator, he will talk about anti-war cartooning in the face of America’s post-9/11 sensibilities.

John Lent

The founder and editor of the International Journal of Comic Art, the Temple University professor (retired) is a pioneer in taking cartoons seriously. Lent will draw on his vast knowledge of cartooning to discuss global trends in censorship and resistance.

Afternoon panel: Cultural crossfire

Signe Wilkinson

A Pulitzer-winning cartoonist of the Philadelphia Daily Inquirer, Wilkinson’s cartoons have been the target of pickets, boycotts and other attacks by various groups that have taken offence against perceived insults.

Charles Brownstein

The founder and head of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund explains how comic books become targets in the Culture Wars. He is also president of the Freedom to Read Foundation, and chair of the Banned Books Week Coalition.

Emad Hajjaj

The Jordanian cartoonist has had multiple run-ins with the law and the “street” in a part of the world where the journalistic ridicule is often repaid in violence. He will talk about challenges faced by cartoonists in the Arab world.

Dwayne “Mr Fish” Booth

Mr Fish is a cartoonist, writer, and lecturer at the Annenberg School. His work appears mainly in and He is the author of Warning! Graphic Content, a 2015 book about political cartoons and censorship.


This event is directed by Cherian George in conjunction with a book project on the censorship of cartoons. It is organised by the Annenberg’s School Center for Media at Risk.

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