Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle against Censorship

Cherian George, Sonny Liew

Research output: Book/ReportBook or reportpeer-review


Why do the powerful feel so threatened by political cartoons? Cartoons don't tell secrets or move markets. Yet, as Cherian George and Sonny Liew show us in Red Lines, cartoonists have been harassed, trolled, sued, fired, jailed, attacked, and assassinated for their insolence. The robustness of political cartooning—one of the most elemental forms of political speech—says something about the health of democracy. In a lively graphic narrative—illustrated by Liew, himself a prize-winning cartoonist—Red Lines crisscrosses the globe to feel the pulse of a vocation under attack.

A Syrian cartoonist insults the president and has his hands broken by goons. An Indian cartoonist stands up to misogyny and receives rape threats. An Israeli artist finds his antiracist works censored by social media algorithms. And the New York Times, caught in the crossfire of the culture wars, decides to stop publishing editorial cartoons completely. Red Lines studies thin-skinned tyrants, the invisible hand of market censorship, and demands in the name of social justice to rein in the right to offend. It includes interviews with more than sixty cartoonists and insights from art historians, legal scholars, and political scientists—all presented in graphic form. This engaging account makes it clear that cartoon censorship doesn't just matter to cartoonists and their fans. When the red lines are misapplied, all citizens are potential victims.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCambridge, Mass.
PublisherMIT Press
Number of pages448
ISBN (Print)9780262543019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021

Publication series

NameInformation Policy
PublisherMIT Press


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