Khalid A. Ali’s Q & A was by far my favorite of the presentations so far in this course. His discussion on the impact of social media in contemporary revolutions was both informative and relevant. I had actually seen that cartoon before (the play on words with Mubarak in Arabic Script) so that was what first got my head perked up that evening.
Artwork can be such a powerful motivator of revolution, not just in the Arab world, but in the United States and the rest of the world too. We see political cartoons in newspapers and magazines and react instinctually to them and form opinions based on those reactions much more readily than we would to a written story. Not just that, but artwork is easier to share and gather interest among people, visually, especially in this day and age. Someone is much more likely to retweet a cartoon of an orange blob (trump) dropping a globe off of a cliff than someone is to read and retweet an article titled “Debate shines American politics in a negative light.” There can be some concerns, of course. Certain individuals look at art and react with violence – see the murder of Charlie Hebdo. In displaying an opinion in such a visceral way the reaction is often visceral and hate filled. Not to say that Charlie Hebdo did anything wrong – art is a medium of free speech. Certain individuals like those that killed him still have a long way to go before they completely understand and respect the concept of free speech in art all throughout the world.
The second thing I wanted to talk about was the idea of “going viral”. This concept is a new one – that people can have a spotlight on them through social media or otherwise for 60 seconds before the world turns to the next tragedy or social issue. It’s very difficult to combat that inclination, what with the low attention span of the average person today. How can we make sure each issue, each artist, is given full voice to speak of an issue, not just for the moment that people find their cartoon interesting, but in the days and weeks following? Do they simply have to suck it up and pump out more great work? That must be difficult with such a crowded field of cartoonists. I think the only way to really meet the dilemma of the “going viral” world head on is to change the media’s procedure as it relates to covering issues, asking them to go beyond the surface and not just request 60-second basic interviews with artists who clearly have a lot to say. That is definitely easier said than done, though.
Regardless, I loved the talk this week, and I hope to hear more of Ali in the future!