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Overview In this activity you will investigate the persuasion techniques used by political cartoonists and interpret the meaning of cartoons. Discover how understanding persuasion techniques used by cartoonists helps you better understand and assess the points they are making about our government and how Congress works.
Select each menu item below:
Child Labor

Symbolism is the technique of using simple objects or "symbols" to stand for larger concepts or ideas.

Hine, Johnson, Herbert, artist. "Cartoon." c1912. Drawing. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2004001574/PP/,
(accessed October 10, 2012.)

Shotgun Wedding

Exaggeration is the practice of overstating or embellishing the physical characteristics of people or things in order to make a point.

Burck, Jacob, artist. "Shotgun wedding." c1943. Drawing. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/acd1996001619/PP/.
(accessed October 16, 2012.)

Vast Presidential Authority

Cartoonists often label or tag objects or people to make it clear exactly what they stand for.

Orr, Carey, artist. "Vast Presidential Authority." 1951. Drawing. Chicago Historical Society, Copyright, Tribune Media Services, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with Permission.

Fiddler

An analogy is a comparison between two unlike things that share some characteristics - comparing a complex issue or situation with a more familiar one to help readers see it in a different light.

Block, Herbert, artist. "Fiddler." 1967. Drawing. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/00652231/. Copyright 2000 by Herblock in The Washington Post.
(accessed October 16, 2012.)

You Dirty Boy

Irony is the incongruity or contradiction between the way things are and the way things were expected to be. In this cartoon, the cartoonist uses irony by depicting President Wilson scrubbing childlike members of Congress.

Cesare, Oscar Edward, artist. "You dirty boy." c1912. Drawing. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/acd1998007416/PP/.
(accessed October 16, 2012.)

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Choose a Cartoon Choose a cartoon below to use as you explore cartoonists' persuasion techniques. Use the historical background links to find more information about the issue, situation, or person depicted in the cartoon.
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"Rare Volume"

Cartoon shows a large book entitled "Senator Taft, 1889-1953" with a bookmark labeled "Selfless Devotion to His Country." The U.S. Capitol can be seen in the background. Published at the time of Taft's death.

Fischetti, John, artist. "Rare Volume." 1953. Drawing. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/acd1996003526/PP/.
(accessed September 17, 2012.)

Historical background

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"A New Hotline from the White House to Capitol Hill."

Cartoon shows a congressman taking a presidential phone call while the telephone alternately embraces, threatens, and congratulates him. Depicts a wide range of tactics being used by President Lyndon Johnson to gain the support of members of Congress.

Fischetti, John, artist. "A new hot line from the White House to Capitol Hill." c1963. Drawing. From the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/acd1996003504/PP/.
(accessed September 17, 2012.)

Historical background

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"Wake Me Up When the War is Over"

World War I cartoon showing sloth with military hat and rifle marked House Committee on Military Affairs hanging from pole marked House of Representatives. Portrait of Speaker of the House hangs upside down.

Rogers, W.A., artist. "Wake me up when the war is over." c1917. Drawing. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/89712287/.
(accessed September 17, 2012.)

Historical background

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"That was the Capitol in 1951. Congress was debating a salary raise for itself when the bomb struck."

This political cartoon, created shortly after World War II, shows a man pointing out a site where the United States Capitol used to stand. At that time, many people were concerned that the spread of atomic weapons was not getting enough attention.

Mauldin, William, artist. "That was the Capitol in 1951. Congress was debating a salary raise for itself when the bomb struck." 1946. Drawing. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/acd1999000437/PP/.
(accessed September 17, 2012.) Displayed courtesy of the William Mauldin Estate.

Historical background (79th Congress)

  • Select a cartoon:
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Test Thumbnail Explain Persuasion Techniques In the boxes below, type an explanation for how each persuasion technique is used - if at
all - in your chosen cartoon. Make sure you take time to consider each technique carefully.
Technique Type Your Explanation Progress: 0/5
Symbolism
Exaggeration
Labeling
Analogy
Irony
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Conclusion What have we learned?
Some Things to Think About...
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  • How effective do you think the artist's use of these persuasion techniques was?
  • Which technique was most effective; which was the least effective?
  • How does identifying the persuasion techniques cartoonists use help you understand the meaning of a political cartoon?

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