Political cartoons have the power to entertain, inform and persuade. Their humour makes sometimes abstract or complicated topics more acceptable to readers. This study uses a methodology based on work by Medhurst and DeSousa and Ray Morris, to examine the rhetoric and symbols used by Communist controlled media in 1951 Czechoslovakia and decodes the visual and contextual elements of anti-American political cartoons published in Rudé právo (in English Red Law). The analysis shows consistent use of condensation to simplify complex issues with a clear bias towards portraying Czechoslovakia (and countries in the Soviet sphere of influence) as having a better quality of life under the Soviet Union. ‘Othering’ is accomplished through combination, undermining the credibility and humanity of any actors the state perceives as undesirable, compelling the reader to visualise them as horrible and animalistic. Another prominently displayed feature in the majority of political cartoons of the era is the use of Nazi symbols and caricatures used to associate the U.S. with the Nazi regime facilitating the continued feelings of outrage and hate to be transferred to the U.S. despite the relative feelings of goodwill and friendship developed in previous years. This propaganda proved effective for the Communist party in 1950’s Czechoslovakia. Of the 64 cartoons analysed, eight are included as a representative sample detailing the elements and topics depicted.
audience reception, Cold War, political cartoons, propaganda, visual rhetoric