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"When may I expect my uniform?"
The world through Chicago political cartoons
before and after Pearl Harbor
10A Neff Hall
University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
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"When may I expect my uniform?"
The world through Chicago political cartoons before and after Pearl Harbor
Introduction: When press barons stalked the earth
There was no middle ground of opinion on Franklin D. Roosevelt
between the Chicago Daily News and the Chicago Tribune as his third
presidential term took shape. The publisher of the afternoon News was
Roosevelt's Navy secretary; the publisher of the Tribune was perhaps
his fiercest press enemy (Brinkley, 1988, p. 182). In the editorial
cartoons of the News, FDR sails steadfastly east with vital aid for
England; in the Tribune's, Uncle Sam and Congress are forever reining
in the warmonger in the White House. There was, if anything, less
agreement on the proper course for the United States in a war that
had already drawn in much of the world. The News expressed confidence
after the loss of an American destroyer in October 1941 that "our war
with Germany in the north Atlantic" was not one-sided ("Our limited
war," 1941). The Tribune's headline on a report about that clash
pointed the blame at administration policy: "We Ask For It, Sailor Writes."
This study looks at how those themes played out, and how other
themes emerged, in the Chicago papers' cartoons in the weeks leading
up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the weeks that followed. Using a
constant comparison method to generate categories for content
analysis, it finds not only that war themes were different before the
United States entered the war, but that even amid the apparent unity
brought on by a cataclysm like Pearl Harbor, the rival papers still
evidenced starkly different attitudes toward the Allies, the Axis
powers, and even the sort of items that needed attention on the home
front. The editorial unity a march in lockstep from isolationism to
nationalism suggested in some accounts of prewar media (e.g. Lamb,
2004) is conspicuous by its absence.
The rival fiefdoms of Colonel Frank Knox of the Daily News and
Colonel Robert R. McCormick of the Tribune fought about more than
foreign policy. Often, the battle was personal. A pop-eyed buffoon
named "Colonel McCosmic" regularly appeared on the editorial pages of
the News to claim credit for one great innovation after another. The
Tribune accused Knox of using his cabinet position to shape and time
the news to the benefit of his paper and the detriment of his morning
competitor ("Knox uses Navy post," 1942). A cartoon in the Daily News
days before Pearl Harbor celebrated the advent of another competing
paper, the Sun, financed by the businessman who was already
supporting the "New Deal-dedicated" (McPhaul, 1962, p. 292) tabloid
PM in New York. The News cartoon's Everyman jumps for joy at the
sight of "a morning NEWSpaper" (emphasis in original). And it was
Knox (Smith, 1997, p. 436) who unsuccessfully pressed Roosevelt to
seek charges against McCormick after a Tribune article of June 1942
strongly suggested that U.S. intelligence had broken the Japanese
navy's main operational cipher a critical element in the decisive
U.S. victory at Midway that month.
The great press barons of the 1940s have gone the way of the
front-page editorial cartoon, but the portrayals from their era of a
nation approaching and entering a war remain relevant. Newspapers
might no longer do battle over circulation, but all-news television
and Internet sites show the world through sharply different frames
that recall those days as they compete for audiences and advertisers.
A study of the visual rhetoric of the past could shed light on the
electronic rhetoric of today.
Literature: What cartoonists hope and what cartoons do
It may be that editorial cartoonists fall asleep at night dreaming
of their "most sacred article of faith ... the power of the medium to
punish wrongdoing and facilitate reform" (Fischer, 1997, p. 13) after
the model of Thomas Nast taking down Boss Tweed. The dream is
unlikely to be satisfied. As Fischer points out, not only does the
impact of Nast's Tweed cartooning remain unknown, but the bulk of the
legend itself is apocryphal down to the plaintive cry "Stop them
damned pictures," from which Fischer drew his title. Maschall's
contention (1999, para. 2) that cartoonists "moved mountains" is a
hope unsupported by evidence. At the end of the day, Michelmore
suggests, "no one really knows whether, or how much, cartoons
influence popular opinion" (2000, para 2). Others suggest that such
an influence is not even the cartoon's mission: "The power of the
political cartoon is not in its direct, persuasive effects, which are
contestable, but in the way it frames and defines what is at issue"
(Edwards, 2001, p. 2141). Nor is the cartoon, be it bludgeon or
scalpel, invariably a critical tool. In Gamson and Stuart's view
(1992, p. 61) cartoonists "form a kind of peanut gallery, frequently
heckling and irreverent, but also given to cheers and whistles of
support." Even though they might pride themselves on being the attack
dogs of the newsroom, they share "fundamental biases with the
societies they critique" (Templin, 1999, p. 20). As Edwards notes,
they can support authority as easily as subvert it.
Satire in newspapers faces a particular problem, Gruner (1967, 1971)
suggests: Audiences just don't get it. Indeed, he cites research
(1971, p. 128) indicating that a satirical radio program targeting
Sen. Joe McCarthy had the effect of increasing regard for the
senator. Carl (1968) finds a parallel problem for cartoonists:
Readers might indeed get it, but what they get is usually "an
overwhelming 70 %" (1968, p. 534) of the time in "complete
disagreement" with what the artist intended. If an audience is a good
sample of the population, then, cartoons "could hardly have much
influence since most people are unable to grasp the cartoonist's
message" (Gamson & Stuart, 1992, p. 62).
There is an element of cartoons that readers do seem most likely to
get, in Hill's summary: "It is the face of the person cartooned that
affects us most. Symbols, emblems, regalia, and allusions may be
misinterpreted, but seldom the physiognomy" (1984, pp. 198-9). And
that one element can carry a great deal of information. Subjects in
an experiment judged post-Watergate Nixon cartoons less favorable
than pre-Watergate works by the same artists based on Nixon's face
alone, without knowing the date (Wheeler & Reed, 1975 pp. 135-136).
Nixon, like Tweed and like few others, served enduringly as "a
generic symbol of political venality" (Fischer, 1996, p. 222) long
after leaving office. He became, in DeSousa's term, (1984, p. 204) a
commonplace: "A common, traditional topic or saying about the subject
Such elements serve as a bridge between the content and the reader:
"an effective means of communication if by communication one means
imparting information in such a manner that an audience can
understand the intended meaning" (DeSousa, 1984, p. 205). Bormann,
Koester and Bennett (1978, p. 317) liken them to an "inside joke"
shared by the audience; Benoit, Klyukovski, McHale, & Airne (2001, p.
377) find a "rhetorical vision" that lets readers with diverse
attitudes in on the secret. Edwards writes that cartoons "contribute
to the collective memory of the body politic" (1997, p. 139): the
year of the leadership crisis, the character issue, the increasing
focus on the role of media in a campaign, for example. If little
conclusive can be said about cartoons' persuasive powers, Edwards
makes clear, they do play agenda-setting and framing roles and if
they can bring lawsuits down on their creators, they have clearly
communicated (1997, p. 30). Whose agenda the cartoon puts forth
independent artist, editor, or publisher has been the subject of
some debate. As Riffe, Sneed and Van Ommeren (1985, p. 897) noted,
"most cartoonists see themselves as marching to what they think is
the beat of a different drum," but they are rarely as far out of step
as the metaphor suggests. It certainly seems unlikely that two
Tribune cartoonists would have shared McCormick's disdain for the
battleship enough to set pen to paper about it independently.
Even if they have limited ability on their own to change opinions
(Brinkman 1968), then, cartoons can reinforce them. And if their
influence is in doubt, "what cartoons tell us about contemporary
assumptions and prejudices is not" (Michelmore, 2000 para 3). The
cultural resonance of cartoons is underlined in Dower's discussion
(1986, pp. 91-93) of the role of symbols in reinforcing an
"exterminationist sentiment" among Americans toward the Japanese.
Among his illustrations are three by Tribune cartoonists used in this study.
Cartoons, as Press indicates, are supposed to "beam out a specific
message" (1981, p. 65) of something that somebody can do something
about. The confusion cited in such studies as Carl's is that while
some cartoons leave no doubt about the something and the somebody and
the thing to be done, others might simply say "That's bad, isn't it"
(Press, p. 66) without suggesting whom to blame or how anyone might
begin arriving at a conclusion. National crises do not erase those
ambiguities, but they can lead cartoonists to "plump heavily for the
system" (Press p. 68) as they did when they provided an "illusion
of understanding" (DeSousa, 1984, p. 228) about the U.S.-Iran
standoff of the late 1970s and early 1980s. And war itself is a
powerful thumb on the scale of unity in popular culture. On both
sides of the trenches in the First World War, Demm (1993, p. 167)
writes, "political caricature now took on a new function: Its task
was to mobilize the population both morally and intellectually for
war, explain setbacks, confirm belief in the superiority of the
fatherland and proclaim the hope of final victory." It is little
surprise, then, that the weeping Statues of Liberty and
talon-sharpening bald eagles that populated editorial pages in
September 2001 often had, in Lamb's phrase (2004, p. 20), "all the
bite of recruiting posters." When Uncle Sam rolled up his sleeves and
set off after al-Qaida, it was a pose he was familiar with. He had
struck it five times for the Tribune and twice for the News in the
weeks after Pearl Harbor.
Research questions and methods
This study uses content analysis to look at political cartoons from
two antagonistic newspapers from the end of 1941 and the beginning of
1942. It seeks to discover something about what Chicago audiences
were seeing, first by determining what sorts of cartoons were being
seen and then by examining how the existing patterns in cartoon
themes changed after the Pearl Harbor attack. It poses three questions:
RQ1: What themes do these newspapers express in their cartoons about the war?
RQ2: How does the expression of those themes differ before and after
the attack on Pearl Harbor?
RQ3: How does the expression of those themes in a
pro-administration newspaper compare with their expression in an
Microfilm copies of both papers from Nov. 1, 1941, through Jan. 16,
1942, were searched, and cartoons from the front page or editorial
page directly pertaining to the war were selected. The study
concentrates on a "critical discourse moment" (Gamson & Stuart, 1992,
p. 64), but by expanding the period of study to 10 weeks, it tries to
widen the theoretical base and reduce the number of "other" cartoons:
nearly 40 percent in Gamson and Stuart's sample (p. 65). Cartoons in
which the perhaps still distant war was mentioned only tangentially
among the concerns hovering over a family at Thanksgiving dinner, for
example were rejected. This initial search yielded 188 cartoons,
127 from the Tribune and 61 from the Daily News. The News did not
publish a Sunday edition, accounting for part of the discrepancy, and
the Tribune used cartoons far more often on its front page (58 times,
to 7 for the News, during the study period).
Categories were determined using a form of the constant comparison
method, with the idea of "permitting the categories to emerge from
the data" (Benoit & McHale, 2003, p. 323). Each cartoon in an initial
sampling of 125 was examined and described in a phrase or sentence
meant to capture its theme: "The Japanese are going to get theirs,"
"Europe's wars are Europe's business," and "we've put all our
differences aside" are some examples. The themes were then compared
with each other; new themes that emerged went into new stacks and
familiar ones were tentatively matched with their counterparts. After
testing, the categories were refined into five main themes, each with
subthemes (for definitions, see Appendix I; for sample cartoons, see
1) Axis: Focusing on the Axis nations, Germany, Italy and Japan.
Subthemes: Backstabbing or perfidy; blundering or cowardice; life at home.
2) Allies: Focusing on the Allied nations. Subthemes: Brave and good;
need help in their fight; don't share our interests and can't be trusted.
3) Staying out: Focusing on the importance of avoiding war:
Subthemes: Europe's warlike past; America is in no danger; the people
want peace; FDR is seeking a war.
4) Getting in: Focusing on the importance of the right side winning
and the U.S. role in such a struggle. Subthemes: All pulling
together, American character is uniquely valuable; isolationism is
wrong and outdated; the Axis nations will get theirs now.
5) The home front. Subthemes: Need to sacrifice; some are blocking
the effort; civil liberties are in peril.
Most of the classification was performed by a single coder, with 60
cartoons (32 percent) double-coded to test reliability. On the main
themes, reliability using Cohen's kappa was .90. Within the themes,
kappa ranged from .70 for Allies to 1.0 for Getting In.
RQ1 was addressed by the development of these themes and subthemes.
Results: The war through Chicago eyes
What readers see of the world and how they see it, Cohen (1963, p.
13) wrote, depends not just on their own views "but also on the map
that is drawn for them by the writers, editors and publishers of the
papers they read." The maps drawn for Chicago readers by the Tribune
and the Daily News present starkly different world views and,
indeed, worlds. In doing so, they suggest a much broader picture of
the state of prewar debate than is often suggested. Isolationism was
not limited to McCormick's Tribune the striking image of war as a
prostitute inviting youth to "come on in" appeared in the New York
paper owned by McCormick's cousin Joseph Patterson but it was
hardly universal either. "'Short of war' was not so very short for
the Atlantic fleet" in fall 1941, as Morison notes; neither was it
very short for the Daily News. And the idea that cartoonists become
"predictably nationalistic" and thus "offered little memorable
criticism of their own government" (Lamb, 2004, p. 102) in the last
weeks of peace would have been news to the Tribune's memorable
These world views are so distinct (see Table 1) that chi-square
analysis, for example, is often impossible. Before Pearl Harbor, the
Daily News carried no cartoons in the Out category, on the virtues of
staying out of the war; the Tribune carried 38 (71.7 percent of its
total) in that category. The Tribune before Pearl Harbor had no
cartoons on the importance of helping the Allies or defeating the
Axis; the Daily News had 11 (36.7 percent of its total). Before Pearl
Harbor, the Daily News carried no cartoons on the characteristics of
the nations that were soon to be allies of the United States; the
Tribune carried 5, all depicting them in a bad light. Pro-Ally
cartoons appear in the News after Pearl Harbor; they appear in equal
proportion in the Tribune, but they are unanimous in their praise of
the Allies' virtues.
RQ2, what cartoons talked about before and after the war, finds no
significant difference (x2 [df=6] = 5.42, p = .49) in overall
coverage (see Table 2). But because of the need to drop the Out
category from the chi-square calculation, one of the biggest, and
almost certainly most meaningful, changes is overlooked: Out
cartoons, thanks to the Tribune, made up more than 20 percent of the
total in the 10-week sample period and 45 percent of the total before
the attack, but they vanish after Dec. 7. And as they vanish, so does
President Roosevelt as their target; he had been the main subject in
21 of the Tribune's 38 Out cartoons. The proportion of In cartoons
nearly triples after the attack, from 13.3 percent to 39.4 percent,
and the largest factor is the Tribune which produced no cartoons on
that theme in the five weeks before the attack.
If the related categories of Axis and Allies are collapsed into one
and the In and Out categories into another, several comparisons of
before-and-after coverage in the individual papers are notable. The
Daily News shows a significant change in the themes it addressed
before and after the attack (x2 [df = 2] = 2.22, p=.0363; see Table
3). The change in the Tribune before and after the attack is also
significant (x2 [df= 2] 14.07, p = .0009; see Table 4).
RQ3 addresses the stances the competing papers took compared with
each other before and after the attack. With the categories combined
as above (see Table 5), it is clear that the papers emphasized
different themes throughout the study period (x2 [df=2] = 9.77, p =
.008), before the Pearl Harbor attack (x2 [df = 2] = 11.34, p =
.0034), and after the attack (x2 [df =2] 6.04, p = .048). The Axis
powers remained a more persistent theme in the News throughout.
Differences on Axis subthemes do not reach significance, but the
subthemes of Axis perfidy and life for the oppressed citizens of
those countries emerge in the Tribune sample only after the attack.
The News used a broader variety of Axis themes more consistently, and
both papers gave the heaviest weight to Axis infighting and strategic blunders.
"Bill Sikes and Oliver Twist": What the images say
But it is what the cartoons and the people in them say and do that
sheds the most light on the world they were trying to convey. Some
are nearly wordless; others labor under 150-word labels. Some are
rich with allusion and metaphor; others poke their points home
bluntly. Political actors of the 1940s cause some puzzlement at the
dawn of the 21st century; the elephant and donkey, though, are still
performing their familiar tasks. And they manage, even when the two
papers are thrown uncomfortably onto the same side of the fence, to
draw distinctly different maps for their readers.
Prewar readiness on the home front, in the Tribune's view, is a
carefully guarded field of "military secrets": bungling by
mortarboard-wearing New Dealers, with Communist spies sitting by and
watching (Nov. 25) or perhaps a vulture perched atop a howitzer (Nov.
17). In the News, labor might occasionally stage a boxing match with
itself (Nov. 13), but (in the more common football theme), the CIO is
equally likely to put a crushing block on "Our Quislings" to let
"U.S. Foreign Policy" by (Nov. 22). And if mineworkers leader John L.
Lewis is being a naughty boy, Uncle Sam is prepared to take him to
the coal shed for a hiding (Nov. 18).
If the New Dealers are prime targets of the Tribune "When may I
expect my uniform?" a portly friend asks Eleanor Roosevelt as she and
assorted dupes, communists and New York mayors bar the sidewalk to
Uncle Sam and his burden of "national defense" (Dec. 2) the
anti-war crowd is singled out by the News. Isolationists toss the
"war guilt" left over from a thorough whitewashing of Hitler onto the
White House lawn (Nov. 12); "America First political help," in the
guise of a left-handed monkey wrench, strikes consternation into
donkey and elephant alike (Dec. 3).
President Roosevelt had sought the repeal of the Neutrality Act of
1939, latest in a series meant to ensure that the United States took
no side in the spreading conflict (Morison, 1939, p. 18), since
September. U.S.-German tensions increased with a series of clashes in
the Atlantic, and the first U.S. warship lost in the war, the
destroyer Reuben James, was sunk Oct. 31. Editorial debate in the
next weeks reflected growing concerns over the U.S. stance. In a nod
to Charles Dickens ("Bill Sikes and Oliver Twist," Nov. 6), the
Tribune's familiar brush-helmeted legionary, labeled "Europe's war,"
boosts a timid, battered warship ("Use of US Ships in war zones")
through a transom over the door marked "U.S. Neutrality Law." In the
News ("Who's that knocking at my door?" Nov. 5), the Neutrality Act
is a flimsy door keeping a pirate away from the isolationists, a
"Smithsonian exhibit" kept beneath Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis"
(Nov. 7), and finally a thoroughly punctured bulletproof vest,
dropped in a wastebasket by Uncle Sam (Nov. 15). The law was repealed Nov. 17.
Gamson and Stuart (1992, p. 67) note a familiar figure in post-World
War II cartoons whom they call Peace Lady, "a figure of a young
woman, typically clad in a robe or tunic with a sash, perhaps wearing
or offering an olive branch or a dove." She works for hawks and doves
alike in their Cold War sample, but in the days before Pearl Harbor,
Peace Lady and her colleagues are under contract to the Tribune
exclusively. As an angel, she bemoans FDR's "efforts to embroil
America ("They labor for war," Nov 5); the next day, she asks the
"biased judge" FDR for mercy as "America's youth" awaits sentencing
("A mother pleads for her son," Nov. 6).
If the distinctions on the home front are stark, the differing views
of other nations, whether likely foe or putative friend, are equally
so. The News's warnings are directed toward the enemy camp. Little
countries should be careful of the company they keep: "They're not of
your kind," Uncle Sam warns a nervous-looking blackbird, "Finland,"
sitting on a telephone wire with the slavering vultures of Japan,
Italy and Nazi Germany (Nov. 5). Japan, as a scrawny football
spectator waving an Axis pennant, gets angry looks from bleachermates
Uncle Sam and John Bull (Nov. 15). "Better drop that sword," Sam
advises a caricature Japanese whose blade is labeled "aggression" (Nov. 28).
Cautions in the Tribune, which by mid-1942 had come to call its
stance "prewar noninterventionist," run the other way. Europe and its
ancient wars and hates are common themes. As a drunk left disabled by
the previous war, Europe snarls "Mind your own business, Shylock" at
Uncle Sam (Nov. 14). In front of a wall map detailing the reach of
the British Empire, a distinctly Churchillian John Bull plays down
the "US Committed to Free World" headline in Uncle Sam's newspaper:
"Don't take that too literally" (Nov. 8). And Churchill himself
contentedly digs "a better 'ole" for Britain as shot and shell fly
over the "'ell of a 'ole" occupied by Britain's allies (Nov. 4).
"Europe with its age-old hates, jealousies, fears and endless wars"
is shown as an ax-wielding bum "Not worth a single life" (Nov. 28).
The ethnic stereotyping and dehumanization in World War II images of
the enemy, particularly the Japanese, have been discussed in
insightful detail many times (see, particularly, Dower, 1986). They
are certainly present in the prewar cartoons, particularly in the
interventionist News. And many of the most commonly noted tropes
the Japanese as rats or subhumans, the use of an undifferentiated
caricature to stand in as Japan next to the individualized Hitler and
Mussolini, the "buck-toothed, nearsighted, apelike creatures"
(Doherty, 1993, p. 137) of movie posters are evident throughout the
sample. But changes in the deployment of these images after the Pearl
Harbor attack offer particular insights into their rhetorical purpose.
"The Japs" do appear as a giant machete-wielding ape, shedding its
round glasses as it tramples Manila, in the Daily News (Dec. 29). But
the ape figure had appeared earlier hammer and sickle on its belly
and "The Vilest Regime in History" attached to its tail as Russia,
Roosevelt's new friend, on the front page of the Tribune (Nov. 10).
By the Dec. 16 Tribune, Russia is an unchained bear, pursuing
circus-clad Hitler, Mussolini and the anonymous Japanese as lion and
eagle join in. Three days later, "Blitz on der Fritz" uses the same
motifs: the bear chases a Katzenjammer-like German soldier from
Russia as the lion sends another away from Libya. Researchers (e.g.
MacDougall, 1999, p. 65) have often noted that popular portrayals
usually distinguished between Germans and Nazis, and the sight of
ordinary Germans here is particularly unusual.
Members of the "Axis gang" Germany and Japan appear as ethnically
indistinguishable criminals in the News Dec. 15: "Is that all? Where
is Manila?" "Well where is Moscow?" The short "teeth and
spectacles" (Blum, 1976, p. 46) figure is comparatively rare in
Tribune portrayals of the Japanese, though he is seen admiring
himself as a brawny European in Hitler's funhouse mirror: "Pure
Aryan!" (Dec. 20). Intriguingly, though, he appears as the New Deal
marching off to "undeclared war," barely restrained ("Just a minute
we are NOT at war, yet") by a stern Congress (Nov. 26). From the
prewar Tribune's perspective, teeth and spectacles are most closely
associated with FDR's Communist and intellectual hangers-on. The
ethnic portrayals are no less dreadful than the literature makes them
out to be, but they play out in more complicated ways.
Much as the Russians have turned from ape (or, bizarrely, a stag,
locking antlers with "Vicious Nazis") to angry bear, Churchill as
transformed from his cowardly prewar self into an ally close enough
to admire Uncle Sam's bulging biceps as Santa Claus looks on ("A full
sock for somebody," Dec. 24). Sam too has taken on a new role. Before
the war, he summons voters and wavering politicians alike to heed the
record: "You can't find any mandate for war in those pre-election
speeches," (Nov. 19);"The people want peace where do you stand?"
(Nov. 3); "Before the war mongers get you, it is only fair to let you
see what they are getting you into" (Nov. 17). These are often
unusually text-heavy for a medium that places so much stock in
commonly understood images; in the most detailed, one 151-word blurb
ends: "If he cares to consult his pre-election pledges, he will learn
how to keep OUT of war, instead of keeping IN wars." (Nov. 9).
Sam's role in both papers is simpler after the Pearl Harbor attack:
Rolling up his sleeves (Tribune, Dec. 8; Daily News, Dec. 12 and 19),
forging weapons at an anvil (Tribune, Dec. 12 and 27), or rolling up
his sleeves while forging weapons at an anvil (Tribune, Dec. 18).
Both papers use history in similar ways as well: German armor and
Napoleonic cavalry encounter each other outside Moscow in the Tribune
Dec. 17 and the Daily News Dec. 18. A Tribune cartoon on the sacking
of Walther von Brauchitsch, the Wehrmacht commander who had failed to
take Moscow, is a direct homage to John Tenniel's 1890 effort
"Dropping the Pilot," about the Kaiser's dismissal of Bismarck.
Two Tribune stalwarts are significant by their absence after Pearl
Harbor: Roosevelt, no longer a figure of fun, and the brush-helmeted
"War." As quickly as the Out theme vanishes, the In theme replaces
it, accounting for more than 44 percent of Tribune cartoons after
Pearl Harbor. News cartoons in the In theme are less frequent after
the attack. Three use the subtheme of unity; four, the likelihood
that the Axis nations would soon get their deserts; and one, the
uniquely virtuous nature of American character. In the Tribune, the
predominant themes are American character (14) and the likelihood of
a thrashing (15); unity, with 4, is a distant third.
The Tribune's views of the home front also reflect an increased
emphasis on the uniqueness of American character after the attack.
Earlier, the main theme was the likelihood of interference (5 of 7
pre-attack cartoons), usually from some sort of crack-brained New
Dealer; afterward, it is the need for sacrifice (8 of 12 post-attack
cartoons). But the easily winded "Government Spending for
Non-Military Purposes," trimming down under Uncle Sam's stern gaze,
could conceivably share a thought with the regular-guy construction
workers in the News Dec. 23: "What were we arguing about last week,
Bill? I've forgotten." "So have I."
In summary, the Tribune found itself needing a drastic change in
course after the critical discourse moment produced by the Japanese
attack. Though the president never became an iconic figure of pride,
he stopped being an iconic figure of ridicule. The untrustworthy
nations of Europe became loyal allies. It was time for Uncle Sam to
step to the anvil, roll up his sleeves and make a fist. In the
simple, clearly labeled world of the editorial cartoon, Colonel
McCormick was on board for the war effort. His rival across town had
been there all along. Both set out to "mobilize the population both
morally and intellectually," in Demm's schema, but they went about it
in different ways: particularity for the Tribune, unity for the News.
On other themes, they were closer: embattled and outnumbered
Americans would surprise the treacherous foe with their tenacity
while the home front built up the muscle that would ensure "the hope
of final victory."
Suggestions for future study
This study would clearly benefit from widening the sample, to see
whether the competing maps drawn in other cities were as distinct,
and lengthening it, to address the durability of the bandwagon effect
Press and DeSousa mention. Roosevelt's Cabinet, if not Roosevelt
himself, was certainly under the Tribune's guns again by midsummer of
1942, when a federal grand jury was investigating the Tribune under
the Espionage Act. This honeymoon period bears comparing with George
W. Bush's respite from cartoon ridicule after Sept. 11 (see Lamb, 2004).
Similar comparisons with rhetoric around the outbreaks of other wars
would also prove useful, and researchers will do well to go beyond
the editorial pages to the headlines, ads, comic strips, and radio
listings. For all the debate about what readers take away from their
encounters with the editorial cartoon, the readers of 1941 had access
to a great deal more context, in the newspaper and beyond it, than
this study is able to provide its coders. It may be true that most
readers can get the point of a cartoon, even if it is usually not the
point the cartoonist intended; some artifacts in samples like this
one are simply ungettable.
The days of the dueling press barons, again, are gone. Though a
study like this one could illuminate similar patterns in other
American cities of the early 1940s, including those whose papers were
run by New Dealers or Colonel McCormick's cousins, many of the themes
and characters are travellers from an antique land today. Still, the
combination of a wide sample with a method that looks to the texts
first for answers offers some insights into how crises are perceived
and portrayed and to some degree, how news workers expect media
owners to see them portrayed. If the 1991 gulf war was the first of
the all-news-TV age, the "war on terrorism" was the first in which
such networks competed. And a crisis in which one network travels
with "U.S. troops" and the other with "our guys" is one in which the
Knox and McCormick papers would feel at home.
Table 1: All themes in war cartoons in the Daily News (CDN) and Tribune (Trib)
Axis Allies In Out Home
All dates CDN 31 (50.8%) 3 (4.9%) 19 (31.1%) 0 (0%) 8 (13.1%)
Trib 23 (18.1%) 11 (8.7%) 0 (0%) 38 (29.9%) 19 (15%)
pre-12/8/41 CDN 14 (46.7%) 0 (0%) 11 (36.7%) 0 (0%) 5 (16.7%)
Trib 3 (5.7%) 5 (9.4%) 0 (0%) 38 (71.7%) 7 (13.2%)
12/8 and on CDN 17 (54.8%) 3 (9.7%) 8 (25.8%) 0 (0%) 3 (9.2%)
Trib 20 (27%) 6 (8.1%) 33 (44.6%) 0 (0%) 12 (16.2%)
Table 2: Themes in both papers, before and after Pearl Harbor
Axis Allies In Home
All dates 54 (28.9%) 14 (7.5%) 52 (27.8%) 27 (14.4%)
Before 17 (20.5%) 5 (6%) 11 (13.3%) 12 (14.5%)
After 37 (35.6%) 9 (8.7%) 41 (39.4%) 15 (14.4%)
Table 3: The Daily News before and after Pearl Harbor
Axis-Allies In-Out Home
Before 14 (46.7%) 11 (36.7%) 5 (16.7%)
After 20 (64.5%) 8 (25.8%) 3 (9.7%)
Table 4: The Tribune before and after Pearl Harbor
Axis-Allies In-Out Home
Before 8 (15.1%) 38 (71.7%) 7 (13.2%)
After 26 (35.1%) 33 (44.6%) 9 (12.2%)
Table 5: Main themes in war cartoons in the Daily News (CDN) and Tribune (Trib)
Axis-Allies In-Out Home
All dates CDN 34 (55.7%) 19 (31.1%) 8 (13.1%)
Trib 44 (34.6%) 71 (55.9%) 16 (12.6%)
12/7/41 and earlier CDN 14 (46.7%) 11 (36.7%) 5 (16.7%)
Trib 8 (15.1%) 38 (71.7%) 7 (13.2%)
12/8/41 and after CDN 20 (64.5%) 8 (25.8%) 3 (9.7%)
Trib 26 (35.1%) 33 (44.6%) 9 (12.2%)
Table 6: The Tribune's portrayal of
the Allies, before and after Pearl Harbor
Before 0 5
After 6 0
Table 7: Subthemes for the Getting In theme (definitions, Appendix
I), after Pearl Harbor
Unite Whip Char
CDN 3 (37.5%) 4 (50%) 1 (12.5%)
Trib 5 (14.7%) 15 (44.1%) 14 (41.1%)
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Appendix I: Coding instructions
Codebook: Chicago newspaper cartoons before and after Pearl Harbor
The coding unit is the individual cartoon. For each cartoon, record
the date it appeared, the paper it appeared in, the page number, and
the artist's name (if possible).
Cartoons may be placed in six categories, though the "other" category
should be used only if all other possibilities are exhausted.
First, determine which category the cartoon is broadly commenting
about: the AXIS nations, the ALLIES, our STAYING OUT, our GETTING IN,
or the HOME FRONT. Then determine which subcategory the cartoon
best. Again, you may use the OTHER subcategory for each main
category, but it should be used sparingly
If you want to mention any particular difficulties you had reaching a
decision, use the Comments section.
If a cartoon appears to fit in two categories or two subcategories,
the coder should determine which category or subcategory is the better fit.
Category AXIS (code as AXIS)
Cartoons in this category have the Axis nations (Germany, Italy and
Japan) as their main focus. Subcategories:
Axis backstabbing or perfidy toward other Axis members, satellite
nations, or Allied or neutral nations. Nations shouldn't choose the
bad side. Code as PERF
Axis blundering, bumbling or cowardice, in general or on one or
more war fronts. Code as BLUN
Life in Axis or Axis-occupied nations is bad. Axis leaders'
decisions could make life worse for ordinary people. Code as LIFE.
Category ALLIES (code as ALLY)
Cartoons in this category concentrate on the virtues of Allied
nations (before Pearl Harbor, mostly Britain, France, Russia and
China; after Pearl Harbor, including Latin American allies and others
in Europe or Africa). Subcategories:
Allies are brave and good; they're fighting evil (GOOD)
It's important to help the nations fighting evildoers (HELP)
Allies or putative allies don't share our interests; they can't be
Category STAYING OUT (code as OUT)
Cartoons in this category emphasize the benefits of staying out of
the war or try to paint interventionists as warmongers or deceivers.
Europe's wars are part of Europe's history and not our business (EUR)
America is in no danger; don't fear the scaremongers (SAFE)
The people want peace; the young generation doesn't deserve war;
war is bad for everyone; innocents will suffer (PEACE)
FDR, New Dealers, Democrats and the like are trying to drag us into
war, sometimes circumventing laws to do so (FDR)
Category GETTING IN (code as IN)
Cartoons in this category emphasize that the right side must win.
U.S. help, whether as an ally or as a nonbelligerent, is important.
U.S. entry will tip the balance, and despite some setbacks, it and
its allies will triumph. Subcategories:
The U.S. is now united, infighting is over; let's pull together (UNITE)
There is something uniquely good about U.S. national character or
Americans in general, and it will help our side. (CHAR)
Isolationism and neutrality are wrong and outdated. We need to help. (HELP)
The United States, particularly Uncle Sam, is getting ready to
deliver a whipping to the evildoers; they're going to get theirs now. (WHIP)
Category HOME FRONT (code as HOME)
Cartoons in this category talk about life on the home front. Subcategories:
You might have to sacrifice; do your part to help the cause. (SAC)
Some people are hurting the cause or aren't doing their part. (SLACK)
Our civil liberties are in peril (FREE)
Appendix II: Examples
Daily News, 11/6/41: The freighter FDR is Tribune, 11/4/41:
Churchill is clearly
delivering implements "to defeat Hitler"; the ready to fight to the
closest shell splash to it recalls the destroyer Coded ALLY/BAD
Reuben James. Coded IN/HELP
Daily News, 11/13/41: Labor punches Tribune, 11/14/41: "Dr. FDR"
itself in the face with strikes in defense delivers Baby War as Congress
industries. Coded HOME/SLACK prepares to repeal the Neutrality
Act. Coded OUT/FDR
Daily News, 11/5/41: Uncle Sam Tribune, 12/17/41: Parallels with
advises Finland that it's keeping bad Napoleon's invasion of Russia were
company (Germany, Italy, Japan). frequent; in the next day's News,
Coded AXIS/PERF Hitler tries to hitch a ride with
Bonaparte. Coded AXIS/BLUN
Daily News, 12/13/41: "What were we Tribune, 12/19/41: "You fellows
arguing about last week, Bill? I've aren't takin' any stock of this rumor
forgotten." "So have I." Coded IN/UNITE that THIS generation is soft, are
you?" Coded IN/CHAR
Daily News, 12/29/41: The classic Tribune, 11/10/41: But the ape has
stereotypes: "Teeth and spectacles" appeared before. Here, he is FDR's
and dehumanization; the Japanese new friend and toughest sales
as apes. Coded AXIS/PERF assignment. ALLY/BAD
Tribune, 12/16/41: The Russians, Tribune, 11/26/41: An unusual
rehabilitated, are a bear rather than an ape. role for "teeth and
Hitler and Mussolini are identifiable; the New Deal. OUT/FDR
Japanese is not. ALLY/GOOD