In class, we briefly discussed this cartoon done by Ali Farzat and posted on his Facebook page on December 8, 2011. The image depicts a man—who I assume to be President Bashar al-Assad—with a gun in place of his head and a speech bubble coming from the barrel with drawings of hearts, flowers, and butterflies. We discussed multiple meanings in response to this cartoon, but I felt that the most fitting meaning was that hopeful, peaceful words cannot cover up violence. Despite what Assad promises or says, it doesn’t hide the fact that he’s a proponent of using violence and force against his people. In a way, this cartoon can be interpreted as Assad is literally holding a gun to his people to agree with whatever propaganda he spews out.
This image also seems to illustrate the idea of “as if” politics that Wedeen discusses. She says that “the regime produces compliance through enforced participation in rituals of obeisance that are transparently phony both to those who orchestrate them and to those who consume them” (6). As a result, citizens act “as if” they revere their leader. This cartoon depicts this idea that people are forced to listen to Assad tell lies, while both he and his people recognize that the lies are just a front for more violence and corruption. Farzat may be drawing attention to this type of “as if” politics that maintains the power of the regime.
What’s really interesting about this cartoon, though, is the context in which Farzat disseminated it. He posted it on his Facebook the day after an interview between Assad and Barbara Walters became public. In this interview he made comments such as “there was no command to kill or be brutal” and “no government kills its people” and “you don’t feel guilty when you don’t kill people”. As the cartoon depicts, while Assad claims he’s against violence, it’s clear that behind these words is a loaded gun, pointed at its people.