JF Ptak Science Books Post 399
The largely-heroic Thomas Nast has proved--unfortunately--that his visual social commentary is timeless. For example, this iconic 1871 image of the wholesale theft and corruption of U.S. treasury and government funds by William "Boss" Tweed and his Tammany Hall conspirators versus the swift retribution to the retail theft of the destitute man trying to provide food for his starving family can still be run today on editorial pages--except of course that no one likes to see the faces of horrified children, their innocence and observation uncomfortably reflecting the true nature of the social situation.
Nast addressed his audience visually--the illiterate readers didn't need a word of English to understand these images, knowing full well who the disgusting Tweed was and of course being well familiar with the folks in the bottom half of the cartoon.
The image is immediately understandable, and powerful.
Evermore so since Nast used terror in the face of the little child--seeing his father being beaten and arrested by at least three of NYC's finest--to send the point home to the heart of any viewer who had one.I'm not an historian of this media, but over the decades I've seen many dozens of thousands of such images, and I think that I can say accurately that (at least before 1900) children are not used in such a way to make a political point.
The emaciated mother, the terribly-afflicted baby in her arms, the terrified sibling, all set against the jowly baker and the rotund Tweed make the image utterly heartbreaking, horrifying.
The faces have changed, today, and Tweed has been replaced by a host of others; the process is the same, though with different and more extravagant mechanics. And the money is bigger.
I doubt that there will be much trickle down from the trillion dollar bailout that would reach today's version of this child--we're just not reminded as often that there are still large populations of these children who might benefit from a tiny percentage of largese from something like the AIG bequest. I'm just saying that if say one-tenth of one percent ( .1% ) of the trillion dollars (and one trillion dollars looks like this: $1,000,000,000,000) coming down the sluice was tithed to the 10 million kids in this country who could really use some help that there would be one billion dollars more to help someone out. I know that this will not happen, mainly because those tenths of a percent add up--why, if you take 10 of them you'd get all the way up to one percent.