New York City - (AP Photo/Shawn Baldwin)
In America, we are experiencing the most polarized populace since Vietnam. Millions of people may have disapproved of Bill Clinton's immoral behavior, but even at the height of his impeachment trial there was none of the vigor of disdain we are experiencing today.
The reason is simple: millions of people have come to believe that Bush is not stupid (as he has been naively painted by journalists), but that he is actually evil. Whatever good will America has maintained in the world thus far has suddenly been replaced by hatred, much of it deeply felt. An analogy to Vietnam is not used lightly: today more than ever, America is widely seen as "an imperialist power" -- language we have not used in years.
President Bush, an X over his mouth, has become the graphic moniker for this seismic shift in American political ideology.
Vainui de Castelbajac - France
Micah Ian Wright:The Propaganda Remix Project/Bangkok: European Pressphoto Agency
Sadly, this is not only an American phenomenon. On a recent visit to Italy, the cynicism and disdain for Silvio Berlusconi seemed to be equally evident, and equally intense. Election upsets in Spain and France suggest comparable dissatisfaction, as does the highly disputed Presidential election in Taiwan last month. In Britain, many suspect Tony Blair of being more dishonest than Margaret Thatcher. The politics of lying, it seems, has become an international phenomenon.
It will come as no surprise that the visual responses to these events -- most noticeably at demonstrations around the world -- are both plentiful and varied. Yet to look at these graphic design artifacts one is again reminded of Vietnam: but why does our contemporary language of protest still look like it did in 1970?
I would urge Design Observer readers to visit étapes, the French design magazine's site where there are close to 1000 anti-war posters against Bush, America, and the Iraq enterprise. You will find an endless supply of American flags with stars replaced by skulls or crosses, Bush as the gun-wielding star of recent movies (MIB III), pretzels as peace signs, bullet holes through everything from doves to the word NO, corporate logos translated into evil-doers (especially oil companies, but also Disney and Apple), and, of course, graphic plays on language (war...ning). As a gallery of design responses from designers in many countries, this resource is enlightening. (As is any Google search on Bush/anti-war and posters.)
Looking at hundreds of posters has made me wonder: What will become the iconographic symbols of our era? Where is the graphic design language that can say more, do more? Will any designers transcend mere anger and communicate, instead, new solutions for peace?
Julie Tachdjian - France / Toulouse
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