The Executioner of Liberty

A white man with blond hair, an orange face and a suit and tie, in his one hand the head of the Statue of Liberty, in the other hand a butcher’s knife with blood on it. Next to him run the words “America First”.

This is what the new cover of “Der Spiegel” – a German magazine – looks like in February 2017.

There is no doubt that the man depicted on the cover is Donald Trump – the President of the United States. The caricature made by Edel Rodriguez caused a controversial debate in public since, according to some people, one can’t help but associate it with the beheadings of ISIS which is an exaggerated comparison and disrespectful. Other German newspapers openly criticized the magazine for being tasteless and desperately trying to attract attention.  

However, others state that caricatures are always meant to provoke and thus are allowed to be a little ‘over the top’.  Moreover do they point out that Trump betrayed America’s values of a multicultural and pluralistic society with his executive order banning entry to the US for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Therefore the execution of democracy is a legitimate symbol they argue.

The question of how far caricatures and satire can go is difficult to answer. Similar discussions arose when the French magazine Charlie Hebdo published caricatures of Mohammed so that Muslims were offended.

However, “Der Spiegel” is not a satirical magazine but rather makes serious journalism and as a consequence, the criticism may be justified. On the other hand, some people hold the view that the comparison between the cover and the executions of ISIS is a little far-fetched since the man on the cover beheads a symbol and not a person.     

There is no denying that in times like these the association with ISIS is obvious but there are other possible associations, such as with the statue “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” made by Benvenuto Cellini (1545) depicting the Greek hero Perseus who beheaded the Gorgon Medusa.

His pose is similar to the one on the cover: In the one hand a head and in the other a sword!

Art and caricatures can always be interpreted in different ways and therefore the question is where you draw the line between right and wrong, satire and insult, still alright and too much.
-By Anna Körfer