Sunday, March 30, 2008

Does CBP Have A PR Problem?

Dateline Mar. 30, 2008, Chicago
Today, the above cartoon by Dan Piraro appeared in Parade Magazine, which is shoved into the Chicago Tribune in the company of the Best Buy and Circuit City ad supplements. For reasons that escape me and likely make Parade execs very happy, I always leaf through it but rarely read anything in it. I suspect it has much to do with my personal love-hate for Marilyn Vos Savant. As an aside, her explication of the three-door-game-show problem is worthy of reading although not to the standard of The Straight Dope on jets on treadmills.

So, what does this cartoon say about the public perception of Customs & Border Protection? Is the agency perceived as corrupt? Or, is it merely considered annoying and this shows that in the extreme? Note how everything from the luggage is set out neatly. Is the inspector and obsessive-compulsive bureaucrat? Plus, he's armed. Is there an implied threat here?

What about the art itself? Note the very high-quality rendering of the old seal of the Customs Service. By avoiding the current seal, has the artist intentionally implied that this episode took place prior to 2003 or is it an intentional anachronism? If so, why? Perhaps to avoid spreading malicious lies about today's hard working Customs professionals.

These are important questions. Without these very important questions, I would just be posting a cartoon from the paper, like the annoying Ziggy or Family Circus that shows up on the bulletin board or refrigerator without warning. I'm not doing that. I am using the cartoon as a vehicle for social commentary, criticism, scholarship, and news reporting. That seems like a fair use and I'm sure my friends who are copyright lawyers will agree.

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