At first sight, one notices an elephant which has refused to mount a tower made of cans of paint despite the frantic efforts made by four men to make it stand or push it forward. These people are led by Gabrielson who is holding the trunk of the elephant. Some substance like filth or paint is spilling from the cans. A book at the top of the tower is in danger of being smeared with the filth. The cartoon is captioned: ‘You mean I’m supposed to stand on that?’
The word McCarthyism is used to represent the smear campaign represented by the paint symbolically. The elephant, whose image represents the Republican government, has refused to either stand up or move nearer the pile of cans. The word McCarthyism implies the act of struggling to lead the elephant to the dirt. These men are labeled Gabrielson, Bridges, Taft, and Wherry who must have been deceived that the contents of the pile of buckets are harmless.
The words ‘you mean’ indicate that the idea to mount the tower is ridiculous and does not come from the subject which in this case is the elephant. It also introduces one to the looming impossibility to achieve the task at hand. Additionally, the words ‘stand on that’ indicates that no words are befitting to the structure which the subject is expected to climb. Some of the adjectives that are befitting to this cartoon include filthy (to describe the messy pile of cans), fruitless (to outline the results of the efforts to make the elephant stand), and public (to describe the cartoon’s setting).
The four men identified as Gabrielson, Bridges, Taft, and Wherry are doing all they can to get the elephant to do their bidding. However, the elephant is obviously bigger and heavier than all of them in addition to being adamant. The setting of the Cartoon seems to be a public square as evidenced by the absence of houses or other objects which can suggest otherwise. The book placed on top of the piled buckets is expected to bear something which would be of interesting to read. Whoever is willing to read this book will have to come into contact with the filth. The pile of buckets full of trash represents Joe McCarthy who is out to tarnish people’s reputations. The elephant, on the other hand, accounts for the Republican political party to which McCarthy and the other four men belong.
Herblock is responsible for this drawing. He accomplished this decorative piece in 1950, and it earned a spot in The Washington Post Newspaper. The cartoon was designed to communicate the immense fear which McCarthy was spreading after he managed to convince Americans that communists had infiltrated the government. The McCarthyism phase meant comprised of dirty tricks which were used to convince individuals to drag the Republican Party into the mire. McCarthy claimed to have a list of communists who had infiltrated American government in I950s. The cartoonist was opposed to the smear campaign and warned the audience about these men’s work. In the picture, it is evident that a pile of cans cannot withstand an elephant’s weight. Therefore, McCarthy’s false allegations could not hold any water and were bound to collapse. True to his drawing, this scheme crumbled when the leader was questioned so that the alleged subversion could be verified.
From this cartoon, one learns that politicians are capable of using dirty tricks to achieve their selfish goals. It takes the wisdom and intelligence of the public to expose the lies of such schemes boldly. Also featuring is the gullibility of elected leaders. This lot is not keen to verify any information thus the warning that care should be taken before believing anything. A series of online cartoons during the period when Herblock challenged those who were propagating fear against communists, alongside historical books and articles, are valuable resources which aid in understanding the events surrounding this cartoon.