Cartoonists in American newspapers during World War II didn’t seem have much regard for, or an understanding of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. This article from the August 24, 1942 issue of Life magazine displays some example and also analyses the reasons behind the contempt:

[View large]


They portray Gandhi as either fool or traitor

In India last week Mohandas Gandhi was a British prisoner. So were hundreds of his followers in the Indian National Congress Party. Thousands of other followers, having heard Gandhi’s call for non-violent resistance against the British, proceeded to go violent until the British firmly put them down. An uneasy calm hung over the country as the Japs switched generals around and began talk about invading India.

In the US meanwhile, the newspaper cartoonists went on work on Gandhi, who, for all his faults, is India’s greatest man today just as Franklin D Roosevelt who also has his faults, is America’s greatest man today. But to the cartoonists, Gandhi was just a funny little crackpot, bald as a beanpole, who didn’t know enough to come in out of the rain. They treated Gandhi as if he didn’t realize which side was fighting for democracy in this war, as if he didn’t know that the Japanese were at India’s door. In the cartoons was either a fool or a traitor.

This point of view emerged partly because the cartoonists tried to make India’s complex problems just as simple as American pie and partly because, like most Americans, the cartoonists mistook the Indians for a low, uncivilized people who do not know what is good for them. Gandhi’s decision might well prove to be terribly wrong. But in all the cartoons there was nothing to suggest that the US itself might have some moral responsibility for India’s present state and might have some clear duty to try sympathetically to repair the awful breach on the democratic front.

Easier to caricature than comprehend.