Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Murder in the Morning
Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor of The New Yorker, decided to investigate the Pinker hypothesis using The New Yorker cartoons. He looked at the number of murders depicted, decade by decade, starting with the 1930s. He said to qualify as a murder, either there needed to be a dead body in the drawing...
or the imminent appearance of one.
Using these criteria, he counted 111 murders in more than 76,000 cartoons.
This means the homicide rate for all cartoons in The New Yorker is greater than that of 14th-century London.
As for the better angels of our cartooning nature, the data are mixed. If The New Yorker had stopped publishing at the end of the 1980s—the magazine was much safer than New York in those years—it would support Pinker's hypothesis. Since then, however, these pages have apparently become more lethal.
Mankoff pointed out in his letter that there have already been four homicide cartoons in 2011 and he feels the need to make some changes. He is going to increase the police representation in cartoons and impose the strictest gun control in cartoon country.