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Editorial cartoonist links PDF to U.S.-Muslim misunderstandings

December 01, 2004

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In the past on several occasions we've noted indicators of the growing popularity of Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader and/or PDF, such as in our July 2003 article "An Acrobat Mystery: A dark and stormy (and monstrous) PDF" that featured references to Reader and PDF in a commercial, fiction best-seller.

This week we've run across another example -- the inclusion of both Reader and PDF in the dialogue of an editorial cartoon, one focusing on the conflicts between the U.S. military and the Muslim world. Ted Rall, described as "America's hardest-hitting editorial cartoonist for Universal Press Syndicate," opens his four-panel, black-and-white strip with an excerpt from a recent New York Times article about the alleged failure by the U.S. to adequately explain its Middle East policies and intentions to Muslims. The article is based on a recently released "Strategic Communication" report [PDF: 1.8 MB], issued by the Defense Science Board. According to New York Times journalist Thom Shanker, the report "scolds the government for casting the new threat of Islamic extremism in a way that offends a large portion of those living in the Muslim world.

Ted Rall comicEditorializing on that theme, Rall's first cartoon panel opens by showing a laptop-equipped Muslim presumably viewing a U.S. military-based Web site, preparing to download a document. The text reads:

"Here it is ... 'FAQs: Why We Bombed Your Village, Killing Everyone You Loved.' Download PDF (512kb)"


The final cartoon panel shows a pair of Muslim men at a local Internet cafe, huddled at the laptop, attempting to better understand American policies by downloading and reading various hypothetical documents, at least some of which are indicated as being in PDF. But Rall uses that as a way to illustrate part of the communication problem -- one of the Muslim characters is saying:

Ted Rall comic

"Americans are Dogs! Their 'Why We Prop Up Hated Dictators' PDF Doesn't Open."

The second Arab man, for whatever reason shown waving a small U. S. flag, responds:

"No worries, Dude! Just download Adobe Acrobat Reader. It's Free!"

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