Stigma and blame related to COVID-19 pandemic: A case-study of editorial cartoons in Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic represents not only the spread of a highly contagious and potentially fatal virus, but also an outbreak of theories, rumors, discourses and representations trying to make sense of a crisis. In this article, we explore the issue of blame and stigma in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. We do so by studying editorial cartoons published about COVID-19 in ten mainstream Canadian newspapers between January 2020 and March 2021. We identified 203 editorial cartoons that highlight common discourses which blame or stigmatize specific groups of people for the origin or transmission of COVID-19, or for their behavior during the pandemic. The cartoons focused on four groups: 1) people of Chinese origin or descent and of other national/geographic provenance (Americans, Canadians from specific provinces, urban residents); 2) international travelers; 3) people who do not respect the preventive measures to contain the pandemic; and 4) people who question or criticize the scientific discourses about COVID-19. Our analysis revealed an "othering process" common in times of pandemic. Our analysis of editorial cartoons in Canada also uncovered a moralization around the respect of the counter measures against COVID-19. These editorial cartoons largely divide the population into two groups: 1) "virtuous" people who are "selfless" and "smart" and who respect the public health preventive measures; 2) those who are "immoral", "self-centered", "silly" and even "stupid", who do not respect the recommended measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. While negatively portraying these individuals may help promote adherence to the recommended measures, it also can exacerbate polarization. Analyzing editorial cartoons can be a useful approach to rapidly gather information on attitudes and feelings in the public at a specific time and place.
Auteurs (Zotero)
Labbé, Fabienne; Pelletier, Catherine; Bettinger, Julie A.; Curran, Janet; Graham, Janice E.; Greyson, Devon; MacDonald, Noni E.; Meyer, Samantha B.; Steenbeek, Audrey; Xu, Weiai; Dubé, Ève
Date de publication (Zotero)
février, 2022