Counterculture

Philip Zec

Philip Zec

Published: 2016-01-12 | Original Article
Attribution Victor Navasky - Buzzfeed

The price of petrol has been increased by one penny.
The price of petrol has been increased by one penny." Official Philip Zec, The Daily Mirror (5th March, 1942)

On Jan. 8, 1942, Philip Zec’s cartoon in London’s The Daily Mirror showed an exhausted, torpedoed British sailor adrift in the Atlantic. The caption: “The price of petrol has been increased by one penny — Official.” Great Britain’s home secretary described the cartoon as “worthy of Goebbels at his best … plainly meant to tell seamen not to go to war to put money in the pockets of the petrol owners.”

Winston Churchill believed that the cartoon, which he interpreted as saying that the merchant marines’ lives were being put at risk to increase the profits of the oil barons, would undermine the morale of the merchant marines, and ordered an investigation to discover who owned The Daily Mirror. It led to “one of the stormiest debates in the wartime parliament,” when in fact all that Zec had meant to say was that gasoline shortages would put lives at risk.

Zec sometimes upset the British government with his cartoons. On 5th March, 1942, the Daily Mirror published a cartoon on the government's decision to increase the price of petrol. The cartoon showed a torpedoed sailor with an oil-smeared face lying on a raft. Zec's message was "Don't waste petrol. It costs lives."

Churchill arranged for MI5 to investigate Zec's background, and although they reported back that he held left-wing opinions, there was no evidence of him being involved in subversive activities. The government considered closing down the Daily Mirror but eventually decided to let the newspaper off with a severe reprimand.


Attribution Victor Navasky - Buzzfeed