Charlie Hebdo

Cheer Up. Maybe Someday Someone Will Take A Shot At You


If you draw cartoons in the United States it’s very unlikely someone’s going to shoot you for it. You do stand a better chance of getting shot in America for just walking down the street, going to school, eating a cheeseburger, being black, than you would anywhere else in the civilized industrial world. But shot, stabbed, bombed, beyotch slapped, purple nurple or being the recipient of vicious wedgies for drawing an offensive cartoon, not likely.

After the terrorist attack in Paris on the magazine Charlie Hebdo which killed cartoonists and other staffers, a lot of American cartoonists received extra attention for doing what the French cartoonists did. We ate it up. A bunch of us (not me) were interviewed on news shows on CNN, Foxnews, radio and other places. We got to wax philosophically about how we will not let these terrorists take away our freedom of speech. We will not be intimidated to stop drawing offensive cartoons. Thing is, American cartoonists don’t do what the French cartoonists did.

Hey, give us extra attention. We could use it. Yes, the newspaper industry sucks for everyone but it especially sucks for cartoonists. If we garnered enough sympathy for a publication to actually hire one of us that would be incredible. Alas, a cartoonist was laid off last week from the newspaper in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. By my count there’s between 40-50 cartoonists on staff at American newspapers. I might have missed a few.

We don’t draw cartoons like the ones drawn for Charlie Hebdo. The cartoonists for Charlie Hebdo sought to offend. You can argue there’s a point in that and we’ll save that discussion for another day or never.

American cartoonists do offend but it usually just comes with the territory. For example, I’ll draw a cartoon on Sarah Palin and someone will hate it. I didn’t mean to offend them although I kinda enjoy they’re offended. There was a point in the cartoon and the reader chose to be offended. I did not take his god (even if he worships Sarah Palin) and purposely set out to insult his faith. Even when I draw on a religion like Catholicism, I’m not out to say being a Catholic is wrong and you’re religion is a hoax. What I’m usually trying to say is it’s bad to rape altar boys.

Another difference between these situations is the fact that the publican Charlie Hebdo put the cartoons on the front page while American newspapers tend to bury their cartoons inside on the opinion page. When I worked for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin for a year they actually put my cartoons on the front page. The only other publication I recall doing that was the Des Moines Register, ya know…before they laid their cartoonist off.

Political cartoons are supposed to be irreverent. I think the guys doing irreverent cartoons today are some of the best in the history of cartooning. But there aren’t that many cartoonists being risque, taking a chance, making you think, challenging your position. I don’t think most cartoonists working today even understand the word “irreverent” (I looked it up when I first got in the business). Most of the time those cartoonists are drawing weather cartoons as in it snowed yesterday and “brrr,” or someone died and it’s sad when people die, or John Boehner sure is orange looking or Obama plays a lot of golf. You get the idea.

We don’t draw things that generate death threats very often. Oh sure, occasionally we’ll get one. I got one about 20 years ago. Readers threaten to drop their subscription or pull advertising, or call an advertiser. Usually we get angry phone calls and letters (Democrats write to the cartoonist and Republicans write to the publisher. What’s up with that?). Now people comment on blogs or send angry tweets. In 2015 you really gotta inspire someone to the point that they actually take the time to put something in an envelope, stamp it and put it in the mail. A friend of mine recently got a copy of his own cartoon in the mail after someone wiped themselves with it. That means two people hate you. The letter writer/wiper and the mailman. Someone did unscrew the lug nuts to a tire on my car once. I’m not sure if that was an angry reader or some girl’s angry boyfriend. I digress.

Nobody’s coming to kill us. I can’t even think of a time a cartoonist in this country was attacked (I had an editor that wanted to attack me every now and then but he knew I could take him). We’re not going to have to start drawing on the floor to stay out of sight from the window. We’re not going to need security (my last job had a couple of old ladies at the reception desk that had to buzz you in and they were kinda scary). I do recall once a cartoonist attacked a helicopter and another attacked a porno booth. Not sure what either situation was about.

So, my fellow cartoonists, please stop pretending that what we do is physically dangerous. It’s only financially dangerous. I know we’re an insecure bunch (I know one guy who paints huge paintings of himself) and we are under appreciated. But think about what happened and the threat others seriously have to live with and put on your big boy pants and stop having a pity party.

And if you’re an American political cartoonist offended by this…get in line.


Selective Vigilance


Commentators on Foxnews say brown people should be profiled. Conservatives argue we need to throw away political correctness and say this is “Islamic” terrorism, not just terrorism. People used to say “I’m not a racist but” right before they would say something racist. Today the go to is “political correctness.”

Dammit, why can’t people just be racist and proud of it? Even David Duke denies he’s a racist.

People are very concerned about brown people killing white people. They’re very concerned about Muslims attacking Christians and Jews. Terrorists kill more Muslims than any other religious group, so who’s the war really against?

Now when a white guy bombs a federal building, an abortion clinic or an NAACP office, it’s not “Christian” terrorism. It’s “Domestic” terrorism. Hell, it may not even be terrorism. The FBI refuses to call the bombing in Colorado Springs this week “terrorism.” Where are all the conservatives who yell for Obama to identify terrorism now? I know you’re out there. I can hear you lurching.

These racists, I mean conservatives, scream that liberals need to focus on black on black crime. They have no concern for Muslim on Muslim terrorism.

Just throw away the labels. There’s only crime and there’s only terrorism.

Je Suis Charlie


A lot of people think it’s an editorial cartoonist’s job to offend. I don’t agree.

Several years ago after a Dutch newspaper incited wrath and death threats from Islamist extremists for running a bunch of cartoons depicting Muhammad, my employer debated running the same cartoons.

It was our oped editor’s idea. The editor of the newspaper called a meeting of the oped editor, editorial page editor and myself (being a cartoonist he thought I might have some experience with the matter). The editor was really surprised when I voted against running the cartoons. He thought I would love any opportunity to be offensive. Not at all. I explained my position to him, which also gave him a course in what a political cartoonist’s job actually is.

I explained that running the cartoons at that point was not making a statement. Running them would only serve to offend. A good cartoonist, or any satire, is not to offend people. It’s to put out a viewpoint that makes people think and often challenge readers. If a reader chooses to be offended then that’s a byproduct, a byproduct no publication should be afraid of. If a cartoonists is only working to offend then he’s not a cartoonist. He’s a troll.

But many are afraid of offending readers.

A few months ago a client of mine in Tennessee canceled running by cartoons because they were in a military community and they received too many nasty letters. No death threats, just threats to cancel their subscriptions. The editor said he loved my work but he couldn’t continue to incite outrage among his conservative readers. I’ve received the same message from other editors (a lot in Texas). I’ve even had editors ask me if I could change my viewpoints (they’re in Arizona).

Here’s my point with this cartoon (in case it’s not clear): a lot of American publications and their editors are cowards. Death threats are rare in the U.S. But it doesn’t take a death threat to scare an American editor. Tell them you’re going to tweet something nasty.

I do continue to have clients that are not afraid of strong cartoons. Thanks to all of them. I had one in Las Vegas write me this week that my cartoons have inspired several letters recently and that I need to keep it up. I love editors like that.

Now if only more newspapers would hire cartoonists.