Blog Columns Syndicate

Randy’s Only Great Idea!

Here’s another remembrance from our cartoonist, Randall Enos.

The Only Great Idea I’ve Ever Had

In the 1960’s I worked at at Pablo Ferro Films on a commercial for Orange, Lemon and Lime Rock, three colorful beverages that Schenley Whiskey was promoting in an effort to capture young urban drinkers. It was an interesting job for me because, not only did I get a chance to act in the commercial, but I drew several cartoon animation segments for it.

One problem arose when it came time to show the client a finished “answer” print of the commercial. We generally would have the clients come to a screening room and show our work to them on a large screen. This time, when we viewed the print in our office, it was pretty poor in quality. The orange beverage was looking like brownish mud and the other two weren’t much better.

We sent the print back to the lab. When we got a second print, the orange color was okay but it had forced the lemon and lime colors to be way off. And so it went, with our deadline fast approaching, we couldn’t seem to get all the product colors to show up correctly. What to do? The client was chafing at the bit demanding to see a finished print of the commercial immediately. Now, remember that this was back in the 60’s when the technology wasn’t the way it is now. TV sets were problematic and viewers had to fiddle around with color control knobs to adjust, as best they could, the color on their set. Color programs were pretty poor in quality which set me thinking about the fact that here we were suffering through all these weak answer prints when, in the long run, the viewers were going to see a poor quality picture on their home tvs anyway. Then a light bulb went off in my head.

I said to Pablo and Jose, “Why don’t we show the client, the ad on a large tv set instead of in a screening room ? We’ll tell them that we want them to see it the way the folks at home will. That would allow us to have a technician tweak the color on the tv set, which wouldn’t be perfect but the client would accept it because everyone automatically allowed a certain amount of imperfection in a tv image.”

We did it… and it worked, allowing us a little more time to fight with the lab over a good quality print.

That’s it… the only great idea I have ever had.

Randall Enos

Email Randy

Blog Columns Syndicate

How to Fight ISIS? With Cartoons

Pundits like to complain that there are few voices from the Islamic world that condemn terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists. I run a small business that distributes editorial cartoons from around the world. With every major attack, including the recent attacks in Paris, I see a chorus of cartoons from Arab countries condemning the terror. The pundits must not be looking at the cartoons.

Cartoon by Steve Sack.

Editorial cartoonists are typically the most influential voices in newspapers throughout the Middle East, reflecting the views of their readers. Newspapers remain important in everyday life in the Middle East. Editorial cartoons grace the front pages throughout the Middle East. Arabic language cartoonists are typically anti-American and anti-Semitic, but on issues of terrorism they are largely voices of reason.

I often hear politicians complain about how the war with Islamic extremists is a battle for hearts and minds and we need to step up our role in an information war that we are losing. Editorial cartoons could be a weapon on the
front lines of that battle. By now Americans should see how powerful cartoons can be; clearly the terrorists see this, as cartoonists are among their primary targets. It is difficult for Americans to comprehend that editorial cartoons are important and effective in the Middle East because we view cartoons as trivial jokes, leading us to miss many opportunities.

Until recently, the US State Department had programs that brought American cartoonists on speaking tours to the Middle East to meet their colleagues, and had reciprocal programs to bring Arabic language editorial cartoonists to America. The programs sought to spread common values to countries where persecuted and influential cartoonists typically are barred from drawing their own presidents. These effective State Department speaking programs for editorial cartoonists were dropped at the time of the “sequester” budget cuts. USAID supported journalism education initiatives in the Middle East ignore and exclude cartoonists.

As international respect for America has plummeted, respect for many of our institutions still runs high. American cartoonists are respected around the world, like American jazz musicians and basketball players. Middle Eastern cartoonists are eager to have their work appreciated by American readers and by the star American cartoonists who they respect and emulate. The Arab cartoonists push back against the press restrictions imposed by their regimes and envy America’s press freedoms.

Every act of terror brings new recruits to the Islamic extremists in ISIS; they seek glory, selling an image of bravery, striking back against the arrogant infidels in the West. Brandishing a gun demands a kind of respect. Fighting for religious values, no matter how twisted, demands a kind of respect. ISIS craves respect; what they can’t bear is ridicule. Islamic extremists who are widely seen as the butts of jokes won’t find many eager converts.

Cartoon by Milt Priggee.

Cartoonists are masters of disrespect and are a continuing threat to the Islamic extremists. It is no surprise that editorial cartoonists are prime targets for terror. Along with other web sites around the world, my own editorial cartoon Web site,, is suffering hacker attacks that appear to originate with terrorists and despotic regimes who fear cartoons. Terrorists and despots have a weakness in common; they can’t take a joke.

America needs to wake up, deploy and support the world’s best soldiers in the modern information war, American cartoonists.

This weekend President Obama claimed that he is already doing most of the things that his political opponents demand in the war with ISIS; he called on his critics to contribute new and constructive ideas on what should be done. My recommendation is inexpensive and powerful: bring back and greatly expand the State Department’s shuttered editorial cartoon programs around the world.

Blog Columns Syndicate

Kill the Messenger

The Daily Illini college newspaper at the University of Illinois cancelled their subscription to the 50+ cartoonists in our syndication package this week in response to protests against the Rick McKee cartoon below, that they chose to reprint. Read their statement apologizing for publishing the cartoon. The Daily Illini student editor who chose to publish Rick McKee’s cartoon was suspended. USA Today did a story about the cartoon controversy.

In their apology, the Daily Illini editors write:

The person who selected the cartoon is currently on suspension due to regrets on the oversight. This choice was made out of carelessness, not out of malice. This student has learned an important lesson about carelessness.

We unfortunately cannot go back and erase it from yesterday’s paper, yet we hope this serves as a wake-up call in our decisions as an editorial staff. We apologize again, and hope that we can earn back the trust and confidence of our readers with each issue of The Daily Illini from here on.

We have reached out to the directors of the Native American House, La Casa Cultura Latina, Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center and the Asian American Cultural Center and invited them to come in and talk with the staff about mindfully reporting on issues pertinent to underrepresented communities.

We recognize that a statement can not recognize the hurt that this cartoon may have caused and we apologize for the perpetration of this disgusting stereotype.

Our cartoon package includes cartoonists with a range of views from conservative to liberal, and it isn’t unusual that we get complaints from editors about cartoons they disagree with. Often the complaints come with threats to unsubscribe if we don’t remove content that the editor doesn’t like. Sometimes we get demands that we “fire” the cartoonists that editors or readers disagree with.

With a wide range of content, we have something new that everyone can disagree with, every day.  Since editors receive about a dozen cartoons a day to choose from they can easily choose cartoons that meet their preconceived world views and they always have cartoon choices available that will not challenge their readers. It is usually the conservative editors who complain about liberal cartoons that offend them. In the case of the Daily Illini, the complaints, and the subscription cancellation come from the liberal side of the spectrum – which fits the conservative narrative about “politically correct” colleges stifling conservative ideas. Our experience is that the liberal editors are usually the ones who print left vs. right columns and cartoons, while the conservative editors prefer to reassure their conservative readers by only reinforcing the views their readers already hold.

As a liberal cartoonist who runs a business that includes conservative cartoonists and columnists, it is fascinating to see the change in attitudes among editors and readers as both ends of the spectrum become less tolerant and seek to punish those who hold opposing views who offend them.

Rick McKee’s response made me smile:

“I think it’s a sad day for journalism whenever a newspaper feels it has to apologize for something they knowingly published. But I don’t blame the students. They’re just kids and they’re learning. I blame the politically correct atmosphere they find themselves in that exists on most U.S. college campuses. Our institutions of higher learning are supposed to be safe spaces where differing viewpoints are tolerated, but that no longer seems to be the case. There’s nothing racist about the cartoon and the notion that people should come into this country legally is an opinion that is widely held by many Americans. I’d also like to add that if you hated this cartoon — or if you loved it — my new book is filled with much of the same and can be pre-ordered at a discount right now at !”

Want to comment to the Daily Illini? Email them at [email protected]. You can make a comment for us here or on our Facebook page at

We’ve gotten some interesting comments, here is a sampling …

Rich Moyer Of course, having him just stand around out-waiting his visa is a boring illustration.
Jim Engel I think every political cartoonist should apologize every day.
Aaron Hill Makes me wonder if they published it on purpose to stir up controversy to get out of settling their bill…!
(the Daily Illini is five months behind on their payments for our cartoon package)
Gary McCoy If you look up “gutless-wonder” in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of the Daily Illini.
Wise The editor probably supported Woodrow Wilson.
Jim Phillips Isn’t that like blaming the grocery store because you didn’t like the new cereal you bought? After you ate the whole box.

Joe Gandelman, who runs The Moderate Voice site wrote a long and interesting response to my column about the Daily Illini dropping over the Rick McKee Illegal Immigrant Trick or Treater cartoon. Here it is:

I have to add to this. I started The Moderate Voice in December 2003 and it became a group blog by 2004. I’ve written for The Week online and for nearly five years did a syndicated column for Cagle Cartoons. Not a WEEK goes by when I don’t get some emails or facebook messages from someone trying to ban an opposing view or taking great exception to a post or a comment. I know that some will now sic The False Equivilancy Police on me, but the fact is left, center, right are now almost all the same when it comes trying to remove a viewpoint or limit it, in so many areas.

No, this isn’t just talking about the decade plus of TMV but about Facebook, response to my columns and emails on my pieces I did for The Week. Rage and outrage are prime components of our politics on so many fronts now. Just as there’s a 24/7 news cycle and social media is instantaneous, so is the tendency now to slip into outrage mode ASAP.. Once upon a time there was a delay as people pondered the meaning of things but reaction (rage, outrage, demands, threats not to read again) is now instantaneous.

In the case of Cagle Cartoons, I have a large number of columns and cartoons I can choose from. Many do NOT reflect my view and I run some of them. If I really don’t like one, I can pass on it. And that’s no big deal (some people prefer fish to meat). But so many cartoons are offered from all around the world. Cancelling a service because an editor chose to run a cartoon out of a huge number is puzzling. But not surprising (these days).

I’m sure this cartoon will spark some spirited discussion here at TMV. I need to add that over the years TMV has lost people who were modest donors of the center right and center left due to my refusing to ban someone from the site or remove a post they didn’t like.

I saw this cartoon, but didn’t run it because I had many others I wanted to run and hadn’t gotten to even putting them up, And for another reason: I’m someone who had someone who was here illegally as his Little Brother in Wichita , Kansas, years ago and who has covered immigrants at the border in my old job on the San Diego Union covering the border, Reagan’s immigration reform and Tijuana so it wasn’t one I CHOSE to put up. I make my choices VERY quickly about what I’ll put up or pass on because I read so many posts, syndicated materials and cartoons. So this was no biggie. I merely chose another one — a process I do EACH time I choose cartoons to put up.. I’ve run many cartoonists by the cartoonist who did the one above over the years. And I’ve run many others by other cartoonists, who I’ve also many times chosen not to run in favor of using another cartoon by another cartoonist. I’m not obligated to use or not use a cartoon but in the end it’s my decision what I put on the site.

I need to add that I run some other syndicated materials. I CHOOSE what I put up. And if readers were upset over one of the syndicated pieces I CHOOSE to put up from a service, I could let it stand or remove it. But I wouldn’t cancel using the entire syndicate when it had been MY choice to use it or not use it.

I’ll leave the rest to readers in comments.

Blog Columns Syndicate

Muhammad Cartoon Stimulus and Response … and Repeat

We just saw yet another terror attack provoked by cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, this time at a “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland Texas. A competent cop shot two home-grown terrorist gunmen before much damage was done. The event was organized by a right-wing group called “Stop Islamization of America” that was best known for opposing the construction of a mosque in Manhattan. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists them as a hate group, which they deny.

Cartoonist Rénald “Luz” Luzier, who drew the famous Charlie Hebdo cover after the shootings in France, recently decided he would no longer draw Muhammad cartoons. I can sympathize with Luz’s choice, since he’s now “typecast” as the premier Muhammad cartoonist – It seems reasonable that Luz wouldn’t want his career to be boiled down to being the “Muhammad cartoon guy.”

I’m an editorial cartoonist; I haven’t drawn a Muhammad cartoon myself, because I haven’t been inspired to do so. I shy away from drawing cartoons that some people would find offensive. I don’t use four letter words, or the “N-word” in my cartoons. I don’t draw sexually explicit cartoons. Offensive subject matter in cartoons can be so loud that it drowns out anything else I might want to say in a cartoon, except, “Look, I have the freedom to draw something offensive.”

Many cartoonists have drawn Muhammad cartoons, and racist cartoons, and dirty cartoons; that’s fine, that’s their business – but drawing offensive stuff just to draw attention to myself, or to prove that I have the right to do so, just looks like lousy cartooning to me. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were doing more than that; they were addressing issues in French culture that were important to them, and rejecting all religions that they felt didn’t fit with their secular society.

I knew three of the five Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who were murdered earlier this year and I got to know more of them at French cartoon festivals. They have a genuine passion for their issues and our conversations always turned to a discussion of their religion-bashing cartoons. Here in America we’re not faced with the same social pressures and similar cartoons here should seem out of place.

The “Stop Islamization of America” people, who sponsored this contest, are poking the extremist Islamic beast to elicit a predictable response. This violent, cartoon stimulus and response will surely continue to be repeated.

It doesn’t matter that I personally don’t choose to draw Muhammad cartoons, or that most cartoonists don’t care to draw offensive cartoons, all editorial cartoonists are now being seen as recklessly poking surly Islamic beasts. My profession is being painted with the Muhammad cartoon broad-brush.

I was recently asked to speak at a local college, and I met the college president; the first thing he said to me was, “Now, don’t show any of those Muhammad cartoons.” This is not unusual. Casual conversations with editorial cartoonists often start with, “So, do you draw those Muhammad cartoons too?”

Like Luz was typecast, it seems we’re all typecast now.

Blog Columns

I Entered Iran’s Holocaust Cartoon Contest

Today I entered Iran’s Second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest. The first contest was a response to the Danish Muhammad Cartoons back in 2006. This time around, the contest is in response to the Charlie Hebdo murders.

People usually respond to events by doing what they would want to do anyway, so anti-Semitic cartoons are both the natural Iranian response and are what they would draw anyway if there was nothing to respond to.

The Holocaust Cartoon Contest Website shows three stacked army helmets, two with swastikas, and a third with a Star of David. There are two sections to the contest, the regular cartoon contest I entered, and a caricature contest where cartoonists are instructed to draw likenesses of Benjamin Netanyahu with Adolph Hitler. Most of the cartoons in the first contest were depictions of Jews as Nazis.

The winning cartoon from the First Holocaust Cartoon Contest, by Moroccan cartoonist Derkaoui Abdellah, showing an image of a Nazi concentration camp on a wall which a crane, marked with a Star of David, was placing around Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock.

The site claims that they don’t deny the Holocaust, and that they are not anti-Semitic, but the cartoon winners from the first contest tell another story. The winner of the first Holocaust Cartoon Contest back in 2006 was Moroccan cartoonist Derkaoui Abdellah, whose winning cartoon showed an image of a Nazi concentration camp on a wall which a crane, marked with a Star of David, was placing around Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. The US State Department paid Derkaoui’s way for an extensive tour of America, including a visit to the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention, where I met him.

The Holocaust Cartoon grand prize is “12,000” which is a lot if that is US dollars, but if it is Iranian currency, that amounts to less than fifty cents; I’m not sure which it is.

In my cartoon, I drew Iran’s Supreme Leader, with his face as a butt that is farting out the words to his famous statement, “The Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain and if it has happened, it’s uncertain how it happened.” The fart-sentence takes the form of a “wafteroon” which is a cartoon term for a wavy, steamy, horizontal line that typically runs under someone’s nose, indicating that a character is smelling something. A wafteroon can come out of an apple pie, under the nose of a smiling face, or it can come out of the Supreme Leader’s butt-face, under the noses of a frowning crowd, as in my cartoon.

I have an Iranian cartoonist friend, Nik Kowsar, who was imprisoned in Iran for drawing cartoons that the clerics didn’t like. Nik was held in the infamous Evin prison in Tehran that now holds Washington Post reporter, Jason Rezaian. I asked Nik if I should enter my cartoon in the contest, or would that just be stupid and pointless? Nik said, “Yes! Enter it! It’s funny!”

My next problem was that I had missed the deadline. Nik told me, “They are good about taking late submissions. Don’t worry about it.” And Nik was right, the Iranians responded immediately to tell me that it was OK to submit my cartoon today, after the deadline.

I’m guessing the Iranians will not choose to include my cartoon in their exhibition and competition – but considering how the contest organizers complain about the “West” censoring “discussion” of the Holocaust, I thought it was a nice irony to give them a Holocaust cartoon that they would likely censor.

Now I’m kicking myself that I missed the deadline for “The Second Major International Award of DOWN WITH AMERICA” contest back in January. I need to pay closer attention to this stuff.


Garry Trudeau – Blaming the Charlie Hebdo Victims

In his acceptance speech for a recent award, one of many awards he’s received in his long career, Doonesbury creator, Garry Trudeau, made these comments about the murdered Charlie Hebdo cartoonists:

“Ironically, Charlie Hebdo, which always maintained it was attacking Islamic fanatics, not the general population, has succeeded in provoking many Muslims throughout France to make common cause with its most violent outliers. This is a bitter harvest.”

“Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.”

“By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voila—the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world, including one in Niger, in which ten people died. Meanwhile, the French government kept busy rounding up and arresting over 100 Muslims who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks.”

Trudeau is all wrong. Satire, and great editorial cartoons, are about speaking truth to power – and the most powerful people are those with guns, enforcing their will through violence. Trudeau seems blind to the threats that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists saw all around them as Islamic extremists continue raping, enslaving and killing thousands of innocents while threatening to murder even more cartoonists.

Editorial cartoonists work in comfortable safety in America, but around the world our profession has always been dangerous. Cartoonists are murdered, beaten and jailed by the powerful people with guns, who the cartoonists criticize. Editorial cartoonists outside of the USA are the bravest heroes of journalism.No personal bravery is required of editorial cartoonists in the USA, where the government we lampoon defends us against the dangers faced by our cartoonist colleagues overseas. It takes no bravery to blame a rape victim for her own rape, as it takes no bravery to blame a cartoonist for his own murder. Perhaps the rape victim wore a provocative dress, or the cartoonist drew a provocative cartoon, it shouldn’t matter. It is the violence that should be condemned, not the victim of the violence.

Trudeau’s cartoons don’t “comfort the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable;” Trudeau simply chooses targets that he feels comfortable afflicting – targets that don’t shoot back.


Editor’s Note: After I wrote this column, Trudeau appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press to answer widespread (mostly conservative) condemnation of his comments about the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists. In the interview Trudeau argued that he didn’t mean to blame the cartoonists, then went on to defend his comments and blamed the cartoonists again. Trudeau’s Meet the Press interview can be viewed here.


The Clinton and Bush Dynasties – and Cards in Cartoons

This is my cartoon about the Clinton and Bush dynasties. Note that Hillary is on the left and Jeb is on the right.

Hillary is a great character for cartoonists; I’m still getting comfortable with Jeb Bush, who really looks very little like George W. and his parents.

Playing cards are a metaphor staple among editorial cartoonists. Here’s a nice oldie, from Taylor Jones, with Obama and McCain.

I got mail in response to my cartoon, from readers asking why both Hillary and Jeb were not Jokers. I suspect Taylor got some angry mail for calling Obama a “spade,” I would have avoided that. Still, nice cartoon.

As I was writing this, I did a search on our site for cards, and I came up with the lovely Boligan cartoon below. Clearly, Boligan has in mind that the fat, happy tourist is flying around the world, spreading the money around from his many credit cards.

Sometimes I look at a cartoon and think, if only he had done something different, that would have made for another great cartoon. With this one, I would have had a consumer Sysiphus, with too many credit cards flying too close to the sun, with his credit card wings melting, falling apart. Maybe I’ll do that, with a “thank you” to Boligan.

Cards are great for cartoons, huh?

Blog Columns

The NRA and Comic-Con

This weekend I went to the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Nashville, Tennessee, my hometown. I’m an editorial cartoonist; I sit at home drawing and I rarely go to big conventions. The only thing I have to compare the NRA to is the San Diego Comic-Con, and I thought the NRA convention stacked up pretty well to Comic-Con.

The NRA convention is half the size of Comic-Con. The crowd was certainly different, with the NRA sporting more beer bellies and gray hair than Comic-Con. Both the NRA and Comic-Con are mostly male, and both are full of fervent fans. It is a lot easier to park and get a hotel room at the NRA convention, and it is much cheaper and easier to get into the NRA than Comic-Con, which costs well more than ten times the $25 it costs to join the NRA and attend the NRA convention. Comic-Con sells out months in advance; anyone can go to the NRA at the last minute – like me.

There isn’t much religion at Comic-Con, although it isn’t unusual to hear people exclaim, “Oh my God” when they see the length of the line to meet the cast members of “The Big Bang Theory.”

Everyone in a crowd of thousands at the NRA Annual Meeting held hands, bowed their heads and followed along in a prayer about how God has chosen the NRA to defend us against the “enemies of freedom.” I was actually near the front of the room, where I took this photo. That’s the NRA’s executive officers on the stage in the distance, holding hands. Click on the photo to enlarge.

There’s lots of religion at NRA conventions. The Saturday morning NRA annual meeting began with everyone in the audience holding hands and bowing their heads as someone on the stage prayed about how God has chosen the NRA to lead the fight against the “enemies of freedom” who, we were later told, are President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Michael Bloomberg, in that order.

There are enemies at Comic-Con too; scattered through the crowd are assorted Darth Vaders, storm-troopers, super-villains and monsters. Years ago there were Klingons everywhere, but the Klingons have dwindled in recent years, and now they are rare. My effort to build up my Klingon vocabulary has clearly been a waste of time. “Ghay’cha’!”

There was an anti-gun protest group, in town for the NRA convention, that had trouble making a dinner reservation. I’m told they were unwelcome at nearby restaurants, and their group had to drive thirty minutes out of Nashville, to Murfreesboro, for dinner. It is also difficult to make a dinner reservation at Comic-Con.

The exhibit floors at the NRA and Comic-Con are fascinating. One NRA exhibit I enjoyed featured videos of cool stuff getting shot, including row after row of watermelons, which made impressive explosions. Rows of televisions being shot were much less interesting than the watermelons. The legislature in Tennessee is debating allowing exploding targets. Tennessee already allows for the sale of fantastic fireworks – the aerial kind that would start forest fires if they were allowed in flammable California – but in Tennessee, fireworks are wholesome fun. Explosions are popular at Comic-Con too (the Death Star comes to mind). Alas, real, legal explosions in California are just the stuff of dreams.

Tennessee’s Republican legislature has been pandering to the NRA in the weeks leading up to the convention; they are close to passing a “Guns in Parks” bill that would prohibit cities from banning guns in their municipal parks. Most of the prospective Republican presidential candidates gave speeches at the NRA convention on the first day. At the annual meeting, many mentions of vile Democrats were met with hisses from the enthusiastic, Republican crowd, who were equally angry about Islamic extremists, defending the border with Mexico, and President Obama as they were about threats of gun control. The NRA convention is about much more than guns; it is about a broad agenda that is Republican, conservative, and Christian.

The same mission-creep is apparent at Comic-Con, which should be about comic books, but has grown to be about anything entertainment related, which may have nothing to do with comics. Any TV show. Any movie. Whatever. Are there some TV stars from a detective, procedural show doing a panel? Yes? Let’s go stand in line! My God, the line is so long.

As the Klingons would say, “petaQ!”


Blog Columns

“Gotcha” Questions for Scott Walker

I get lots of e-mails with the same message, like this one from little Johnny in Nashville, who writes, “Dear Mr. Cagle, Please explain your cartoon to me. My paper is due tomorrow.”

I hate having to explain myself. So does Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker.

Walker doesn’t like “gotcha” questions from the media. When a reporter asks a politician a question, and knows that an honest answer would be an answer that many people won’t like hearing, that is a “gotcha” question. Walker has been clumsy while learning to avoid “gotcha” questions.

I drew a cartoon showing a reporter interviewing Walker.

Reporter asks, “Gays?”

Walker says, “I don’t wanna answer that.” Walker thinks, “Homos are so nasty.”

Reporter then asks, “Evolution?”

Walker says, “I won’t answer.” Walker thinks, “This liberal ape doesn’t know that evolution is only a ‘theory’.”

Reporter asks, “Do you think Obama is a Christian?”

Walker says, “I never asked him.” Walker thinks, “I never asked that liberal, Muslim, Kenyan atheist.”

Journalists must be accurate and report the exact words a politician says. My job is better. As an editorial cartoonist, I have the freedom to put any words into the mouths of politicians that I want; I can even choose to put any thoughts into their brains.

Republican candidates must pander to the basest of their conservative base, especially in the presidential primaries. My worry is that politicians really believe the blather that they spew. I would like to hear honest answers to the “gotcha” questions.

The problem with avoiding “gotcha” questions is that I’m left with the impression that Walker really believes the knuckle-dragging nonsense that I write into his thought bubbles.

An even bigger problem is that cartoons are not so funny when they are explained.

Sorry, Johnny.

Blog Columns

Lars Vilks is NO Cartoonist

Lars Vilks by Taylor Jones.

Another Islamic extremist killing spree was blamed on cartoonists as recent, ugly events unfolded in Denmark surrounding Swedish “cartoonist” Lars Vilks. A lone killer sprayed machine gun fire at a “free speech event” organized around Vilks, who has attained a bizarre level of celebrity for drawing Prophet Muhammad heads on the bodies of dogs.

Vilks is a “conceptual artist” who had been known for building towers made of sticks before he took up the Prophet Muhammad-dog theme. Vilks studied art history and didn’t train as an artist, as is clear to anyone who sees his terrible drawings. His most famous Muhammad dog drawing looks like he drew it in five seconds, on a napkin, with his eyes closed, and both hands behind his back.

Unlike cartoonists who seek to have their work published, Vilks shopped around for galleries that were willing to hang his scribble on their wall – when one gallery agreed, the drawing made the news, and the art show was cancelled, but the news was enough to give Vilks new fame as the Prophet Muhammad dog “cartoonist”.

For a conceptual artist, the act of creating art and the response to the art are all that matters. For example, an artist can put a crucifix into a jar of urine, or cover herself with chocolate and if she can get the National Endowment for the Arts to pay for it – and cause a stir – and create a new conversation, the conceptual art is a success. Vilks’ towers of sticks were built in a Swedish nature sanctuary, violating local regulations, and triggering a reaction from local authorities who wanted to regulate the structures. Drama = art.

Conceptual artists are nothing like cartoonists, who can draw, who usually have editors, and who want to have their cartoons and ideas reprinted and distributed to a large audience through the media. Unfortunately, after the Danish Muhammad cartoons and the Charlie Hebdo attacks, editorial cartoonists are painted with the same broad brush as Vilks, the “artist” who the media insists on labeling a “cartoonist.”

Vilks seems to relish his place in the spotlight as a self-appointed authority on freedom of expression. He’s done an exhibition of classic paintings with Prophet Muhammad-headed dogs inserted into the paintings. He travels with an armed escort and is a featured speaker at “freedom of speech” events, organized by his supporters, like the one that was attacked in Copenhagen. Vilks is a media-darling for interviews. I suppose it isn’t surprising that some narcissist would take a clash of civilizations as a opportunity for self-promotion.

As an editorial cartoonist, I live in a new world now, where timid editors see editorial cartoonists as dangerous. The talented Charlie Hebdo cartoonists are among the top cartoonists in France, their Muhammad cartoons reflect their concerns, and the concerns of their readers, about a culture clash with Islam in French society.

The Danish Muhammad cartoonists, back in 2005 were also different – they were paid $50 each by a local newspaper to draw Muhammad; they were illustrators given an assignment by an editor, Flemming Rose, who wanted to make a point about crossing red-lines by publishing offensive cartoons. In their cartoons, the Danish cartoon illustrators playfully rejected the premise of the assignment, except for one, Kurt Westergaard, who was the staff editorial cartoonist for the newspaper; he drew the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, an image that became the only Danish Muhammad cartoon that anyone remembers. Rose, Westergaard and Vilks share equal billing on the Islamic death-list marquee.

Since the Danish cartoons were drawn only for the purpose of demonstrating that there is a right to offend, they set up the narrative that drawing Prophet Muhammad cartoons is all about freedom of expression, that editorial cartoonists are eager to push the limits, and that editorial cartoonists are dangerous, reinforcing the prejudices of editors who are more timid now than ever. Vilks, by taking the reins of the Prophet-Muhammad-cartoon-bandwagon, is limiting my own freedom of expression as an editorial cartoonist almost as much as the Islamic-extremist-nuts who repeatedly try to kill him.

Vilks doesn’t deserve to be killed by an Islamic assassin; he doesn’t deserve to be punished or silenced, and he doesn’t deserve to be called a “cartoonist”. He deserves to be ignored.