Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cartoonists on the Cartoon Controversy

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) has a post that provides useful links to cartoonists' perspectives on the Muhammad cartoon controversy. Here are some of the highlights:
  • One Picture, A Thousand Outcries: "It’s been my experience that most groups are humor-impaired when outsiders make fun of them... A number of my cartoons have caused boycotts, lost advertising for my newspaper, and elicited streams of phone calls and/or picketing in front of our building. My editors have had to explain the nature of cartooning to the offended representatives of various faiths, ethnicities, and political groups. And I am not alone. Nearly all cartoonists worth their salt have enraged some portion of their readership, often when religious symbolism was part of the cartoon."
  • I Walk the Line: "As a cartoonists today it is easy to feel besieged. First, you have to deal with cranky politicians, then there's the readers with delicate sensibilities. You upset these people because the tool of your trade is ridicule. You wield a pen like a scalpel that delivers a line with biting wit. This line is potent and must be handled responsibly. As a cartoonist, this line is your best friend, but don't cross the line... Recently, in an act of provocation, a Danish newspaper dared twelve cartoonists to draw Muhammad. As a veteran in this job I knew cartoons should provoke thought, but if you cross the line you can provoke hostility. The line it appears had been crossed. The cartoons set off an eruption of protests, boycotts, threats, and upheavel. These dozen drawings have launched a titantic clash of cultures pitting the pen against the sword."
  • The Freedom to Offend: "Freedom of the press and freedom of speech, by definition, include the freedom to offend. But the freedom to offend has to be used carefully if it is to retain real power. Religion A can mock religion B and vice versa forever, but headway is rarely made. From a satirist's perspective, it's almost always more profitable to observe and comment on the actions of the speakers themselves. If you're proposing death and destruction in the name of your specific deity, then we'll have a problem. As a cartoonist, I understand and support the editor of the Jyllands-Posten and his action in promoting the fundamental importance of free speech. Democracy has always been a messy business and mistakes in judgment are a constant risk."
  • Danish Cartoonists Fear For Their Lives: "Twelve Danish cartoonists whose pictures sparked such outcry have gone into hiding under round-the-clock protection, fearing for their lives.... In an interview with a Swedish newspaper this week, some of the cartoonists expressed their doubts about the entire episode. 'It felt a little like a lose-lose situation. If I said no, I was a coward who contributes to self-censorship. If I said yes, I became an irresponsible hate monger against Islam.'”