You Didn't Hear the One About...

Here's the great Non-Sequitur cartoon most of you didn't see in your newspapers this past Sunday.

I've thought for the last decade or so, the only actual place raw truth was seeping through in newspapers was on the Comics Pages. They were able to pull off intelligent social comment, pure truths not found elsewhere in the news pages, and had the ability to make it all funny, entertaining, and pertinent. Editors largely ignore the pages, except to cut them down to "save money." So happily, the truth came smiling through.

A study last year showed that the page you turn to first in the newspaper can be a predictor of how long you will live. No surprise, turning first to the Comics Pages prolongs your life. Even without knowing that, I have been a loyal comic strips fan since I could first read. While editors and newspaper owners currently fret over shrinking readership and lost profits, they do the one thing that insures cutting their own throats; they keep reducing space for the one feature that attracts new young readers in the first place; the comic strips. Those Sunday color comics wrapped around the outside of the newspaper were the only things that made a six-year-old in Brooklyn reach for the New York Daily News. So while editors lament the loss of young readers, they cut down the Sunday comics, separate them into "sections", and wrap them in mattress ads so hard to find that you expect if you do find them they'll be in Bin Laden's hands.
And in a way they now are. We've seen the uproars around the world concerning cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammad. Anyone who does not think comic strips are relevant never had a fatwa put on him/her for drawing a picture. That's a rock star!

We had this from Seattle on September 18th:

"On the Advice of the FBI, Cartoonist Molly Norris Disappears From View. Her work won't be in Seattle Weekly anymore, or anywhere else. She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program -- except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab. It's all because of the appalling fatwa issued against her this summer, following her infamous "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" cartoon."

I thought it was a brilliant concept. If everybody drew Mohammad, there would be millions more cartoons than executable fatwas, and the fundamentalists would be busy for years playing catch up, possibly outsourcing, and drowning in their own backlog. There would be fatwa waiting lists, fatwa jams, and my favorite, French fried fatwas. If everybody drew Mohammad every day for a year, I think the terrorists would implode. Anyway, it didn't happen, and nobody is drawing Mohammad.

However, I never thought the day would come when a cartoonist couldn't use the word Mohammad. But we have arrived. Wiley Miller, known for wry wit and trenchant social satire, is the winner of, among other awards, The Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, The National Cartoonists Society Award (four times), the Best Editorial Cartoonist Award by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. Wiley, who has been an editorial cartoonist since 1976, whose Non-Sequitur is currently syndicated to 700 newspapers, was not allowed to use the word Mohammad Sunday, and his cartoon was replaced with another.

Wiley lives very happily in Maine. The last thing he would ever want is to have to abandon his wonderful life and go into hiding due to a fatwa. That editors (censors?) would be so self-intimidated as to not "consider the source," not trust their experienced artists, to be so cowed as to embarrass their very profession, says way too much about how America has changed in the last nine years. If you cannot say a word, then all "terrorists win" jokes aside, the terrorists win.