Editorial: legitimate firing of cartoonists?

The divide in society between those who choose to get vaccinated and those who decline to get jabbed can be found among cartoonists as well (check our editorial from August). This month, two cartoonists in the vaccine skeptic group were fired from their publications. In one instance, I think the firing was legitimate; in the other case, I'm not so sure.

Let's start with what I think is a legitimate dismissal: UK cartoonist Bob Moran has been fired from his position at The Telegraph. Moran has been a notable critic of the UK's strategy to deal with the pandemic, the Covid vaccine and generally accepted science about corona in general. In response to our position on anti-vax cartoons, he tweeted that Cartoon Movement had positioned itself on the wrong side of history. Here an example of his work:

 

Moran was not fired because of the cartoons he drew, but because he used Twitter to attack an NHS doctor over Covid-19 policy, stating: 'She deserves to be verbally abused in public for the rest of her worthless existence. They all do.' He later issued an apology, but his actions deeply concerned not only the Telegraph, but many other media outlets and professionals as well. He was suspended and later let go by the Telegraph.

Moran's firing was a legitimate response, I think, because cartoonists have a responsibility not only for what they draw, but also how they conduct themselves in the public debate. As a cartoonist, especially one publishing in a major newspaper, you have a privileged position to make yourself heard. With this privilege comes responsibility, also outside of the cartoons you do for that particular publication. How much responsibility is up for debate, as we shall see when discussing the next case. But using your privileged position as a media professional to threaten other people clearly crosses a line, and must have consequences.

The second cartoonist fired this month hails from Australia. Michael Leunig was fired from his position at The Age for a cartoon he made that was published on his social media accounts. In the cartoon, he compares resistance to vaccine mandates in Victoria to the bloody Tiananmen Square massacre. After the cartoon appeared in social media, he received a call from his editor, informing him that his services were no longer required, because he was out of touch with the readership of The Age. According to Leunig, the editor told him: 'this type of cartoon is not in line with public sentiment, and The Age’s readership.' He responded: 'But my job is to challenge the status quo, and that has always been the job of the cartoonist.'

 

Screen-Shot-2021-09-27-at-3.09.12-pm

 

To be clear, I don't agree with Leunig's cartoon. But he has a point when he says his job is to challenge people. Furthermore, although I find the comparison with China's oppressive regime tasteless, the cartoon is not hateful or intimidating in any way. Additionally, it wasn't even published in The Age. Perhaps the editors of The Age were looking for an excuse to get rid of Leunig (who had been working there for five decades), but doing so because he made a cartoon that your readers disagreed with seems like a poor one indeed.

Cartoonists have a responsibility, and as such can and should face consequences when they cross a line in the pulbic debate. On the other hand (and I've said this before), the default response seems to be to fire the cartoonists when he or she makes a mistake (or does anything that's not in line with the editor's wishes). In some cases, such as with Bob Moran, this response is legitimate, but in many others it's not, at least in my opinion.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor


Editorial: Keepin' busy

It's been a while since the last editorial as I've been swamped in projects this month. September is usually a busy time for Cartoon Movement, but this year we're even busier than usual. So I want to use this editorial to share some of the things we have been working on.

Our educational branch The Next Movement is going strong with projects in Lithuania, Cuba and Hungary, and a very exciting upcoming project in South Africa. We've been asked to help create a giant mural in downtown Johannesburg. The mural will be a political cartoon about the future of South Africa.

As with most of our educational projects, we're asking young people to come up with ideas and sketch these. Our cartoonists will pick the best ideas from South Africa's young generation and turn these into political cartoons. The next step is a first for us: to pick one of these cartoons and turn it into a mural.

 

E72h5UEXMCUyA8M

 

Street artist Ras Silas Motse will create the amazing wall art, based on the cartoon we select. You can see an example of his work pictured above.

CM and TNM will be present in Johannesburg in the first week of November to help with the mural and to document the process. On November 10, the mural will be unveiled by none other than South Africa's best known cartoonist, Zapiro!

In the meantime, we've also been moving ahead with our comics journalism projects. We recently finished a 15-page comic on farming and new technology in Kenya, commissioned by the LSE Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa and drawn by renowned Kenyan comic artist Maddo. We share two pages below; the full comic will be published soon.

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We're also working on new comics about agrocolonialism in the Democratic Republic of Congo and exploitation by Uber(-like companies) in Nairobi, Kenya.

 

SketchWork in progress: sketch from 'Fighting agrocolonialism in the Congo', commissioned by the University of Sussex and drawn by Didier Kassai.

And that's just a part of what we're doing. We are planning the next phase of the Evergreen satire project. We'll have more news to share soon, but you can check out a video of the launch event here. And we're launching the second season of Cartoonist 2 Cartoonist, so tune in on Tuesday October 12 at 6.30pm CEST. And, as always with C2C, if you'd like a chance to get feedback on your cartoons, send them to us at cartoons@cartoonmovement.com

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor


Editorial: 20th anniversary of 9/11

For this week's editorial, there was really no other choice than to take a look at how cartoonists visualize the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. As is often the case, we can identify a couple of categories of cartoons.

The first category is the tribute or memorial cartoon: cartoons that commemorate the tragedy of the attack, the loss of life and the emotional impact on New York City, America and the world.

 

A_sombra.1Cartoon by Vasco Gargalo

 

Wtctowersforgetnever1_pete_kreiner300 Cartoon by Pete Kreiner

 

Andrea Arroyo_September 11_20 yearsCartoon by Arroyo

 

Another perspective shows the consequences of the attacks, especially for the Middle East. Some cartoonists us the iconic image of the smoking twin towers to have something emerge from the smoke (like today's cartoon on our homepage).

 

210906 911 20th anniversaryCartoon by Tjeerd Royaards

 

September_11_and_slamic_geography__mikail__ciftciCartoon by Mikail Çiftçi

 

Other cartoonists play with the shadow cast by the twin towers, turning this into guns, or jet fighters.

 

NYC2001Cartoon by Ant

 

IMG_0627_0Cartoon by Morad Kotkot

 

It’s interesting to see the difference here between international cartoonists and US cartoonists. Right after the attacks, it was almost impossible for US cartoonists to draw critically about 9/11 and the US response (there’s a chapter devoted to this in Red Lines, a book on censorship we recently reviewed). But even 20 years later, although a collection on The Cagle Post includes a lot of cartoons that question if America’s intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan was successful, there are very few US cartoons that lament the loss of lives (of non-US citizens) due to these military operations. Meanwhile, this cartoon by Dan Murphy draws a rather grim picture.

 

Nine Eleven Math Question

 

Another popular category of cartoons connect the 9/11 attack and the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan.

 

Twenty years from the Twin Towers - Del Rosso Cartoon by Emanuele Del Rosso

 

6C4CC730-A687-4AE8-8988-91684C4F490CCartoon by Dino


Several cartoonists have drawn the gruesome parallel of people jumping from the twin towers to escape the fires with people falling of the US military plane they had clung onto in a desperate attempt to escape Afghanistan.

Sketch1630966334702Cartoon by MATE

 

11sep Cartoon by Mahmoud Rifai

 

CC28C346-5956-4353-8787-BE1E20C629A5Cartoon by Emad Hajjaj

 

Visit our newsroom for even more 9/11 cartoons.

 


Editorial: cartoons and cancel culture

Political cartoonists have a problematic relationship with being woke. I decided to make this the topic of this week's editorial, because the 10 finalists of the Cancel Culture and Political Correctness cartoon competition were announced this week.  The competition is organized by Librexpression together with Cartooning for Peace and VoxEurop and asks the question if the legitimate protests against the many social and racial injustices that exist in Western countries today (the comeptition calls this woke culture) is now overshadowed by the rise of cancel culture and online outrage.

You can see the 10 finalist cartoons below (I am honored to have one of mine included), but I also wanted to share some thoughts on the topic, as it relates to cartoonists. I remember getting the invitation to send in my work for this competition, and then pondering for a long time if I had any work that would actually fit the theme. I tend not to draw about woke culture because I am ambivalent about it, and I think my ambivalence is shared by many cartoonists.

On the one hand the term woke originates in the awareness about racial prejudice and discrimination, and later came to include many other forms of social inequality. These are precisely the topics many cartoonists address in their work. Our profession is all about shedding light on (social) inequalities, and mocking those who are responsible for perpetuating these inequalities. Most cartoonists like to see themselves on the side of the oppressed, fighting for social justice with every stroke of their pencil. In short, most cartoonists consider themselves to be woke.

But cartoonists also like to see themselves as champions of freedom of expression. And this is where tension arises. Because being woke has at times (d)evolved into cancel culture, with large groups of people protesting as certain speakers where invited to speak at universities, or going after people with certain opinion on social media, with the purpose of censoring or publicly humiliating these individuals. And cartoonists have not been spared this fate; often using stereotypes as part of our visual language, the way we portray certain groups or ethnicities in our work has sparked numerous incidents in the past few years.

One that comes most readily to mind is a cartoon from 2018 by Mark Knight about Serena Williams. Another example is this cartoon by Antonio  from 2019 that sparked worldwide accusations of antisemitism and caused the New York Times to stop running cartoons altogether. 

The point here is not to argue whether these cartoons crossed a line or not, but the way that online public outrage makes any meaningful discussion impossible. Yes, cartoonist have a responsibility and definitely should be called out when they unfairly portray ethnic or other groups in their cartoons. But they are also human, and make mistakes. In both these cases (and many others), an online mob screamed for blood, the polite people calling for the cartoonists to be fired and never hired again, the not-so-polite ones calling for a lot worse. I could even argue that this mindless public outrage made the NYT editors so afraid it caused them to make their decision not to print any more cartoons, ever.

Cancel culture makes the life of cartoonists more difficult, because we continually have to be weary of not accidentally insulting people or groups of people. In the two cartoon examples above, I am pretty sure the cartoonists did not intend to cause the controversy that they did. I do have to poutn out that this caution is not wholly a bad thing, because it forces us to think about how we draw women, migrants, ethnic minorities etc. But when the consequence is total public humiliation when you get it wrong, it might be time to consider if things haven't gone a bit too far.

What's arguably even worse, it that cancel culture and social media outrage is making editors afraid of satire, reducing the number of paid spaces political cartoonist have to publish their work, or watering down the cartoons that are published. Both not good for the profession.

So it might a good time for cartoonists to explore the issue. An exhibition of 56 cartoons will be  on display from 20 September to 31 December in an exhibition in the cloister of the Monastery San Benedetto in Conversano in Italy. And as promised, here below the 10 finalist cartoons (which are presented in random order).

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

 

Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek - Poland

07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

 

Toso Borkovic - Serbia
07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

Yoemnis DelToro - Mexico


07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

 

Niels Bo Bojesen - Denmark


07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

Marco De Angelis - Italy


07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

 

Walter Leoni - Italy
07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

Elena Ospina - Colombia
07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

Lido Contemori-Italy
07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

 

Tom Janssen - The Netherlands


07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

 

Tjeerd Royaards - The Netherlands


07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'


Editorial: Cartooning the future

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Over the years, we have done numerous educational projects. Editorial cartoons work well in the classroom, because they teach students to think about what's going on in the world, about thinking critically and about the power of visual communication.

In this week's editorial, I wanted to share some cartoons from the project Cartooning the future in Lithuania that is hosted on our sister website The Next Movement. Cartooning the future challenges students from different schools throughout Lithuania to think about human rights issues, and to come up with their own cartoon ideas on the subject.

The best student sketches are then turned into professional cartoons by our global team of cartoonists.

Here is an idea by Austėja from Merkinė Vincas Krėvė gymnasium: 'My sketch portrays people who are pushing alcohol bottles off the cliff. When they push the bottles away they stay in a bright, beautiful world.'

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And the resulting cartoon by Marin Chren from Slovakia, with a slightly different take on the idea:

Alco

 

Love is Love, by Kamila from Merkinė Vincas Krėvė gymnasium.

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This idea was picked up by Zach from the Philippines.

CM68

 

Here's a sketch by Kęstutis from Merkinė Vincas Krėvė gymnasium.

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And the cartoon by Amorim from Brazil.

20210810000

 

Be sure to check out the project page on the TNM website. Not only can you find many more ideas that were turned into cartoons, the website developer added some nice features to navigate the project and compare the sketches to the cartoons.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

 

 


Editorial: Afghanistan in cartoons

This week was Afghanistan week at Cartoon Movement. Given the astoundingly rapid advance of the Taliban and the ensuing chaos ofter they took control of Kabul, with thousands trying to flee the new and likely oppressive regime, this is no surprise. It is unfortunate that other deserving topics, such as the earthquake in the poorest nation of Latin America, Haiti (it seems they never catch a break), didn’t see much ink because of this.

For this editorial, I wanted to keep it simple and just share a few of the best Afghanistan cartoons we’ve gotten that haven’t been featured on our homepage or on our social media channels yet.

The first topic many cartoonists chose to visualize was the chaos at Kabul airport, focusing on the desperate attempts of people to flee, climbing onto a US military aircraft as it was taking off, with deadly consequence. Cartoonists saw this as an apt metaphor of how the US was leaving without any responsibility or empathy for the Afghan people.

 

TalebanCartoon by Doaa Eladl

 

BDE757E4-3212-4CAC-B55B-FCE08D013C22Cartoon by Naser Jafari

 

USA_Cartoon by Pedalex

 

Other cartoonists focused on the grim future for the people of Afghanistan, and women in particular:

 

20210816Cartoon by Assad Bina Khahi

 

Cartoonmovement34Cartoon by Mahnaz Yazdani

 

AfghanistanCartoon by Luc Descheemaeker

 

Another set of cartoons focused on the Taliban, with a subset of cartoons devoted the new image of moderation the Taliban are trying to present to the world.

 

Taliban - KZCartoon by Kürşat Zaman

 

10423C13-4D62-4E68-B19F-A81E9EE4973ACartoon by Emad Hajjaj

 

18_9_Die Neue TalibanCartoon by Leopold Maurer

 

This cartoon by Maarten Wolterink perhaps says it best, although I fear history is doomed to repeat itself...

 

Online944

 

Many more Afghanistan cartoon can of course be found in our newsroom.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor


Editorial: why awards for editorial cartoons matter

Yesterday we wrote about the announcement of the shortlist of the European Cartoon Award. This award is a big deal, not just because of the award of 10,000 euro for the winning cartoonist, but also because it is organized by the European Press Prize and focuses specifically on editorial cartoons that comment on the news.

There are a ton of cartoon awards out there. So much, in fact, that there is a whole segment of cartoonists making their money not by selling their work to media, but by entering into cartoon competitions and collecting prize money (if they win). There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but these cartoon contests tend to focus on generic subjects, often not even political. There are competitions about wine, tourism, animals, historic cities, traffic etc., etc. Even when they do deal with subjects that are political, these are often broad topics such as human rights, climate or sustainability.

AgraCartoon by Emilio Agra

 The generic nature of these contests creates a specific dynamic. The cartoons that are submitted are very often generic as well. Think deserts and cracked earth (most often with the obligatory skull lying on the ground) when we're talking about climate change, prison cells and gallows when we're talking about human rights. These generic cartoons have the added bonus that they can be used for multiple competitions by cartoonists. I have frequently seen the same cartoon appearing in different competitions over and over again. But it comes with a problem: when many cartoonists use the same visual language and symbols, many of the cartoons will be the same as well. This in turn leads to many, many accusations of plagiarism. So many, that some contests now have a probation period for finalists, so other cartoonists can complain of they see similarities to their own or other cartoons.

 

0000006An example of suspected plagiarism

 

But I digress. My main point is, these competitions often have little to do with political cartoons. Competitions for true political cartoons are few and far between, at least internationally. By true political cartoons I mean cartoons that comment on a specific news event that happened at a specific time.

In the US, there are actually quite a few: of course the coveted Pulitzer for editorial cartooning (even though no Pulitzer was given this year), but also the Robert F.Kennedy award, the Herblock Prize or the Clifford K. & James T. Berryman Award, all the way down to local and regional journalistic awards that include a prize for the best cartoons. There is a catch: most of these awards come with a submission fee. This was fine in a time when your newspaper would submit your work for you, but isn't now that most cartoonists are freelancers struggling to make ends meet. The good thing about these awards is that they focus on the journalistic aspect of cartooning, considering them an integral part of a free media, just as it should be in my opinion. In the Netherlands (where I live) we have just one annual political cartoon award; I am not an expert in the field of national cartoon awards, but I suspect many other countries similarly have one or none prize(s) for editorial cartoons.

Internationally, perhaps the only important award for political cartoons (in the narrow sense defined above) is the World Press Cartoon. The creation of the European Cartoon Award is a very welcome addition to a rather barren landscape. Personally, I would love to see the European Cartoon Award become an integral part of the European Press Prize, and become the European Pulitzer for cartoonists.

So then, why does all this matter? Because I believe that for political cartoons to survive it's essential that they are recognized as a distinct and relevant part of the journalistic discourse. In a world where the profession is increasingly under threat of economical constraints and censorship, having reputable journalistic awards that specifically award editorial cartoons can help to remind people why political satire is vital for democracy and freedom.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor


Editorial: our position on anti-vax cartoons

Cartoons reflect the public debate; an international community of cartoonists will therefore frequently reflect the different perspectives that are present in the global public debate, including the more extreme ones. In some cases, we will try to present and publish these varying perspectives. In other cases, we will make the editorial choice to focus on one perspective, ignoring others.

On such example is the genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar in 2017. While the overwhelming majority of our cartoonists chose to call out the atrocities committed by the Myanmar army, our contingent of cartoonists from Myanmar defended their government and army, stating that the accusations of genocide were fake news. In light of the evidence, we chose not to highlight these perspectives. That doesn’t mean these cartoons are censored; it simply means we will not publish them on our homepage or post them on our social media channels.

 

Fake__aung_thein_htike__athCartoon by Aung Thein Htike ATH from 2017, with the perspective that the suffering of the Royangya was fake news.

We have made the same editorial decision for cartoons that speak out against vaccination. In light of the evidence about the effectiveness of the vaccination, we will not publish cartoons that ignore this evidence and feed into the various conspiracy theories out there about the supposedly nefarious intentions of researchers and governments alike. We do show a couple of them here, to illustrate our decision. If you want to see how most cartoonists think about the vaccine and the anti-vax movement, check our collections here and here.

 

Vaccinescreamvaccine_pete_kreiner Cartoon by Pete Kreiner

 

FauciA portrait of Anthony Fauci, by Elchicotriste

With all editorial decisions, there will be grey areas. Not publishing anti-vax cartoons is a clear-cut decision, but what about cartoons about the position and rights of the unvaccinated in society? For instance, Swaha takes a more nuanced approach with her cartoon questioning the French Covid passport as a way to return to a free society.

A citizen in a free society is only free to the extent that his or her freedom doesn't harm the freedom of others; the problem with unvaccinated is that they consciously make a decision that is potentially harmful for the rest of society. On the other hand, one could argue that no state should have the power to coerce people to inject something into their body, and that granting privileges to one group over the other is coercion of a sort.

 

CM_21Cartoon by Swaha

We will not change our editorial stance on the anti-vax movement (barring new scientific evidence), but we will closely be looking at the way societies and governments deal with the unvaccinated, and the cartoons that are made about this.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

 

P.S. This editorial has been edited slightly on August 9 after receiving feedback from SWAHA, to better reflect the intention of her cartoon.


Editorial: protests in Cuba

A new feature on this blog will be a weekly editorial, highlighting the most interesting cartoons and cartoon-related news of the week. I aim to publish an editorial every Friday. Since we have just gotten back from summer break, this first one is published today.

We might have taken a summer break, but the news certainly hasn’t. Looking through our newsroom is always an interesting way to catch up with what happened in the world, and the first thing I noticed were the many cartoons that deal with the protests in Cuba. When cartoonists draw about protests, they usually support the protesters and denouncing police brutality. But here, we can see two distinct positions taken by cartoons.

These three cartoons, by Arcadio Esquivel, Spanish cartoonist Elchicotriste and Elihu Duayer from Brazil clearly take the position that the Cuban people have taken to the streets with a legitimate call for freedom.

 

Nada en Cuba  ENGCartoon by Arcadio Esquivel.

 

PrisãocubaCartoon by Elihu Duayer.

 

CUBACartoon by Elchicotriste.

The Cuban government has defended their crackdown on the protesters by saying the protests were instigated by the United States. Cuban cartoonists Yoemnis DelToro and OSVAL agree with this, and they get support from abroad, for example from Mexican cartoonist Antonio Rodriguez.

Yoe web (4)Cartoon by Yoemnis DelToro.

Selfie en miamiCartoon by OSVAL.

 

Cuba libreCartoon by Antonio Rodriguez.

As for my opinion, I think blaming a foreign influence is a tactic frequently employed by dictatorships (although I also think the Rodriguez cartoon eloquently highlights the hypocrisy of American freedom). And it is interesting to see how a large part of our Cuban cartoonists has remained silent on the subject (except for a generic statement like this), probably because they know they risk arrest if they come out an support the protests with their cartoons.

That’s it for this first editorial. If you have any suggestions or comments, leave them in the comment section below or send an email. For other news, check out our latest newsletter that came out today.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor