Cancelled cartoonist has produced a book: 2020, the year we were all cancelled!
“We are not deliberately creating ‘hateful’ images, but making legitimate points about important issues in the news, to show different angles, and initiate discussion.”
Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about how the Morning Star newspaper had caved in to pressure from its trade union paymasters and apologised for a cartoon entitled ‘Endgame’, which had appeared in its print edition. I didn’t realise at the time that the paper had, as a result of the debacle, dispensed altogether with the services of the cartoon’s creator, Stella Perrett, who’d been contributing cartoons for free since 2015. Here’s a reminder of the cartoon, which is no less pertinent now than it has ever been.
I’m delighted that Stella has brought out a book in commemoration of the extraordinary year that 2020 has been and which she has dedicated to all journalists killed in the course of their work.
As well as featuring a rich and absorbing collection of her cartoons, she also describes the impact her cancellation by the Morning Star had on her, confirming what should be obvious to anyone with the most basic understanding of human nature. This is that punishing someone for expressing a point of view on a controversial topic in an ostensibly free and democratic society is not a good way to change their thinking. Rather the opposite, in fact. That the one who was cancelled in this instance was a political cartoonist whose cartoon expressed one of the major concerns of proposed legislative changes in favour of gender self-ID, is sinister indeed. That it was a newspaper of the far left who did the cancelling at the behest of a supposedly progressive movement, even more so.
In addition to the cartoons – each one a trenchant comment on topical issues and, naturally, the ones pertaining to transgenderism are my favourites – Stella’s book does what I love books to do, which is to alert me to facts I hadn’t known about, in turn highlighting issues I haven’t thought deeply enough about before when it’s high time I did.
The example in this book is the widespread condemnation of particular cartoons by certain high profile cartoonists in recent years – stories that had passed me by at the time – and which has led me to consider anew the role and responsibilities of political cartoonists and how anyone who professes to support free speech should respond to those that offend them.
On reflection, I’ve probably found many cartoons rather offensive over the years. I can easily bring to mind how they made me feel – disgust rather than anger in most cases. Only once in my life was I so enraged by a cartoon that I wrote a letter of complaint to the editor. The cartoon, which appeared in the Sun newspaper circa 1979, was joking about domestic violence. I received a contemptuous response to my complaint. It ended with the line, ‘fortunately, most of our readers have a sense of humour’.
If you’re wondering why I was even reading the Sun, the answer lies in the fact that I was working for a newspaper myself at the time and had free access to all the national dailies and many other journals.
The newspaper I worked for was the Morning Star.
The resident cartoonist was Frank Brown, aka ‘Eccles’. His cartoons were well-drawn but mostly unfunny. Not that I expect political cartoonists to make me laugh-out-loud but what I get from the best of them is the impulse to hiss ‘YES’ as I punch the air then jab a finger into the imaginary face(s) of whoever is being lampooned, using words to the effect of ‘this is how absurd you look’, but less polite. In spite of the rich source that was Margaret Thatcher and her acolytes, Frank’s cartoons rarely got anywhere near the mark that Stella Perrett, over forty years later, hits decisively.
This isn’t to suggest that Stella’s cartoons are unduly nasty and Stella herself seems at pains to assure potential readers that they don’t come from a place of malice. But, let’s face it, political cartoons satirise the events and people we feel strongly about and, as the debacle around the ‘Endgame’ cartoon showed, even those who consider themselves open-minded and progressive are going to have hurty feelz sometimes.
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