Killed Cartoons

21 02 2008

In NYC last spring, Lindsay and I went to a talk at Barnes & Nobles by an author/journalist, David Wallis, who was presenting his new book, Killed Cartoons: Casualties from the war on free expression (2007). It’s about political cartoons and some photographs that have been pulled from newspapers, censorship, and politics of censorship. There’s a bunch of current cartoons that have never seen the light of day, and there are also some old ones going back at least to Herblock and Low.

Wallis had a number of interesting things to say about the state of political cartooning in the States, and how the serious decline in the number of employed cartoonists was a canary in the mine of free speech. Pictures are somehow much more cutting than words, so they get pulled first. When papers employ half the number of political cartoonists than they did a decade or two ago… you know something is very wrong.

He includes a letter from one cartoonist whose paper frequently killed anti-war pieces:

“I regret to tell you that I’d probably better not. I’ve been talking with my editors (past and present) to be certain of my submission to you—there were some 30 cartoons on the anti-war subject that have been killed most viciously. BUT the editors tell me—as do several others who know the publisher—that I’m barely hanging on by a thread there as it is due to my “radicalness.” To be included in such a book as you propose would spell certain death to my career as a cartoonist here…”

After the talk, Wallis took questions, so I asked what I thought was the obvious. What have people been doing now that we can see a trend of censorship to move the political cartooning to more free media like the internet? Wallis basically said, “That’s not something I’ve thought about.”

I’m still a little stunned that he was content to only catalogue and didn’t have any desire to explore impacting the field.

I was reminded of this conversation by Lee Moyer’s post. Go check out Killed Cartoons, because it’s a pretty good book.

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