Saturday, December 08, 2007
When this November 24 Non Sequitur was published, it created a brief furor on the newsgroup rec.arts.comic.strips, started by an offended poster with a history of being offended by criticism of racism and a generally mixed-up and conflicted view of the topic -- during The Boondocks' days on the funny pages, he used to periodically show up to rant over that strip, too.
But others picked up on his disfavor for this particular cartoon, just as they had gotten their knickers in a knot a few years ago for this Non Sequitur gem, at the height of the Weakest Link craze.
(This may be a good time to add the disclaimer that I consider the artist, Wiley Miller, a personal friend. A good time because, besides being conversant with "The Weakest Link," he was the one who turned me on to the first season of "The Osbournes." I have to respect a man with such a prodigious appetite for pop culture drek.)
Getting back to the chicken joke, it apparently ruffled a few feathers (heh heh) in Beloit, Wisconsin, because the Beloit Daily News there has now "suspended" the strip.
I'm less interested in how thick the good citizens of Beloit must be not to see that the chicken cartoon was just a silly joke that, if it made any point beyond "egg whites," was ridiculing the Klan, or what it says about them if they realized it was contemptuous of the Klan and objected to it anyway, than I am in the brain-dead reasoning of the editor who made the decision to pull the strip.
You don't often see the crisis of newspaper comics laid out in such stark terms, or the inability of editors to understand (A) the purpose of comics, (B) the importance of intelligent content to keep papers alive and (C) their own responsibility to know what the various elements of their product are and to monitor them.
Often in journalism, the best way to hang a villain is to quote him accurately:
Frankly, we don't pay much attention to the content of cartoon strips on our Comics page. We just expect them to be funny and give readers a chuckle. We do not devote a seasoned editor's time to closely check each cartoon for provocative or controversial story lines. The cartoons are pulled from the national syndicate's Web site in our graphics department, and loaded onto pages for publication. Apparently, we need to look closer, and we'll try. But we also admit it's possible some other strip - in which the artist routinely is innocently humorous - could slip through a crack if one day that artist is suddenly overcome by an irresistible urge to say something provocative.
Dear readers, the truth is we have plenty of controversial material to be concerned about, day-in and day-out, in our news and opinion columns. I have neither the interest nor the time to defend some goofy artist's stab at political points on the Comics page. Be funny, or be gone.
In subsequent comments, about a third of those who wrote in agreed with getting rid of the cartoon, two because it frequently attacks hypocrisy in religion (okay, they didn't phrase it quite THAT way), one for unspecified reasons of outrage and one who also wants Dilbert dropped because "Human beings are so belittled every day in this comic."
The remaining two-thirds said they like cartoons that make a point and that commentary with wit has a legitimate place in the pages of a newspaper.
Faced with this 2-to-1 deadlock, the editor sums up his courage to admit that he just doesn't know what to do about the whole doggone thing.
And they wonder why their readership is dropping.