Just one article this week which seems to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."
I need to tip my hat to Nicole Hollander this week. She is the cartoonist who for years drew the "Sylvia" cartoons. If you haven't ever met Sylvia, go to her blog and look around, because you have been missing out. She is retired from drawing the cartoon, but posts from the archives on the blog, and (sigh) little has changed.
Being a cartoonist, she has super-long antennae for what is happening to cartoonists. She came across this story on Facebook, but since I am not on Facebook, I have sourced it from the New York Times and the Columbia Journalism Review (both of which Nicole also cited).
Let me start with the New York Times (emphasis [bolding] mine).
Rick Friday was not immediately available on Wednesday to explain why he was fired after two decades working as a cartoonist for Farm News. That is because he was feeding the cows on his Iowa farm, as he does early every morning before most people have gone to work.
But the cartoon that got him into trouble last week had already spoken for him, circulating online well beyond the audience of the thousands of Farm News readers of his weekly “It’s Friday” column, which has been published since 1995….
After the cartoon was published last Friday, Mr. Friday said he was told in an email from an editor the next day that the cartoon would be his last for Farm News because a seed company had withdrawn its advertising in protest.
He was told his run with the Farm News, for which he said he had been paid “embarrassingly low” wages on a freelance basis, was over, per instructions from the publisher [The Messenger in Fort Dodge, Iowa]….
“…someone complained about it, and this is the philosophy I use when I explained it to my children: They were being fed by two hands,” Mr. Friday said, referring to Farm News and its relationships with him and with its advertisers.
“They knew they had to chose one, and they chose the hand that they knew would hurt the least,” he said. “After 21 years, that is what really bothered me.”
Thomas Jefferson famously said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." However, Thomas Jefferson never saw a newspaper owned by the tangle of corporations which own them today. I suspect that, could he see today's newspapers (and other news media), he might just rethink that.
The Columbia Journalism Review is quite concerned, not just about this incident, but about a trend.
Cartoonists have a long history of retribution from their powerful targets. Most of the backlash has come from governments and political leaders, extremist groups, and even grassroots protesters. Until now, pressure from advertisers and self-censoring editors has mostly spiked individual cartoons, not led to cartoonists being canned. Neither outcome benefits readers, but the case of Friday and Farm News seems a predictable step forward for those who aim to curtail freedom of the press.
First, let’s look at why cartoons—which are inherently rowdy—draw so much scrutiny and anger. “It’s a form of public humiliation, and people receive it differently than they receive words,” says Victor Navasky, publisher emeritus of The Nation and author of The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power. At least some of the ire stems from the visual nature of the medium, which makes cartoons both striking and accessible. They sow discomfort for subjects and their followers, with no recourse for the aggrieved, Navasky says. “The response to these things is disproportionate.” (Disclosure: Navasky sits on CJR’s board of overseers.)
….Yet, somehow, oft-persecuted cartoonists have rarely, if ever, been fired over business-side conflicts. “I’ve seen cartoons be removed from the site or sort of censored by the editors for that kind of reason. That happens almost all the time,” says Adam Zyglis, president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. “But for someone to lose a gig over it, I don’t know if there has ever been a situation like that.” A 2004 study on cartoons and censorship reached the same conclusion.
Rick Friday is a cartoonist, and cartoonists are pretty good at responding to nonsense by defining it as nonsense. And, today, cartoonists have the internet for a "bully pulpit" (though had TR lived today, he might have called it an "awesome pulpit" – he didn't know what would happen to the word bully over the years.) But, dear Furies, it is part of a trend. Please report back when you can, and tell us what we have to do to get it stopped – if it isn't already too late. Thank you.
The Furies and I will be back.
Posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/3990117