Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cartoons & Sanity

SOOOOOOOOOOO, while buildings are burning across Europe because of cartoon representations of Mohammed, I thought I'd point the cursor to an earlier cartoon fatwa that went largely unnoticed, even though it represented the slander of one of the greatest American editorial cartoonist, Doug Marlette.

But first, a little ancient history. When I was in college at Florida State in Tallahassee, Doug Marlette was one of my best friends. It was the Sixties, and we were both bat-shit crazy. We met when I started as a reporter at the Florida Flambeau — the only job I could find, BTW — for the lordly sum of $50 a month. Marlette had just started drawing editorial cartoons, and our adventures were legion. Stupid, but legion.

When Marlette tacked into the Real World, he occasionally dragged me along. He once convinced me to move to Charlotte, NC, when he started work for the Charlotte Observer. On one memorable Saturday morning, I was hauled out of a deep sleep by someone pounding on the door of my duplex. Groggily, I opened the door, and there was Marlette, disheaveled as ever, standing on my porch. He stepped to the side to reveal a brand-spanking new baby blue Porsche, the child of his first cartoon syndication deal.

"The Sixties," he announced portentiously, pointing at the Porsche, "are officially over!"

He bought a Porsche; I bought a Model 29 .44 Magnum...go figure.

"Ah, the stories we could tell," as the song goes, "if it all blows up and goes to hell..."

I could tell you about scamming my first big magazine article about country music, loading up my beater Toyota with junk food, lots of caffinated stuff, Marlette and brilliant Southern writer Frye Gaillard, all of us with a grand total of $7 and a canceled credit card for our first expedition to Nashville...but that's not this story.

Doug tended more liberal as I tended more conservative, and we had some epic arguments. But our friendship remained strong. In 2002, Dough drew this cartoon...What Would Mohammed Drive? Suddenly, my friend Doug got his own fatwa issued against him. read the whole story here. You'll notice that the story's in World Net Daily. That's because the MSM pretended that Doug was the little boy who farted at the funeral. With the exception of columnist Kathleen Parker, Doug disappeared from the radar.

"I didn't believe it at first," Doug told me. "My liberal friends turned their backs on me. It was the conservatives, people I'd ripped in my cartoons, who stood by me."

Doug's first novel, The Bridge, in a weird way got caught in the fatwa. Mostly, I want you to read his brilliant piece in the Columbia Journalism Review from 2003, "I Was a Tool of Satan":
The censors no longer come to us in jackboots with torches and baying dogs in the middle of the night. They arrive now in broad daylight with marketing surveys and focus-group findings. They come as teams, not armies, trained in effectiveness, certified in sensitivity, and wielding degrees from the Columbia journalism school. They're known not for their bravery but for their efficiency. They show gallantry only when they genuflect to apologize.


The cyberprotest by CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations] showed a sophisticated understanding of what motivates newsroom managers these days - bottom-line concerns, a wish for the machinery to run smoothly, and the human-resources mandate not to offend. Many of my e-mail detractors appeared to be well-educated, recent émigrés. Even if their English sometimes faltered, they were fluent in the language of victimhood. Presumably, victimization was one of their motives for leaving their native countries, yet the subtext of many of their letters was that this country should be more like the ones they emigrated from. They had the American know-how without the know-why. In the name of tolerance, in the name of their peaceful God, they threatened violence against someone they accused of falsely accusing them of violence.
Freedom of speech is a precious and fragile thing. Doug certainly didn't want the death threats, etc., but he never shrank from the fight. He's still kicking ass and taking names...you can check him out here. He'll probably piss you off. He pisses everybody off, eventually. Still my friend, though.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Marlette may be your friend, but he is also a notoriously bad cartoonist. He is so inept that he routinely has to label his characters with buttons and tags to identify even widely known public figures. He's also a yellow dog Democrat known for his cheap shots at conservatives, traditionalists, and Republicans. His "Kudzu" comic was nothing short of lame. It was a happy day in New York when he was booted from the position of house cartoonist at Newsday (though his replacement is not much better).