Killed Cartoons: Casualties From the War on Free Expression

Political self-censorship has been increasing over the last few decades in the mainstream media, and particularly for editorial cartoonists who publish in both daily and weekly papers. The reason for this self-imposed restriction is fear—fear of offending major advertisers, fear of subscription cancellations by minor yet vocal readership segments, fear of baseless or frivolous lawsuits, and ultimately the cartoonists’ fear of losing their jobs. The result has been the impoverishment of civil discourse, where only “safe,” innocuous and non-controversial content is guaranteed to see print. Examples of “killed cartoons” reflect the editor’s view that the “liberal media” is a myth, since nearly all cartoons are killed for insulting conservative sensibilities. The major media outlets which are overwhelmingly conservative, set the politically correct guidelines for what’s fit to print. Thus, J.D. Crowe’s depiction of a baseball player bulked up on steroids and wearing the team logo “Halliburton” was killed. Rick Cole has President Bush dressed as a “Secret Santa” listening in on America with headphones and the jingle: “He sees you when you’re sleeping … he knows if you’ve been bad or good.” Indeed.