I’ve always been fascinated by maps. When I was a kid I declared to anyone who would listen that when I grew up I was going to work as a “mapmaker”. To train myself I would copy maps out of atlases and try to squeeze as many place names and geographic features as possible. Then I later found out that the correct name for “map making” was “cartography” and that in order to become a cartographer you had to be a whiz in mathematics. Knowing myself to be one of world’s worst math students on record I knew my dream of drawings maps for a living would never pan out.
Nevertheless, as my career evolved over the years into editorial cartooning I’ve been able to put my passion for maps to good use in satire. Here’s a gallery of map cartoons going back a few decades:
It’s election time in Canada which means the Internet becomes very active with rhetoric and persuasion, from all sorts of contributors, from political parties, opinion writers, Russian bots, trolls, and idiots.
Congratulations anonymous Twitter account holder Can Neo Cons purveyor of a robust chop shop of editorial cartoons. He (and he is a he) describes himself on his Twitter profile as, “I believe in standing up for what I think is right, Too much hatred going on in the world. I am into politics. All in the meme. Left Wing Populist.” He’s made quite a hobby out of extracting caricatures from editorial cartoons and reassembling them in tell tale bold bordered boxes with hackneyed thought bubbles peppered with spelling and grammar mistakes. He is the latest useful idiot to be used as a prime example to others why it’s not a good thing to repurpose professional satire to convey pea brained musings.
He isn’t the first person to do this and he won’t be the last, but there is a consistent hideousness in all of the reworked intellectual property that points to a pathological affliction among such individuals so obsessed by stealing other peoples work.
The behavioural pattern is very familiar. An artist will share work on a social media platform and among the discussion thread below will suddenly appear a chop shop art thief posting his awful repurposed work, in some vain attempt to flatter the artist. When alerted to their misdeed it is almost always the same: They’ll demonstrate immediate guilt, apologize for ripping off your art, and promise not to commit anymore vandalism to your art. Then they won’t bother to remove the offending rip offs of your art from their threads. After a little more back and forth between thief and the original creator, the thief will quickly dig in his heels, cite freedom of expression, telling the original creator that it’s the artist’s fault for sharing their art on social media. Then the fraudster will unleash a volley of insults.
Now, some of my colleagues have passive attitudes to these bottom feeders. Their follower counts are minuscule and in all likelihood there are mental disorders afflicting the individuals behind such accounts. Why bother giving them a broader audience?
In my view, they ought to be treated like any other thief of intellectual property. As we are taught in grade school we are to design our own work. We are told to cite supporting sources of our essays or creations. We are told at a young age that there are consequences for destroying property not belonging to us, intellectual property, or otherwise. This isn’t parody, it is theft, and if some people are so willing to engage in such wreckless activity, one has to wonder what other things such people might be up to. Let this serve as a convenient flag to authorities in case he has other shameful behaviour he thinks he’s hiding.
So, Michael Labelle, retired guy from Cornwall, Ontario, turned intellectual property thief, your misdeeds aren’t so anonymous after all. Your true identity is only mere clickity-clicks all over social media.
Past Recipients of the Social Media Jackass Award. Each winner eventually removed stolen items from their feeds but it always took persistence:
UPDATE: Tuesday March 12, 2019
It took a week of waiting but after a complaint was lodged against Michael LaBelle’s theft his repurposed use of my intellectual property was scraped off the bottom of Facebook’s shoe.
Most of it, anyway. I listed 25 violations of intellectual property theft.
Tonight, Facebook sent me an email message following up on a complaint I lodged last week, and confirmed that Michael LaBelle had indeed violated Facebook’s rules regarding unauthorized use of Intellectual Property and has removed the offending material from his page Can Neo Cons.
A quick scan through Michael LaBelle’s Facebook thread of awfulness will reveal a few more of my cartoons that were overlooked on a morning of logging infringements when I could’ve easily been more productive with my time than picking away at some loser’s pathetic hobby. Still, there remains extracts of cartoons drawn by well known cartoonists whose work has been degraded and repurposed to convey this thief’s twisted thoughts for all eternity. The word needs to get out that this behaviour is unacceptable and that it won’t be tolerated. While some may wonder why I bother to devote more than a few seconds of fuming towards some cretin that pops up on my Twitter notifications, this is really meant for the future Michael LaBelles. Michael LaBelle, rather stupidly, opted to react unwisely when his dirty hobby was exposed even when he was given the option to recant. Let this serve as an example to other Michael LaBelles that before the DMCA takedown happens you’ll be shamed first, and you’ll become the next useful idiot, like Michael LaBelle.
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday February 15, 2019
High-stakes war of words between Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould on tap
In the wake of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation from Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, a war of words between the prime minister and his former attorney general seems inevitable. If the developments of the past few days are any indication, it could get ugly.
Wilson-Raybould would hardly have resigned if her interpretation of the interaction she had with the Prime Minister’s Office over the handling of the criminal prosecution on corruption charges of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin matched Trudeau’s.
She would not be seeking legal advice as to how much, if anything, she can disclose from former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell if she were not exploring the option of giving her version of events.
As an aside, Cromwell’s credentials can only make the advice Wilson-Raybould acts on harder to challenge either by the government — should the former SCOC justice lay out a legal rationale for her to speak up — or by the opposition parties if he advises her to remain silent.
In hindsight, Wilson-Raybould is probably congratulating herself for seeking top-notch legal advice.
Judging from the prime minister’s reaction to her resignation, Trudeau and his team are in a take-no-prisoners mood.
To listen to the prime minister on Tuesday, one would have been hard-pressed to find any lingering sign of the pride that attended Wilson-Raybould’s appointment as Canada’s first Indigenous attorney general three years ago. Hers was not a run-of — the-mill cabinet casting call.
Back in 2015, her elevation was seen as a powerful signal of the depth of Trudeau’s commitment to reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
But on Tuesday, the picture he painted of his former minister was anything but flattering. Trudeau questioned her integrity. He said her actions were at odds with their private conversations. He might as well have called Wilson-Raybould a loose cannon. (Continued: Hamilton Spectator)
Autopsy of a Twitter Pile-on
Embarking on this investigation it is necessary to remind us all with a simple statement:
NOT ALL EDITORIAL CARTOONS ARE MEANT TO BE FUNNY
However, given the state of editorial cartooning in recent years, especially in North America, it’s not at all surprising that readers have come to always expect a funny gag to elicit a chortle or smile at the expense of a divisive politician. Think Donald Trump.
Sometimes the easiest path for some editorial cartoonists to take is to spread the laughter around equally with the aren’t-all-our-politicians-stupid gags. Though increasingly, editorial cartoon comedy has moved out of the realm of politics, and replaced by not so hard hitting commentary on crazy weather, sports, entertainment, or any other non-political arena which will offend the least sensibilities. On editorial pages across the spectrum, newspaper editors without staff cartoonists, will often opt to run syndicated cartoons which will offend the least number of readers thereby ensuring their daily routine won’t be interrupted by irate phone calls. Sadly, a rising number of newspapers have done away with editorial cartoons, running photos, or more text in their traditional boxes.
All this said, one would think the above statement goes without saying given the popularity of editorial cartoons which pull at heartstrings. Whether it’s editorial cartoon commentary on the passing of famous personality entering the pearly gates, a feel good Hallmark card cartoon greeting on any given calendar holiday, or a tear provoking editorial cartoon following headline tragedies in the news. People should understand that editorial cartoons, watered down to provoke emotion, aren’t always meant to be funny.
So here’s another statement :
EDITORIAL CARTOONS MAKE PEOPLE ANGRY
They’re also supposed to make people think. Not in a long time has a cartoon of mine garnered as much attention on Twitter – critical comments, yet a sizeable number of likes & retweets, here, and along with a similar cartoon drawn by Michael de Adder here.
The above editorial cartoon certainly demonstrated that fact. With orchestrated social media outrage and offence clouding logical thought and spreading like a virus designed to manipulate and whip up anger using tangents unrelated to the point of the satire. One would think it easily conveys to readers a classic scenario of power oppressing the afflicted. In order to depict the power imposing its will on the oppressed, a cartoonist sometimes has to draw uncomfortable images to convey the message.
Despite references to gag metaphors in the media to describe the situation demoted cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould presently finds herself, being unable to give her account due to Solicitor-client privilege as federal Attorney-General in the SNC-Lavalin affair, the illustrated depiction of that situation was evidently too much for some readers to stomach.
I get it. This cartoon has caused anger. It’s especially galling to supporters of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He rode into office with overwhelming support, on a feminist mandate, to improve Ottawa’s relations with indigenous peoples, and to bring about greater government openness and transparency (and as a bonus, his boxing prowess, capitalized by his supporters, is in full ridiculous view.) The cartoon exposes perceived breaches on all those fronts. His brand is under attack and the mounting doubts and speculation because of it could send the Liberal Party’s House of Commons seat count downward after the coming Federal election. While many obviously understand this message, others are lashing out giving their own misunderstood definitions of what satire is:
…And just attacking the editorial cartoonist:
Which is fine. I, like all other editorial cartoonists, have been called everything from all sides of the political spectrum.
Sure, some people might think that they appreciate satire, it only works for them if the satire isn’t exposing the folly of their political heroes. What is worrying is the growing trend by readers to spread false accusations, to report or clamp down on satire, whenever they feel offended by an editorial cartoon. This is particularly true of the toxicity that spreads on a platform like Twitter.
This one takes the absolute cake for wrangling in the RCMP, as if Canada were some police state, while making a mockery of actual hate and violence promotion.
Long gone are the #JeSuisCharlie hashtags when people added their supposed support for satire with fingers clicking the mouses, but not actually understanding what satire actually is. Despite the articles, the panel discussions, the in-depth primers on the long history of the craft and the importance of freedom of expression, the actual term “freedom of expression” is being used in a pejorative way on university campuses, and elsewhere, worldwide.
The sad reality is, it’s having an effect, made evident by the fact that editorial cartoonist positions at newspapers are in fast decline. It’s not helped when those in journalism, politics, and academia thrash about demonstrating willful ignorance of satire, opting to join a chorus of virtue signallers feigning outrage on unrelated tangents which have nothing to do with the message in the editorial cartoon.
Godwin’s Law was invoked to the writer of that last doozy. Just for the record, at least one account holder was reported for threatening violence and had their account placed on suspension. A stiff 7 day cooling off period ought to give offenders a taste of a world without Twitter.
Eventually, every political movement comes to an end to be replaced by another. The pendulum swings. Some day Justin Trudeau will be gone and his party will be replaced by another. Politics will always be around, but the trends show that with the demise of print media, satire in the form of editorial cartoons will be watered down to irrelevance, unless the easily offended aren’t resisted.
There are countless expressions humans have to express freedom of expression, but a particular one that guides me is:
Hate the cartoon, dislike the cartoonist, but do not impose your own decree on what cartooning is intended to be.
Update – Monday February 18, 2019
My colleague Michael de Adder opted to apologize for his cartoon.
Yes, I’m well aware of his apology – @deAdder and I are good friends. Unfortunately his decision is due to the toxic nature of Twitter that forces free-expressionists to bow to faux-outrage & virtue signalling pressure to self-censor.
— Graeme MacKay (@mackaycartoons) February 18, 2019
The above cartoon is cited in this Huffington Post article. The Comments section are overwhelmingly supportive of the points expressed in this cartoon, and those drawn by other editorial cartoonists. An acknowledgement of thanks goes out to the many likes, retweets, and comments in support of the cartoon on Twitter.
Also, as of this afternoon, Gerald Butts, resigned his position as Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister. The plot thickens.
Update – Wednesday February 20, 2019
Trudeau said he apologized to Jody Wilson-Raybould in caucus:
“I wasn’t quick enough to condemn in unequivocal terms the comments and commentary and cartoons made about her last week, they were absolutely unacceptable and I should have done it sooner.”
Update – Sunday February 24, 2019
The Clerk of the Privy Council has registered his own disgust at at least one of the cartoons, although he didn’t specify which one. Speaking about Jody Wilson-Raybourn, Michael Wernick testified at the House Justice Committee, stating:
“She was the decider, the full and final decider. She can’t be the fettered solicitor and battered decider in that horrible, vile cartoon, at the same time. It’s one or the other.”
More write-ups appeared. A rambling piece sympathetic to Michael de Adder’s apology for his cartoon, and another one from Canada’s far right Rebel blasting him for caving in. Here’s a nice analysis summary of the week that was.
On the Canadaland podcast, an interview show about media, host Jesse Brown devoted much of the show unpacking the protest convoy, better known as “United we Roll”, which I drew on. Then, changing subject to the SNC-Lavalin scandal, at the 38:08 mark, Jesse feigns sympathy for “these poor son-of-a-bitch editorial cartoonists”, ironically, as he panders to a feminist guest about inferred misogyny, “…they’re not good cartoons.”
Gee, thanks, Jesse.
Update – March 2, 2019
CBC’s The National highlighted “cartoons that crossed the line” in the second segment of its Friday night broadcast. This cartoon closed out the report:
Letters to the Editor, Hamilton Spectator, February 21, 2019
Cartoon warrants an apology RE: Feb. 15 editorial cartoon
As a long time subscriber to The Hamilton Spectator I was appalled to see Graeme MacKay’s cartoon and equally disappointed that you made the decision to print it.
That Mr. MacKay views violence against women as amusing and worthy of drawing this disgusting cartoon and The Spectator’s decision to print it, given the alarming statistics regarding VAW and femicide in this country is inexcusable.
I would expect an apology.
Barbara Howe, Hamilton
Cartoon hit the mark RE: Feb. 15 editorial cartoon
Good for you, for this cartoon that exposes Justin Trudeau for what he really is. He calls himself a feminist, but he is really just another white male bully who thinks nothing of oppressing the views of women, in this case of Jody Wilson-Raybould. Thanks for putting this hypocrisy front and centre.
J.D. Peltier, Hamilton
Just so we’re clear, I did not apologize for my cartoon, nor did Andy Donato for his. Michael de Adder apologized for his cartoon.
— Graeme MacKay (@mackaycartoons) February 23, 2019
In the aftermath of the death of former U.S. President George H. W Bush, editorial cartoonists are creating obit cartoons and reposting old cartoons from when he was president from 1989 to 1993. While a few of my drawings (here and here) included Bush Sr. in editorial cartoons during his son’s Presidency, I was a university student at the time when he was at the helm, and submitting cartoons to campus newspaper, The Fulcrum. Back then my political cartooning was in the form of a wordy, densely illustrated weekly comic strip called Alas & Alack. In November 1989, Bush had been President for less than a year, leading in the shadow of his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, at a time monumental changes were happening in the world, among them the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the cold war. At the time the President seemed desperate to put his own mark on history. With references to Ronald Reagan, Leonid Breshnev, JFK, and even Donald Trump.