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
In the aftermath of the shuffle, it was the fact that racist tropes would be trotted out, without a recognition of the racism, that really upset me. For example, there were cartoons of me bound and gagged with the Prime Minister being egged on to beat me, which is completely inappropriate given the reality of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG); another had me knocked out by the Prime Minister in a boxing ring; there was also one of me dressed like an Indigenous person wearing stereotypical “buckskin” clothes and feathers in my hair. Together, they showed me how far we still had to go as a country. That I truly was the “Indian” in the Cabinet. Separate. Apart. Different. And expendable, when not playing their game in their way. As Indigenous peoples have always been treated by governments in this country.
But here is one thing about the sexist, racist tropes that were trotted out against me: They didn’t accomplish much. In fact, I think they backfired. Far more people called out these pernicious acts than engaged in them. Those who knew me spoke out – Indigenous leaders and those who had worked with me; staff and others. But there were also so many I had never met who were just not having it. This included a lot of the media, who didn’t buy the incompetence narrative that started the second I was shuffled. In fact, some in the media even apologized for their early reporting, and they deserve credit for this.
Excerpt from “Indian in the Cabinet”, by Jody Wilson Raybould, printed in The Globe and Mail, Saturday September 18, 2021