As many of you may already know, I’ve always emphasized the significance of satire and the purpose behind editorial cartoons. Today, I’d like to address a common misconception that I often come across, especially from one-time visitors who leave snarky comments under editorial cartoons, claiming that “the left can’t meme.” Let’s take a moment to clarify some important points.
Firstly, it’s essential to recognize that the statement “the left can’t meme” is a sweeping generalization. Both the left and the right, as well as people from various political backgrounds, are capable of creating memes and sharing humour online.
Memes are typically characterized by their adaptability and may use existing content in new and creative ways. While this versatility can lead to some content being shared without proper attribution, it doesn’t mean that all memes lack originality or proper sourcing.
Editorial cartoons, on the other hand, are unique artworks created by talented illustrators who put their signature on their work. These cartoons are intended to provide commentary and insight into current events, often using humour to make a point.
My cartoon before it became meme-ified
While memes and editorial cartoons may share visual elements, it’s important to appreciate their distinct purposes and creation processes. Memes can spread rapidly across the internet due to their relatability and humour, whereas editorial cartoons are crafted to deliver thought-provoking messages and are shared with the understanding that they won’t be altered.
In the spirit of responsible content sharing, let’s remember the importance of proper attribution and citation for all forms of content, including memes and editorial cartoons.
Let’s remember that memes and editorial cartoons serve different purposes and shouldn’t be compared directly. Let’s foster a respectful and thoughtful online environment by acknowledging the creativity and value behind both forms of content. If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out the Wikipedia page on memes.
Thank you for your continued support, and let’s spread awareness about the nuances of online content creation with a bold understanding:
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday March 11, 2020
Economic Prescription for Coronavirus: ‘You’ve Got to Go Fast’
The government can’t prevent the coronavirus from damaging the U.S. Economy.
February 28, 2020
The usual tools that economic policymakers rely on, like tax cuts and stimulus spending, won’t restore canceled conferences, unclog supply chains or persuade wary consumers to go out to bars and restaurants. Even if such policies would help, they conflict with the advice of health officials who are urging “social distancing” to slow the spread of the virus.
But that doesn’t mean policymakers are powerless. Economists say well-designed programs could limit the damage and help ensure a quick rebound.
President Trump said Monday that he would meet with congressional leaders to discuss a “very substantial” payroll tax cut and other measures. Many economists are skeptical of that approach, arguing that a payroll tax cut would be too small and too poorly targeted to be of much help.
June 28, 2018
Instead, they recommended a variety of other steps, some narrowly aimed at addressing the outbreak and some intended to bolster the broader economy. One lesson from the last recession is that the government has to move quickly.
“You’ve got to go big, and you’ve got to go fast,” said Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve staff member who is now director of macroeconomic policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a left-leaning research organization. “If you don’t go fast, you’re not going to short-circuit it.”
Here are some forms that such intervention could take: 1) Fight the disease. 2) Cushion the blow. 3) Stimulate the broader economy. 4) What about payroll taxes? (Continued: NYTimes)
CHRONOLOGY OF A CARTOON GONE VIRAL
This particular editorial cartoon has gone through several modifications than the original one published above on March 11, 2020, the day the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. The original double wave cartoon received attention around the world and was modified, rather crudely, with adaptations made to my Canada flag, and translations squeezed in to replace my English “be sure to wash your hands and all will be well.” Some of the changes were done fairly well. Some of the people behind the alterations took the time to ask for permission to do so, and preserved my moniker, while others did not.
Nettuno 1958 – 5 aprile 2020
Here’s a version drawn with credit for audiences in Mexico. Found on Twitter on account @adn40 and shared March 25, 2020:
Another adaptation done for audiences in France. Website called, Acheter en Espagne: Le meilleur site sur l’immobilier en Espagne pour la clientиle francophone.
If only I got a penny for everywhere this cartoon landed I’d be rich!
Possibly my most shared, cropped, and altered cartoon ever.
A crude repurposed image showing a third wave, with my moniker cropped out, appeared in wide circulation on various social media platforms in May, 2020. It appears someone with some knowledge of image editing software duplicated the recession wave, added a third wave by colouring it rather fluorescent green and replacing the wording to climate change. In doing so unfortunately, my signature, or moniker as cartoonists call it, was deleted out. It was on its way to being meme-ified – unsourced and unsigned, the bane of editorial cartooning. I believe the flag in the above example is Argentina’s.
Meanwhile, a hemisphere over in the UK, someone revised the Argentinian version, and replaced the label recession with “Brexit”. Look closely and one will note the Union Jack flies atop the Palace of Westminster! Credit goes to Twitter account RRI Tools for pointing this out in June, 2020 with this tweet.
I thought these ideas behind modification were pretty good ones, but the crop jobs weren’t so great, and the flag of Argentina only caused confusion on an idea that could work for anyone around the world. So it was then that I decided to remove the flag and create an authorized version bearing my signature. Here it is:
Originally drawn for March 11, 2020. Revised May 23, 2020.
But it seems someone else in another corner of the planet, Ricardo Hurtubia, a teacher from Santiago, Chile, had added a third wave as early as April 4! Good on him for keeping my moniker in there. News to me by the time July rolled around:
con mis fantásticas habilidades para Power Point, he logrado esta obra de arte luego de un día entero de trabajo
(broma ?, pero el mensaje de fondo va en serio?) pic.twitter.com/qPrmSaneRy
In September, 2020, this beautiful hand drawn rendering was flagged by someone in Venezuela on Twitter. This is an example of the old saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Thank you Alejandro!
Not long after the above tweet was posted, an anonymous twitter account holder going by the name of Cilantrófago, posted a re-adapted image in Spanish that cleaned up Mr. Hurtubia’s, somewhat, adding a 4th wave. His major failing, however, is chopping out my moniker, and unfortunately, for Cilantrófago, he or she qualifies as a Social Media Jackass.
In mid June, I was included in a tweet sent out by David Obura, a director of Cordio, East Africa, a marine ecosystem consultancy based in Mombasa, Kenya. He’s also a scientist with the Earth Commission. A 4th wave had been added as a further warning regarding the effects of climate change on the world’s ecology. He isn’t actually the person who added the “biodiversity collapse”, but liked what he saw and sent it out. The re-adapted version is quite a good one, with a thought provoking message, the lettering is close enough to my own, and the image retains my moniker. Thumbs up, but I would like to know who the person is behind the re-adaptation.
The readapted readapted version of the cartoon became the centre piece of a demonstration with a Samba Band on Paignton Promenade (in Torbay, Devon, England) Sunday afternoon, August 30, 2020 with the “Four Waves Banner” shown below and paraded by the Green Spirits group:
In April 2023, the banner lead a parade and was carried to Parliament Square in front of Westminster Palace in London during a weekend of massive protests called “the Big One” on the climate crisis.
Organizers of another protest march in the UK wished to use the same image in public. An artist acquaintance of the environmental organization leader kindly asked if it was okay for him to design his own commissioned rendering of the image on wood measuring 8 by 4 feet. Happy to help a fellow artist on the other side of the planet the nod was given (though, as always, the artist deserved more compensation.)
Tweet from Nov 10. 2021
Then it ended up along the banks of the River Clyde during the gathering of the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. This tweet informed me of it’s location on Nov. 10, 2021.
Enchanted by the passion of the Green Spirits, and after receiving more licensing permission to use the 4 waves, I decided to update the cartoon to include the biodiversity collapse wave. The caption bubble was also enlarged, and my moniker was placed in the top corner.
Dr. Madhu Pai, MD and McGill University Professor and Canada Research Chair of Epidemiology & Global Health convinced me to tweak the illustration a bit to advance his concerns of conditions such as TB, HIV, malaria, maternal health, etc. that have become worse due to COVID-19 and lockdowns.
As of Autumn 2020, according to google image search, there are more than 1680 posts of these variations across the Internet on various social media platforms and websites.
Finally and noteworthy is an overriding subject going beyond the pandemic, Healthcare distress, the economy, Brexit, Climate Change, war …the end of the world, it’s the chronology of this cartoon as a meme.
“There’s a difference between using a familiar symbol and copying someone else’s cartoon, and, while some asked for permission and credited him, others did not. It’s a common experience for cartoonists in this Ctl-C, Ctl-V world, and MacKay’s analysis is excellent.”
Who knows how much, from Finland, Svante Suominen’s effort using the illustration to promote #SavePondHockey helped his cause which he asked in a Twitter exchange, our group fights “climate change by organizing outdoor hockey tournaments and donating the profits to climate campaigns / action. We’d love to use a quickly hacked image that is based on your idea and design work as a featured image in our blog. Would that be OK for you?” He was given clearance to do so, merely for having the decency to ask.
Like so many images cartoonists offered up to the Internet, dark forces are at the ready armed with design software to butcher artists work and memes-ify them to serve their appetites for likes and retweets. Just as egregious to discover signed cartoons reworded to suit partisan stances effectively turning satire into propaganda, is the removal of monikers and the extraction of intellectual property. We learn as children not to do this when we hand in assignments for school and that we should always source words borrowed from others. Why is it when theft of imagery that’s turned into memes is taken so passively?
On April 27 2021, a supportive follower made me aware of a new adaptation with the logo of Extinction Rebellion attached to it. The new image shows a different rendering of the waves with a couple of labels changed. Extinction Rebellion is a global environmental movement that has its roots in the UK and has captured the attention in recent months for huge non-violent rallies and civil disobedience against governments not doing enough to fight climate change and prevent the inevitable ecological extinction. It has been very successful in raising awareness and is influencing similar movements around the world. It is, however, not without criticism, with charges of being extremist, classist, and short-sighted with regards to diversity. In 2019, eight ER protesters made fools of themselves when they took their demonstration to the London Underground and disrupted an evening commute for thousands of transit users by unfurling a banner on the roof of a subway car. Respect for the work of artists seems to be another one of Extinction Rebellion’s shortcomings. It is ironic indeed that an organization called Extinction Rebellion has made my connection to my own design extinct with this:
Over a number of years, responding to people responsible for repurposing creative content has revealed interesting personality characteristics. Most people will realize they’ve done wrong, remove the vandalized content, and apologize.
Junked up nonsense found on Twitter. Zero likes, zero retweets, zero idea.
Some won’t respond at all. Others will reply, and dig in their heels with claims that it’s some kind of human right to screen grab someone’s work online, alter it, and repost it as they deem fit. What compels people to modify visual work may be a genuine expression of support adding ones own thought to a message. Well meaning perhaps, as in the case of the DIY art restorer who, in 2012, decided to fix Ecce Homo, a fresco painted by Elías García Martínez in a church in Borja, Spain, but who was roundly condemned and mocked for the results. Or, it may just be a narcissist’s lack of thoughtfulness by co-opting imagery to communicate a message unrelated to the intent of the creator of the image. Several of the worst cases have been called out as the Social Media Jackasses for their bad behaviour.
Along comes a post on Instagram where an account run under the banner of a big international bubble tea chain called Tiger Sugar used the image below to promote franchise expansion. A glance through the account shows an endless scroll of not so witty memes mixed with photos of their swirly brown syrup concoctions aimed at a younger smart phone addicted set. A message was left under the post requesting removal of the altered image. As of the time of this writing the post remains and thereby grants Tiger Sugar bestowal of recognition into the pantheon of intellectual property thieves.
Tiger Sugar was not given permission readapt the messaging
Noted is this eerily similar looking version found on this page on a site called EcoMatcher. They aren’t based in any particular country but whether the renderer knew it or not, that’s pretty much exactly what I drew in the very first version (posted at the top of this page) to represent Canada, from the rockies in the west to the Toronto skyline in the east. Seems the readapters of the image had a pretty good idea of the original cartoon’s chronology. It bears a striking resemblance to Svante’s rendering above.
Finally, From GreenMoveID, an environmental organization in Indonesia that shared this modification in November, 2020. For non-English speaking countries it’s important to get the message out, and frankly this rendering is beautifully done, and good for them for the credit:
If we all let our guard down, it could be that the Covid-19 Pandemic is actually the opening before a bigger disaster comes. The government must think further ahead in making policies to tackle this pandemic. GreenMoveID (Indonesia) posted this on Nov. 9, 2020, @greenmoveid acknowledging mackaycartoons illustration for inspiration
Another unique perspective by a Warsaw based organization called Social Simulations.
Waves, boulders, impending doom, stock photo.
The authorized version of the 4 Waves cartoon is available on a wide range of ethically sourced apparel and products through the MacKaycartoons Online Boutique.
Authorized for sale by Graeme MacKay through this link.
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:
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.
On any average day editorial cartoonists spend their days toiling on work for the purpose of filling a square for the print version of the next days’ newspaper for which they are employed. For the entire 20th century that’s how it worked.
In the next century, we began to showcase our cartoons on the Internet.
Take for example this cartoon, drawn in 2006:
It was drawn at a time when Canada was at war in Afghanistan, meeting its international military obligations, and contributing to an allied mission to neutralize al-Qaeda terrorists based in the region, and bring down the Taliban regime. My critique on May 20, 2006, was of the federal government’s dithering position on whether or not to extend the mission, which began in 2001, for another 2 years. The Liberal Party, leading the government at the time, had become deeply divided over its willingness to continue the mission as soldiers were returning to Canada in body bags at an increasing rate. It didn’t help that their commitment to the effort could be seen in the underwhelming financial support to properly equip the hundreds of armed forces personnel sent.
It’s not my favourite kind of imagery, familiar and overused, and quite frankly, if I could choose which of my cartoons could go viral this would be last on the list.
So to my surprise it resurfaced on a popular cartoon Facebook page 12 and a half years after, the image intact, and the captions butchered to suit an American audience.
As posted under the unauthorized version of my cartoon, it’s like I put this cartoon in a bottle, dropped it in the internet Ocean in 2006, and it’s washed up on my FB page, all pixelated with the captions all monkeyed up. You can almost smell the mothballs and cat pee coming from the account of whoever made the modifications.
It’s getting all kinds of likes and shares, and even after pointing out that the original work had been doctored, the usual sort of social media sewer rats emerged endorsing the act of butchering someone else’s satire to suit their political opinions.
In the past I’ve made a point of making examples of the sort who take pleasure ruining the work of professional cartoonists. I call it the Social Media Jackass Award. Today I’m pleased to announce that CJ Kalish (ChristopherJohn Kalish) who runs the above FB page, but refuses to delete the cartoon, is the latest winner of that award.
According to a colleague in the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists:
CJ Kalish is a known thief of other’s work. He frequently posts doctored cartoons on his “fan site” without checking their veracity, uses other cartoons without permission, and often publishes material with no credit or ID of the real artist.
A growing number of legitimate cartoonists have been having a running legal battle with him for years now. Clay Jones and Nick Anderson first discovered he was stealing and using doctored work of theirs in 2016, and when called on it, CJ responded with lies and abuse.
Sounds like the classy sort of fellow who’s more than deserving of this recognition.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: don’t change intellectual property that doesn’t belong to you. Do your own work! As for those in the know of these breaches, yet refuse to do anything about them, enjoy the shame and humiliation.
Update: CJ Kalish has removed the doctored cartoon. Ensuing discussion I’ve had with cartoonists both on and off Facebook indicate that he’s had many run-ins with many cartoonists. As Clay Jones put it, quite simply, “he needs to share from the creators’ pages”, instead of copying images to his desktop and reposting them from his FB page.
Congratulations Facebook Fan Page Canadian Pride, you are the latest recipient of my Social Media Jackass Award. Canadian Pride follows in the footsteps of other online notables Harpersgotago, and “teflon Jim” Stewart. Both of those jackasses were caught repurposing others’ cartoon work as their own, a practice, which unfortunately happens to a great many artists who put their art online. Canadian Pride went a step further by attempting to make money, without authorization, using my cartoon work for a design they were marketing on Facebook for purchase on a custom t-shirt company called Tee Chip Pro. A casual glance through Canadian Pride’s Reviews (boasting a 1.5 out of 5 star rating) with comments mocking the products they shill, to accusations of racism, to charges of other instances of design theft. The thought crossed my mind that Canadian Pride might have some connection to the alt-right Proud Boys group given its themes of protest against the left. However, there’s no way of telling who’s behind Canadian Pride, as the page is shrouded in anonymity, without lurking into the movement and details of Facebook likers of the page – Feel free to do your own investigation. Anyway, it is rather ironic that a group calling itself Canadian Pride uses an American company to sell its stolen work.
Without permission, Canadian Pride was caught on its Facebook page repurposing my depiction of a clown extracted from a May 29, 2014 editorial cartoon (right) for its own monetary benefit on shirts and other products for sale on TeeChip.com (left)
Nowadays, thankfully, enforcement is being levied against the pirates of intellectual property in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a U.S. copyright law that’s been around since 1996, but whose teeth seem to be getting sharper as time marches on and its might successfully fends off challengers. Social Media companies and reputable user submitted online marketplace companies are now marching in lockstep to avoid DMCA violations. Compared a laissez-faire snails pace approach from a few years ago, Internet companies act with little hesitation from beefed up legal departments, to claims of trademark and copyright infringement.
In my experience of filing two reports of misuse regarding this incident to Facebook and TeeChip.com, the powerful social media giant took less than an hour to remove the content, and the shirt company took longer than half a day.
A very satisfying sight to see after a report was filed
Canadian Pride is now using the online store Moteefe with a new Elect a clown design, which is probably someone else’s design being used without permission. Could it be yours? The best advice is to keep one’s eyes peeled – this mysterious group hops around from one online marketplace to another, ripping of artist’s work, and repurposing stuff for their own financial gain. Sadly, they are not alone.