Sunday, February 3, 2008

Protesting over cartoons

I like Michael Ramirez's cartoons. He's a great artist, a master when it comes to visual metaphors, and makes strong (conservative) points in just one panel (although sometimes he would do multi-panel cartoons).

Yet, I don't know much about him, except that he was born in Japan, drew for various papers, including The Commercial Appeal (my local paper; they still run his stuff, alongside works from its current staff cartoonist, Bill Day), and that he won the Pulitzer Prize for cartooning in 1994 (more on that in a bit).

Well, I decided to do a search on Google Books and I came across Graphic Opinions: Editorial Cartoonists and Their Art, which was a book published years ago about some of the best editorial cartoonists in America. Ramirez was one of the cartoonists featured and it described his work and stuff. But what caught my eye was this passage on an anti-Ramirez protest that happened when the Pulitzer committee gave Mike his award. From page 189:

When Ramirez won the Pulitzer Prize, gay militants in ACT-UP demonstrated both in Memphis, and at Columbia University during the award ceremony, claiming that his cartoons were homophobic. They cited two in particular: a six-panel cartoon about a gay soldier “coming out” during formation roll-call (soldiers on either side of him move away); another showed a gay man, sitting on a tombstone, complaining that AIDS testing was cramping his lifestyle. Ramirez’s response: “I believe in the right of extreme groups to express their opinion and I had hoped that they understood that I have a constitutional right to ignore them” (Editor & Publisher June 25, 1994, 55)

I thought that was interesting, because I don't think an American editorial cartoonist ever caused such protest before. I mean, sure there has been some that led to thousands of hate mails and media coverage, but never an actual protest. Not even Ted Rall's cartoons sparked one.

Of course, this isn't as "hard-core" as the time the secret service investigated Mike because they misunderstood a PRO-BUSH cartoon as a threat to the president.

Feel free to add your own take on this in the comment section.

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