See All Topics

Home / Section: Comic strips

Why the Washington Post didn’t run Non Sequitur

Last Sunday’s Non Sequitur that didn’t feature Mohammad was replaced in several metro newspapers including the Washington Post. The Post’s Ombudsman Andrew Alexander interviewed Non Sequitur creator Wiley Miller and tries to explain why his paper opted not to run the cartoon.

Still, Style editor Ned Martel said he decided to yank it, after conferring with others, including Executive Editor Marcus W. Brauchli, because “it seemed a deliberate provocation without a clear message.” He added that “the point of the joke was not immediately clear” and that readers might think that Muhammad was somewhere in the drawing.

Some readers accused The Post of censorship. “Cowards,” e-mailed John D. Stackpole of Fort Washington, one of several who used that word.

Miller is fuming. The award-winning cartoonist, who lives in Maine, told me the cartoon was meant to satirize “the insanity of an entire group of people rioting and putting out a hit list over cartoons,” as well as “media cowering in fear of printing any cartoon that contains the word ‘Muhammad.’ “

“The wonderful irony [is that] great newspapers like The Washington Post, that took on Nixon . . . run in fear of this very tame cartoon, thus validating the accuracy of the satire,” he said by e-mail.

Community Comments

#1 Ben Carlsen
October/11/2010
@ 10:08 am

“Still, Style editor Ned Martel said he decided to yank it, after conferring with others, including Executive Editor Marcus W. Brauchli, because ‘it seemed a deliberate provocation without a clear message.’ He added that ‘the point of the joke was not immediately clear’…”

Irony at its finest: people who don’t know they’re the butt of the joke.

#2 Scott Metzger
October/11/2010
@ 11:14 am

He added that ?the point of the joke was not immediately clear? and that readers might think that Muhammad was somewhere in the drawing.

—-

What a lame excuse. It underestimates the intelligence of their readers.

The joke is pretty clear.

#3 dan reynolds
October/11/2010
@ 11:36 am

Originally, the use of this figure raised all kinds of publicity. Now, not using it is raising all sorts of publicity. Truly ironic.

What isn’t ironic is that this liberal newspaper didn’t back Wiley.
It’s a liberal newspaper and saying one thing and doing another seems perfectly in keeping with the left’s political decision-making process.

Wiley, I hear you’re upset, and you should be. You were left out in the cold.

#4 Alan Gardner
October/11/2010
@ 11:44 am

Whoa. Dan – can’t let you take this discussion down a political path with this kind of statement:

It?s a liberal newspaper and saying one thing and doing another seems perfectly in keeping with the left?s political decision-making process.

No party has shown exemplary behavior in saying one thing and actually doing it. That’s why politicians have such a bad reputation. This is not a left or right thing. The Chicago Tribune didn’t run it either – and they lean right.

#5 Clay Jones
October/11/2010
@ 12:44 pm

Politics doesn’t play into newspaper’s financial decisions…and most decisions today are financial decisions.

#6 dan reynolds
October/11/2010
@ 2:52 pm

“Non Sequitur,” was launched in 1991 by the Washington Post Writers Group. 2010, they decided not to stand by the publishing of an unoffensive cartoon by Wiley.

Wiley, himself, is upset as well he should be. The “reasons” they gave were “cover” for not running it. Though I disagree with Wiley on a lot of things, I agree with him in that he’s upset that he’s got fair weather friends at the Post.

I think Clay has a legitimate point, too. A sad, but true point. It always comes down to the almighty buck, even before any loyalty to political bent.

#7 Matt Wuerker
October/11/2010
@ 7:30 pm

It’s not a left or right thing, Dan ( and to call the Post leftist only shows you don’t read it. With the exception of Toles, it’s editorial pages are centerist to conservative )
Wiley should be getting more attention and backing over this pathetic display of editorial timidity — which is what it is. It’s a mild joke that pokes gentle fun at the surreal standoff between Fundamentalist Islam and cartoonists. Why didn’t the editors just email him and make sure Muhammed wasn’t in the toon?it’s a funny gag.
Does anyone know how many other papers went ahead and printed it?

#8 Matt Wuerker
October/11/2010
@ 8:08 pm

This sums up the level of stupidity to which we’ve sunk…
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elayne-boosler/you-didnt-hear-the-one-ab_b_750131.html

Maybe the only way to push back on spineless editors is to lean on them from the other side. What’s the satirical-secular-humanist word for ‘fatwa’?

#9 Ted Rall
October/12/2010
@ 12:08 am

Not that politics had anything to do with it, but let’s set the record straight: the cliche of the WaPo as “liberal” is decades out of date. It is editorially neo-conservative and has been for many years.

#10 Dave Stephens
October/12/2010
@ 12:49 am

Red or Blue, the lack of a spine is endemic…

#11 Keith Brown
October/12/2010
@ 5:45 am

I had a toon killed because I dared to suggest that organized religion is a business.Not only that but it’s participants are also business owners. All of which added up to the potential loss of a lot of advertising revenue for the small Missouri paper.
Money is still more powerful than the pen.

#12 dan reynolds
October/12/2010
@ 6:56 am

Matt
I agree with your post, BUT you’re not correct in saying WP is not on the left leaning side.
The Company owns Newsweek.com and The Slate Group…left and left.
Does it have it’s token right elements, sure, but all left leaning newspapers do, and right leaning have their token left elements.

It is about selling newspapers, but a newspaper is owned by humans and humans have their own biases.

While we’re on the subject of adhering to a political philosophy …there’s probably a larger amount of people in the middle of left and right that move in the direction of the political wind at any given time. Ironically, this in between group, let’s call them “Republicrats”, are most likely the usual deciding factor in most elections. They’re like the sports fans that come from nowhere when a team is going into the post season. All of the sudden they’re the biggest fans. As a Red Sox fan all my life, I was struck when the Sox won in 2004, how many fair weather fans popped up. They were like the blooming umbrellas in the big city when a rain cloud bursts.

Have a great day!

#13 Pat Crowley
October/12/2010
@ 9:52 am

Wiley , a professional cartoonist for more than thirty years, knew exactly what he was doing- generating a controversy that brought lots of attention to his strip while leaving editors (the folks who trust him not to create faux controversies) holding the bag.

Had he been truly serious about making his point he would have included a couple of figures who might have actually been taken to be Mohammad- a bearded homeless guy pushing a shopping cart, Santa Claus or an ayatollah.

But he didn’t and settled for this sophomoric version instead. Of course he can can post anything he wants on his website. So can any of the tough guys out there who are so quick to accuse editors of lacking a spine.

The use of the WORD “Mohammad” hasn’t been banned as the Huffmart writer seems to think. (The column, btw, would have been a perfect opportunity for Huffmart to take a stand by posting an illo of the Prophet.)

The use of his image is considered to be blasphemy by his followers.

We call that “PC” in secular circles.

#14 Mike Peterson
October/12/2010
@ 11:15 am

“We call that ?PC? in secular circles.”

(Looks around) No, no we don’t.

It’s a silly term that we don’t use at all, except when we’re being very sarcastic, usually about equally silly people who think it means something Very Important.

As for the idea that a cartoon intended to lampoon the cowardice of publishers needs to be changed into a cartoon intended to purposely offend Muslims, that is something we call “If that’s the cartoon you’d rather see, go ahead and draw it yourself.”

#15 Matt Wuerker
October/12/2010
@ 11:55 am

Pat– there’s difference between incendiary throwing of grenades and sharp wit. I think Wiley got it just right by taking the wittier high road and not talking the nativist low road with the cartoon.

There are lots of ways to take on the insanity of the Islamic Fundamentalist Wackos without poking sticks in the eyes of the vast majority of Muslims who are right to expect some consideration of their religious sensitivities. ( here’s one I did a while back myself– http://www.cartoonistgroup.com/store/add.php?iid=21888 )

Choosing to leave Mohammed out of it is not about being PC. One route shows you understand what you’re drawing about and aren’t interested in just stirring up crap for crap’s sake. Ask that limp-wristed liberal General Petraeus which route he thinks is intelligent.

Any racist idiot can draw Mohammed as a dog. That’s not standing up for free speech or defending western values. Wiley’s cartoon shows that some cartoonists know the difference.

#16 Mike Lester
October/12/2010
@ 3:23 pm

“Any racist idiot can draw Mohammed as a dog” _MW

I’m confused, Matt. Are you implying Muslims would frown on this or PeTA?

#17 Pat Crowley
October/12/2010
@ 3:56 pm

FTA: “Miller is fuming…”

I doubt it. He elicited just the reaction he was expecting to get from his loyal subscribers (editors) with the added bonus of having one of the most talked-about cartoons in recent memory.

From MP “It?s a silly term that we don?t use at all, except when we?re being very sarcastic…”

I was being sarcastic.

From MW “There are lots of ways to take on the insanity of the Islamic Fundamentalist Wackos without poking sticks in the eyes of the vast majority of Muslims who are right to expect some consideration of their religious sensitivities.”

That’s why I used the “blasphemy” word.

By the way, has anyone “tested the spine” of an alt weekly editor lately?

#18 Matt Wuerker
October/12/2010
@ 4:32 pm

Mike, the PeTA fatwas are a real bitch….

#19 Derf Backderf
October/13/2010
@ 7:02 am

I’ve seldom had a cartoon spiked by any of the 200 or so alt-weekly editors I’ve worked with. That’s covering 20 years. At worst, I occasionally asked to swap out a swear word, usually from a smaller paper in the Biblebelt.

That’s not meant, from a cartoonist standpoint, as a defense of alt-weekly editors, who are even more dismissive of cartoons than their daily counterparts these days. But if you’re looking for PC boogeymen, you won’t find them there, in my experience.

Alt-weeklies have their own problems, god knows, but at least they don’t adhere to some ridiculous Ozzy-and-Harriet aesthetic that would make something like Wiley’s mild cartoon too hot to handle.

And that probably explains why daily newspapers have become so sadly irrelevant.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.