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Pat Oliphant reacts to Mohammad cartoons in editorial

Pat Oliphant, Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist, has written an editorial for the Chicago Tribune on his reaction of the Danish Mohammad cartoons. He also addresses the impact of the cartoons on American editorial cartoonists.

Things have changed greatly since Mr. Nast’s day. We who work as cartoonists in the United States must always be aware of the religious devotion of newspaper publishers in this country to the Most Holy Bottom Line and their reluctance to stir up dissatisfaction and rioting among their advertisers. The cartoonists’ correct reaction to this is “Draw and be damned,” but the publishers and their obedient editors hold all the cards and will, in many cases, simply not run anything that smacks of controversy.

Therefore, the initial reaction in the political cartooning community to what some see as a blatant, brave exercise of free speech in a free press in a free society was somewhat breathless admiration, so unused are we to seeing in newspapers such unfettered, politically incorrect use of this art. But what will the reaction be to all this among the high priests and prophets of the Counters of the Beans?

If there is any reaction, it will most likely be to make even more difficult the work of the cartoonist who has things to say and wishes to make a critical, legitimate and salient point, and make more remote the possibility of that point’s ever being seen in print. As the euphoria fades, we may be left the winners of a Pyrrhic victory.

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