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College paper runs offensive cartoon, cancels subscription to syndicate who provided it

Cartoon courtesy of Cagle Cartoons

The Daily Illini, a college newspaper at University of Illinois, ran a Rick McKee cartoon (above) last week that offended many in the student body. The paper has since issued an apology stating that the “cartoon was run with frivolous regard, and in no way represents our ideals as an organization, company or the individuals who work for ‘The Daily Illini'”

The person who selected the cartoon was also suspended from the paper and the paper took an additional step of cancelling its contract to Cagle Cartoons, which provides a wide range of cartoons from both liberal and conservative cartoonists because… Well, because they’re serious about righting a wrong by punishing the syndicate that provides them with a plethora of cartoons to choose from.

Rick has responded to the controversy via a blog post by Daryl Cagle wherein he blames political correctness on campuses that won’t tolerate different view points.

He writes:

I blame the politically correct atmosphere they find themselves in that exists on most U.S. college campuses. Our institutions of higher learning are supposed to be safe spaces where differing viewpoints are tolerated, but that no longer seems to be the case. There?s nothing racist about the cartoon and the notion that people should come into this country legally is an opinion that is widely held by many Americans

I don’t necessarily agree with Rick’s response for a variety of reasons, but the idea that because an opinion is widely held by many Americans doesn’t mean its the correct one. Think civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights – all acceptable and desirable things that were at times viewed as bad by many Americans.

Community Comments

#1 Keith Brown
November/3/2015
@ 7:45 am

Should cowboys and fairy godmother’s be offended as they we also depicted? Like it or not, if the paper ran it they should stand by that decision. Open it up for discussion. Don’t just run away and blame the syndicate. Disagreement is part of the human experience. To try to sanitize everything all the time is a huge mistake. This is what happens when you don’t keep score in T-Ball.

#2 John Auchter
November/3/2015
@ 8:46 am

I would blame the actions of The Daily Illini on intellectual weakness, on mindless corporate protocol, on fear of open discussion, on having no idea of how higher education works, on just plain stupidity. But I hate to go to political correctness. That term has long been ruined by drunk uncles everywhere as their go-to defense: “Oh, sorry. Apparently I can’t say . I guess I’m not ‘politically correct.'” Which distracts from the bigger issue: A newspaper has found yet another way to reduce cartoon content. Unbelievable!

#3 michael shonk
November/3/2015
@ 12:10 pm

I think the college paper editors are learning how to be professional editors at newspapers. Learning how to hide under their desk when they get five angry phone calls from readers upset that Mary Worth has been replaced by Pearls Before Swine.

#4 Reflex76
November/3/2015
@ 4:56 pm

Basically, Rick McKee did not like it that people called him out on his bigoted cartoon.

People have a right to say offensive things, other people have a right to call out those offensive things, and publishers have a right not to publish said offensive things.

#5 Carl Moore
November/3/2015
@ 9:29 pm

“… the idea that because an opinion is widely held by many Americans doesn?t mean its the correct one.”

“People have a right to say offensive things, other people have a right to call out those offensive things, and publishers have a right not to publish said offensive things.”

What is “incorrect” about this cartoon? What is “offensive” about this cartoon? Seems clear to me that this cartoon is not stating an opinion. It is illustrating a fact – illegal immigrants are breaking the law.

Is it someone’s opinion out there that illegal immigrants are NOT breaking the law? If so, what planet are they on?

That a college newspaper apologized for running it and suspended the person who selected it is a testament to the liberal stupidity that runs rampant on college and university campuses these days. There’s a term for this this kind of over-the-top, draconian nonsense – coined by Jonah Goldberg and is the title of his book – “Liberal Fascism.”

#6 Mike Peterson
November/4/2015
@ 4:17 am

Gandelman’s comment is the most sensible: Editors choose what they run and they, not the creator of the work and certainly not the syndicate that offers a wide variety, need to either stand behind their decision or, if they realize it was a bad choice, apologize for a mistake in judgment.

Meanwhile, the whining about “political correctness” is, as John Auchter notes, a stupid excuse for bigotry. Perhaps the problem is that even the most rabid bigots think they are being perfectly rational and everyone else is out of step.

I guess I wouldn’t mind the phrase so much if it were applied across the board instead of only to depictions of women and minorities. There is a whole lot of demand for rightwing “political correctness” but that’s not how the phrase is ever used.

#7 Reflex76
November/4/2015
@ 10:02 am

Questions demanding answers:

“What is ?incorrect? about this cartoon?”

– The depiction of a border crossing for an undocumented immigrant; most arrive documented, then become undocumented after their visa expires.

“What is ?offensive? about this cartoon?”

– Stereotypical depiction of an undocumented immigrant.

“Is it someone?s opinion out there that i****** immigrants are NOT breaking the law?”

– In the sense that littering is breaking the law, it’s insignificant.

“If so, what planet are they on?”

– Earth, third planet form Sol.

“That a college newspaper apologized for running it and suspended the person who selected it is a testament to”

. . . common human decency, exactly.

#8 JP Trostle
November/4/2015
@ 1:24 pm

Oh please, I could totally see some frat boy going as this at Halloween …

So, instead of this being a “teaching moment” where a student is allowed to make, at best, a questionable call and learn from the experience, the scorched-earth response by the school paper only teaches future journalists that they should never ever take chances, and that the only acceptable response to a “mistake” is to fire, cancel and kill everything remotely associated with it.

Nice going, higher education.

#9 Keith Brown
November/4/2015
@ 3:30 pm

@JP Trostle

Agreed.

#10 Logical atomist
November/5/2015
@ 11:25 am

There are a lot of interesting comments here, but one thing I would like to point out is the way several of the comments show that to progressives, there can almost never be any disagreement with them that isn’t
the result of “:bigotry”.

They just never feel like they have to listen to anybody else’s point of view because the only reason anybody else could disagree with them is that the disagreeing person is some kind or racist.

That’s what makes most of them so obnoxious to anybody who cares about being honest, or even having something approaching a desire to treat others with a little friendliness or respect.

#11 michael shonk
November/5/2015
@ 1:13 pm

#10. Funny, I find the same true for the far right as well as the far left. What you describe is a person on the extreme side of any point of view.
I am a 61 year old white male liberal and I remember the days when you could get away with almost anything as long as it was funny. I am progressive and believe in free speech and wonder why this culture fights harder over protecting the second amendment than we do protecting the first amendment.
So the cartoon is offensive ignore it. It will not turn any young college student into a raging racist any more than any far left cartoon turned anyone into pinkos.
Why do we pay so much attention to such minor annoyances and ignore the more serious injustices? Why have we spent so much time on things like Hillary’s phone calls and Donald Trump when we should be working on improving our educational system and other many serious vital issues facing this country?

#12 Keith Brown
November/5/2015
@ 1:59 pm

I truly think society is being governed by the extremes and we would all be much better off if we all made our way back towards the center, It’s like driving down the road, Are you better off in the left ditch or the right ditch?

#13 Rick McKee
November/6/2015
@ 10:58 pm

“Paper runs ‘offensive’ cartoon”? Gee, Alan, editorialize much? And later you say my opinion is not the “correct” one? That’s Exhibit A right there to support my claim of political “correct”ness run amok. Thank you, Alan, for making my case for me.

#14 Reflex76
November/8/2015
@ 12:45 pm

“Anti-PC isn’t about exercising freedom of speech; it’s about wanting to be protected from it.”

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/11/its-time-to-retire-the-pc-police.html

Mr. McKee’s further complaining about being called out on his cartoon seems to be a prime example.

#15 Clay Jones
November/8/2015
@ 4:23 pm

The headline does editorialize. This is not a news site. It’s a blog.

The college has the right to not run the cartoon. After running the cartoon it’s understandable they don’t want to be associated with the opinion.

Suspending/firing the person who made the decision is stupid if that person is a student. If it’s a paid staffer who violated a company-wide procedure then it’s a bit more understandable, though still extreme.

Ending their subscription to the syndicate is stupid. Newspapers should understand that syndicates don’t really vet what they syndicate. They’ll send out typos. Every syndicate that offers packages include conservative and liberal cartoons. The quality varies in every package.
I think this was a good way to get out of paying their bill.

I think the cartoon is bigoted. It scapegoats and joins the chorus of fear mongering. Most immigrants don’t even enter the country illegally by crossing the southern border or hopping a fence.

How offensive it is, is up to the reader. I’m pretty used to seeing racism being accepted as majority view.

#16 Rick McKee
November/8/2015
@ 5:08 pm

Obviously, I disagree with you, Clay, about the cartoon being bigoted and Eric Zorn, liberal columnist of the Chicago Tribune disagrees with you as well:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/zorn/ct-daily-illini-cartoon-illegal-immigrant-zorn-1104-20151103-column.html

As far as illegal immigrants climbing fences, we in the editorial cartooning biz typically use things called “symbols” and “metaphors”. Perhaps you’ve heard of these.

#17 Rick McKee
November/8/2015
@ 5:43 pm

Oh, and while this is a blog, it is a self-described news blog: “The Daily Cartoonist (TDC), launched in 2005, is one of the fastest growing news blogs for professional cartoonists. …”

One would think that as such, the stories would be presented in a way that conformed to standard, accepted practices of journalism. Maybe not.

#18 Clay Jones
November/9/2015
@ 1:34 am

I didn’t write that I didn’t understand the metaphor or that I have issues with metaphors in general, Rick.

That column isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of your cartoon. While Zorn doesn’t think it’s offensive, he wasn’t that enamored with it either. He was standing up more for delivering the message, not the message itself.

#19 Rick McKee
November/9/2015
@ 6:40 am

Oh, my mistake. I thought it was pretty clear that I was using the fence as a metaphor and that you didn’t realize that.

And I never said Zorn endorsed the cartoon. I just said he didn’t agree with you that it was bigoted or racist or offensive. But he does go further than that:

“Dehumanizing? Offensive? Tasteless? Racist? Regular readers know that I’m touchier than most when it comes to art, language and other expressions that promote demeaning stereotypes. For instance, I’ve long campaigned against “Redskins” as a team name and renounced such dismissive descriptors as “anchor babies” and “midgets.”

But aside from the cartoonist’s use of “illegal immigrant” ? a term I’ve also opposed (“undocumented” is less loaded) ? I don’t see cause here for an explosion of indignation.”

Clearly he gets what you and some others here do not. That’s kind of a shame on a cartooning blog.

#20 Terry LaBan
November/9/2015
@ 9:07 am

Rick McKee is wrong–he’s not using the fence as a metaphor. A metaphor is an image that symbolically stands for something else. Elephant=Republicans. Uncle Sam = The USA. The fence here doesn’t stand for anything–it’s just a fence. The gag, such as it is, is based on the notion that in jumping it the kid is acting like a stereotypical illegal immigrant. And by stereotypical I mean Mexican, since we don’t typically envision, for example, Irish people who deliberately overstay their tourist visas as jumping over obstacles whilst wearing hoodies and ball caps. I’m sure McKee, who’s obviously a competent cartoonist,was perfectly aware of this, as well as the fact that a lot of people would find it offensive. The real question is why he doesn’t just own it instead of huffing and puffing about how it’s his audience that’s making the mistake.

#21 Rick McKee
November/9/2015
@ 9:56 am

Yes, Terry, clearly I meant the kid was literally jumping a fence crossing an international border and not using it to represent illegal immigration. I know a lot of readers, like yourself, are unable to grasp these complex concepts, which is why many cartoonists resort to labeling everything. I’ll make it simpler for you next time. My apologies.

As for the kid being stereotypically Mexican, that’s just ridiculous. Anybody who has been following current events knows that the majority of the recent influx of illegal aliens are coming from countries other than Mexico. You are bringing your own biases against Mexicans to this image, apparently. Either that, or you are woefully ignorant of current events. Shame on you either way.

And perhaps you don’t understand the role of an editorial cartoonist. Everything we draw is supposed to offend somebody. I do own that. My issue is that this cartoon is neither racist or bigoted, yet these terms are the weapons used by some to shut down any speech they don’t agree with. Which is what is happening here.

If I were to say it is my opinion is that the sky is lime green, that opinion would be “factually” incorrect. If I were to say it is my opinion is that illegal immigration is a bad thing, that opinion has been deemed “politically” incorrect. Alan said himself my opinion is not the “correct” one. And on a political cartooning board of all places.

#22 Clay Jones
November/9/2015
@ 2:30 pm

I’m going to take issue the “every cartoon we draw is supposed to offend somebody.” Every cartoonist has their own style, own reason, own inspiration, but this is one I totally disagree with.

I don’t believe we set out to offend people. We set out to make people think. Someone being offended is a byproduct. We should not be afraid of that byproduct. We don’t offend people at all actually. People choose to be offended.

If you’re working just to offend people then you’re only as good as Howard Stern.

Now if you’ve never drawn a cartoon that someone was offended by then you’ve never done your job.

I’m not offended by Rick’s white kid pretending to be a Hispanic immigrant cartoon. Yes,I think it’s racist. But I think it’s just to the level of eye rolling, of course I’m very jaded. I don’t think the reaction to it is warranted.

#23 Joel Tieg
November/9/2015
@ 2:38 pm

>Alan said himself my opinion is not the ?correct? one. And on a political cartooning board of all places.<

Not only does Alan throw in his opinions, but he closes threads when he doesn't like the comments.

—-Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.—–

#24 Rick McKee
November/9/2015
@ 2:53 pm

Clay, that’s the beauty of this country isn’t it? You’re certainly free to disagree with every comment I make. That doesn’t make the cartoon any more racist than the first time you said it. And Howard Stern does pretty good for himself, not that I’m trying to be the cartooning Stern, by any means. But it’s working for him.

As for the ridiculous reaction to the cartoon, that bastion of rightwing, knuckle-dragging conservatism, The Atlantic, had a great article on how it’s actually damaging to the students’ mental health: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

#25 Dave Stephens
November/9/2015
@ 2:54 pm

Not every political cartoon WILL offend.

But every political cartoon COULD offend.

Or else what’s the point?

All strong opinions offend those with differing strong opinions, however, since disagreement and offense used to be expected, nobody freaked out – nowadays, we have the “Internet brigade of Social Justice Warriors” screaming, “RACISM! SEXISM! CRAP-WE-MADE-UP-ISM!” to save us from Free Speech…

Precious snowflakes indeed…

#26 Mike Lester
November/10/2015
@ 7:42 am

It doesn’t bother me that TDC writes liberal misleading headlines. It bothers me that the AP does:

https://twitter.com/AP/status/663890643786342401?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

The Associated PressVerified account
?@AP
BREAKING: Appeals court rules against Obama’s plan to protect about 5 million people from deportation.

In other words: the AP misspelled “Court votes to uphold Constitution and reject President’s extrajudicial actions”

#27 Rick McKee
November/10/2015
@ 8:39 am

Mike, you have an incorrect opinion regarding illegal immigration.

#28 Terry LaBan
November/10/2015
@ 9:03 am

@Rick McKee
Let me try to explain your cartoon to you, since obviously you don’t understand it. When we look at your image, we see a typical scene of trick or treaters, dismayed to see one of their number jumping a neighborhood fence instead of just going through the gate. The miscreant is dressed not in a typical Halloween costume, but in jeans, a sweatshirt and a hoodie, which, in another context, would not be perceived as unusual attire. Since this not typical trick-or-treater behavior, as viewers our question is “why?” The caption provides the answer–he’s portraying an illegal immigrant.
In this case, the there is no reason to think the fence represents an international border–the fact that it’s only a fence is actually an integral part of the gag. Nor does the kid represent all illegal immigrants, any more than the other figures represent all cowboys or fairy princesses. The image is thus not a metaphorical depiction of illegal immigration. It’s a riff on how illegal immigrants supposedly behave, a notion taken to it’s logical conclusion in an unexpected context.
As for it being “ridiculous” for me to suggest that the fence jumper is stereotypically Mexican, I can only ask why you chose to dress him the way you did. The signifiers here, as I’m sure you’re well aware, point to a Mexican–let’s say Latino–laborer. Indeed, the image makes no sense without that cultural reference. Imagine him wearing a turban or dressed in a suit, both things some illegal immigrants do in fact wear. No one would understand what’s going on. The fact that I recognize that doesn’t mean I’m bringing in my own biases. It just means I know how to read a cartoon.
Look, stereotypes in and of themselves aren’t bad. They’re essential to cartooning, not to mention Halloween costumes. The thing I don’t get is why you’re so outraged at the suggestion you used this particular one. I find it hard to believe you didn’t understand what you were doing when you drew it.

#29 michael shonk
November/10/2015
@ 9:18 am

My problem with editorial cartoons that offend is that they have become as effective as trolls in a comments section on the internet.

I like the idea of an editorial cartoonist attempting to make me think. Sadly, too many editorial cartoonist have joined a team. They have become predictable. Every issue filtered through a Democrat or Republican platform. Endless images preaching to those who agree, meant to upset the other side, and adding little or nothing to the discussion.

This cartoon mildly amused me but certainly did not make me think. It adds nothing new or enlightening to the conversation. Sad, that so many editorial cartoonists seem to think being a troll is their purpose in life.

#30 Rick McKee
November/10/2015
@ 9:35 am

Terry, nowhere have I said I am outraged. I said it was kind of a shame that a cartooning blog and its commenters don’t seem to understand the role of editorial cartooning.

#31 Reflex76
November/10/2015
@ 2:47 pm

“nowadays, we have the ?Internet brigade of Social Justice Warriors? screaming, ?RACISM! SEXISM! CRAP-WE-MADE-UP-ISM!? to save us from Free Speech?”

Actually, that’s just using free speech to call out offensive material.

#32 Reflex76
November/10/2015
@ 2:56 pm

“The Associated PressVerified account
?@AP
BREAKING: Appeals court rules against Obama?s plan to protect about 5 million people from deportation.

In other words: the AP misspelled ?Court votes to uphold Constitution and reject President?s extrajudicial actions?”

Gotta love that this is the kind of thinking that made California so solidly Blue.

About the mid-1990s, privileged white Californians effectively declared war on undocumented immigrants, culminating in Prop 187. The GOP embraced these bigots.

Latinos noticed, and soon overwhelmingly started voting for Democrats. As the Latino population has kept growing, elected Republicans have become nearly non-existent in California.

Current California demographics, biggest groups:

Latinos: 38%
Whites: 37%

Yup, white people are just another minority in the biggest state in the US.

That’s the thing about us Latinos, we don’t forgive, and we don’t forget.

The Great Demographic Shift awaits the rest of the US.

Nice of people like Mr. Lester to guarantee Democratic dominance in the coming decades.

#33 George Gillman
November/10/2015
@ 11:18 pm

Liberals are so oversenitive!! Can’t anyone take a joke any more?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go boycott Starbucks for not having Jesus on their paper cups.

#34 Rick McKee
November/11/2015
@ 9:18 am

I agree with you that the outrage over the Starbucks cups is incredibly stupid. In Missouri, however, students have been advised to call the police if they witness hurtful speech:
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/mizzou-police-issue-advice-for-reporting-hateful-and-or-hurtful/article_f549c11a-1951-5295-a72d-044bf0d20459.html

The police!

#35 Reflex76
November/11/2015
@ 10:14 am

Totally not-racist Rick McKee is now making light of terrorist threats against people of color at University of Missouri:

http://www.abc17news.com/news/mu-increases-security-after-reported-threats/36375446

#36 Pat Crowley
November/11/2015
@ 11:05 am

I thought he was Canadian.

So this is how political cartooning ends? You should all be screaming bloody murder about the way the paper handled the issue.

#37 Reflex76
November/11/2015
@ 11:25 am

Simple facts:

People have a right to be offended.

People have a right to call out what they find offensive.

You do not get to tell other people what they find offensive.

#38 Pat Crowley
November/11/2015
@ 11:34 am

Whiners offend me.

People in power who cave in to whiners and censor unpopular opinions REALLY offend me.

#39 Rick McKee
November/11/2015
@ 1:07 pm

Right on, Pat.

@Reflex76 there’s a difference between a threat of violence and hurtful speech. The link I posted was from the police so students could call 911 if somebody hurt their feelings.

#40 Reflex76
November/11/2015
@ 9:09 pm

“Whiners offend me.

People in power who cave in to whiners and censor unpopular opinions REALLY offend me.”

As is your right.

#41 Brian Fairrington
November/12/2015
@ 2:55 pm

LIving in a free society and having a constitution right to free speech means that some people will be offended by that speech. This is the price we pay for living in a free society.

However, if those that are offended seek to supress speech they find objectionable then this is no longer a truly free society.

To live in a free society you really have to have a thick skin…a small price to pay.

#42 Darrin Bell
November/13/2015
@ 9:26 am

Living in a free society also means coming to terms with the fact any paper is free to cancel your cartoons for any reason.

#43 Reflex76
November/13/2015
@ 9:52 am

“LIving in a free society and having a constitution right to free speech means that some people will be offended by that speech. This is the price we pay for living in a free society.

However, if those that are offended seek to supress speech they find objectionable then this is no longer a truly free society.

To live in a free society you really have to have a thick skin?a small price to pay.”

They’re called consequences.

This xkcd explains it:

https://xkcd.com/1357/

Your free speech isn’t being violated or suppressed, you’re being called out; maybe you should have a thicker skin.

#44 Rick McKee
November/13/2015
@ 11:05 am

Ha! That’s pretty funny. I’ve maintained from the beginning that they’re entitled to their opinion and the paper is certainly free to fire the entire staff if it makes them feel comfortable, because God knows, we want everybody to feel comfortable.

Apparently, I committed a “micro-agression” that violated their “safe space” and should have come with a “trigger warning”!

We’re raising a nation of pansies.

#45 Rick McKee
November/13/2015
@ 11:12 am

Here’s a cartoon that explains it:
http://chronicle.augusta.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/superphoto/superphoto/111215MCKEETOON_web.jpg

#46 Reflex76
November/13/2015
@ 11:40 am

This blog does a great job of calling out bad editorial cartoons:

http://agoodcartoon.tumblr.com/

Mr. McKee is becoming a regular.

#47 Reflex76
November/13/2015
@ 11:47 am

There is something almost comical about privileged white guys complaining about “a nation of pansies,” or “whiners,” or people not having enough of a “thick skin.”

#48 Rick McKee
November/13/2015
@ 11:47 am

Yeah, news flash: A left wing blog is bashing me!
Wow, you are a fount of astounding revelations.

#49 Brian Fairrington
November/13/2015
@ 1:20 pm

Darrin-

I agree with you. However, what if someone cancelled the entire Washington Post lineup because they objected to one of your strips? It is their right to do so but does it make sense?

#50 Darrin Bell
November/13/2015
@ 4:59 pm

Brian, my strips have been dropped by several papers over the years because readers objected to the content, so I don’t say this lightly: It doesn’t have to make sense to us. From our perspective, no it doesn’t make sense. But from a panicky editor’s perspective, it sure does. I could picture him/her thinking “damn, we don’t want to risk running any more stuff like this. There are other syndicates I can buy from.”

We have a right (and I think, a duty) to be provocative. But with that comes inherent risk.

By the way, I’m sure the entire WPWG lineup’s been dropped by some paper, somewhere, for the slightest of reasons. Maybe even because of the content of one cartoon. Or maybe because the editor simply got restless.

At least in this case, Rick, you can say you went down for what you believed in (regardless of whatever the rest of us think of it). It’s better than getting dropped because the editor just got bored with you.

#51 Rick McKee
November/13/2015
@ 5:02 pm

Darrin, yeah, I’m cool with it. There are other fish wrappers in the sea.

#52 John T. Moeller
November/14/2015
@ 3:55 pm

No apologies here – I see much truth in this picture – We have open borders and our President is waiting for action – so he can lead from behind again.

Only fools would tempt fate while they play with the price of manufacturing labor …………

#53 Dave Stephens
November/17/2015
@ 4:40 am

Simpler facts:

People have a right to be offended.
These people are rightly called “Whiny Wimps.”

People have a right to call out what they find offensive.
These people are known to others as “Overly Sensitive…”

You do not get to tell other people what they find offensive….
Unless you have an opinion – then you DO get to tell other people that they are over-reacting…

Simples, right?

#54 DZ
December/1/2015
@ 11:34 pm

I find it particularly revealing that the college’s hypersensitive minority collective response, which represents most campus minorities except for African Americans peculiarly, used the term “denigrating”, which is unambiguously racist, equating “blackness” with “badness”.

When free speech is outlawed, only outlaws will speak freely.

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