CSotD: Voices in the Dark

Stephff (Stephane Peray) is a well-respected international cartoonist, giving up what I’m sure was a major portion of his income, not to mention his hometown paper, on an issue of principle. Bado has a little more info on his blog.

Earlier this year, Stephff also gave up cartooning for the Arab News, and issued a longer explanation which Patrick Chappatte reproduced. The issue was more obvious in that case: You can’t expect a Saudi paper to let you talk about the war in Yemen or the murder of Khassoghi.

And last month he quit cartooning for the Nation, over both management and the fact that he hadn’t been paid in two months, though this appears to be “You can’t fire me, I quit,” since they were not renewing his work permit. (He is a French national, though well established in Thailand.)

I have no idea what any of these papers were paying him, but between the Post and the Nation he’s surely given up a major portion of his income. Fortunately, he has a secondary life as a fine artist and, last I knew, was also an art dealer in Thai works.

So I’m not breaking out the violins for him so much as for the concept of free speech in an increasingly closed-off world.

Several people over many years have observed that the free press belongs to those who own one, but it’s important to remember that, in the days of our own revolution, owning a press wasn’t such an astonishing thing.

There were all sorts of little newspapers and pamphlets being struck off, though the odds of someone like Thomas Paine emerging and reaching a national audience were rather high. Most of those voices of dissent were passed around locally.

OTOH, there weren’t a lot of major newspapers in those days, either, and the ground was considerably more level.

Today, the dialogue is largely dominated by major outlets, whether those are large newspapers or CNN, Fox News and the like.

Still, there is the potential for electronic samizdat, as Pedro X. Molina and his comrades in exile are proving with an on-line publication that defies the Nicaraguan government, and there are angels willing to finance more widespread ventures like Counterpoint and the Daily Maverick until they can become self-sustaining.

And as Davy Crockett told us, though maybe only in the Disney series, “A little fella can lick a big fella, if he knows he’s in the right and keeps on a-comin’.”

And as he most surely did say in the wake of losing re-election to the House after defying Jackson on the Indian Removal Act,

I would rather be beaten and be a man than to be elected and be a little puppy dog. I have always supported measures and principles and not men. I have acted fearless and independent and I never will regret my course. I would rather be politically buried than to be hypocritically immortalized.

Go thou and do likewise.


Meanwhile, the whole world is watching while their leaders dither and pretend they cannot see, as Greek cartoonist John Antono points out.

It’s a brilliant cartoon, as Hevrin Khalaf’s eyes look into ours and demand that we explain our indifference.

And if Erdogan did not himself personally murder her, he gave the orders that resulted in her death, and, for that matter, so did Donald Trump, while Putin washed his hands and the EU buried its head in the sand.

There are two issues here: How many people does Antono reach, and how can we reach the people in our own country?

I have no idea of the first.

As to the second, there is an appeal to national pride, well addressed in this piece by Nomi Kane. I wish it had run in something more grassrootsy than the New Yorker, but I suppose it reached a few oligarchs there, and I doubt People Magazine or Sports Afield would have been interested anyway.


Jim Morin focuses more on Putin as Puppetmaster, and this should reach those who once shouted “Go Back to Russia!” at war protesters, except that most of them have died of old age and it’s their children who don’t seem to see any conflict between Trump’s infatuation with Putin and Republican attempts to smear Democrats as “communists.”


Kevin Siers illustrates the matter by contrasting Trump with two predecessors, at least one or the other of whom must surely resonate with most viewers.

Perhaps not “most.” Half of America was eight years old or younger when Reagan left office. Reagan is an airport; Kennedy is a space center.

And nobody knows what the hell a “Kurd” is, except that the President says they didn’t fight with us at Valley Forge.

Besides, leaving them to die in Syria is no different than claiming heel spurs and sending some other, more honest, American off to the rice paddies.

Like cheating on your taxes, it means you’re smart.

Yet beyond the true-believing Deplorables, there is a mass of people who have not been reached, but could be.


Those pamphlets and broadsides printed in the rebellious colonies did not distribute themselves. When the major news outlets are out of the picture, it’s up to the people who care to spread the word … and the graphics.


Boss Tweed famously said his followers didn’t read, and Trump could similarly claim that his followers don’t read newspapers, but they do see social media, and they would see Mike Marland‘s cartoon if it were adequately shared.

It’s not so much a matter of the crime or even of the cover-up, but one of whether the stark accusations of people like Pia Guerra (or Stephff, or John Antoro) are seen by enough people to prick the national conscience and swing the national mood.


Meanwhile, a little public ridicule couldn’t hurt: if Graeme Keyes ever transforms his cartoon into a T-shirt, I’d happily wear one down the street.