The Michael Ramirez Ruckus Roundup – with a side of Steve Bell and Monte Wolverton

It has been a week or so since the brouhaha of the Michael Ramirez editorial cartoon that appeared in The Washington Post that brought accusations of racism and and led to the newspaper pulling the cartoon. Since then Michael has responded with interviews and the right-wing has been all-in for bashing the liberal Post. But Michael has also replied in a more personal manner by way of a cartoon and an opinion piece for Newsweek (which later ran in his home paper The Las Vegas Review-Journal).

© Las Vegas Review-Journal/Michael Ramirez

The Newsweek essay is a must-read where Michael defends his cartoon and his critics.

Most people would be horrified. Yet in an interview on Lebanese television, Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad hailed the brutal October 7 attack and pledged to repeat the October 7 attack again and again until Israel is “removed,” claiming Hamas “was the victim,” therefore “everything they do is justified.”

That interview was the inspiration for a recent cartoon I drew for the Washington Post depicting Gazi Hamad and his human shields.

[The] cartoon was designed with specificity. Its focus is on a specific individual and the statements he made on behalf of a specific organization he represents—their claims of victimhood, and the plight of innocent Palestinians used as pawns in their political and military strategy.

After describing the purposes of political cartoons Michael goes on to disparage his critics actions:

Today, political correctness and the woke movement have defined words and images as weapons that should be banned for offending political categories and self-defined oppressed groups. It is tolerance of all ideas—except those they disagree with

“Take Two” by Michael Ramirez

Michael then pivots:

I do not mind being attacked for my cartoons. People should be emotionally invested in their politics. While the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech, it does not insulate you from the consequences of your speech. I accept that. It is part of the job.

I stand by the cartoon—and I stand by my critics’ right to condemn it.

The Newsweek piece includes a wonderful montage of political figures and Michael’s caricatures of them.

This brings us to a column that editorial cartoonist and Cagle Cartoons syndicator Daryl Cagle wrote about the recent, and disturbing, trend of newspapers withdrawing, disavowing, and apologizing for cartoons they have published.

People who like to draw serious political cartoons for a living – people like me – have to be extra careful in these divisive times.

In just the last month three major newspapers – the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Guardian in Britain – have pulled down or decided not to publish cartoons drawn by the best editorial cartoonists in the world.

Michael Ramirez, Monte Wolverton and Steve Bell each bravely applied their talents and opinions to the brutal war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas that started Oct. 7.

For their troubles, they were charged with being Islamophobic, anti-Semitic or racist by readers, their fellow journalists and editorial boards. Bell was even fired.

above: one of a few cartoons similar to Ramirez’s – this one © Daryl Cagle

While Daryl’s heading “Cartoonists are Casualties of War Too” may be a bit melodramatic in this case, since there have been and are actual casualties in war, he does point to the “dangers” of cartooning a war.

Ramirez was charged with excusing Israel’s war crimes and pushing Israeli military talking points and accused of being a racist for his malicious, offensive and “grotesque caricature” of a Palestinian.

What happened last month at the Philadelphia Inquirer [link added] to my good friend Monte Wolverton was another example of how careful editorial cartoonists have to be today.

It ran in many other newspapers without any complaints, but the Inquirer reconsidered and decided to take it down and apologize because its editors thought the cartoon reinforced “pernicious anti-Semitic tropes about Israeli aggression.”

The most outlandish – and unjustified — case of cartoon cancelling happened to the highly respected Steve Bell of the Guardian newspaper in Britain. He was fired after 40 years at the paper, over a cartoon that was never even published.

While I still maintain Bell was fired for taking the beef public, Daryl’s point of endangered cartoonists remains.

© The Guardian/Steve Bell

And on the travails of Steve Bell

Brighton, UK, Nov 17 (EFE).- Steve Bell, the renowned British cartoonist, has accused The Guardian newspaper of damaging his reputation by discontinuing his work over a caricature of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allegedly evoking anti-Semitism.

Judith Mora for Agencia EFE, S.A. reports on Steve Bell’s possible action against The Guardian.

[Bell] emphasized that by not using his work, The Guardian essentially declared him “persona non grata.”

Bell indicated that he is in contact with the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and is contemplating legal action. “There is a slur in my reputation because they are not using (my work).”

Finally, I’ll add this link to this recent The Times of London article, “Is it becoming impossible to be a cartoonist in 2023?” It is behind a paywall so I have no idea what it says but may be relevant.

2 thoughts on “The Michael Ramirez Ruckus Roundup – with a side of Steve Bell and Monte Wolverton

  1. 1. Ramirez: Clear metaphor, cartoon succeeds.
    2. Cagle: Babies don’t explode. Suicide Belts are so second intifada.
    3. Wolverton: clear metaphor. Unfortunate semiotics, but there’s no mistaking his intent.
    4. Steve Bell: I feel like I know everything there is to know about this one, and I still can’t parse it. It’s like the Finnegan’s Wake of Hamas/Israel cartoons.

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