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Should We Edit Out the Offensive Cartoons?

We have a policy on our site that we don’t edit cartoons for content. When we accept cartoonists on the site, we post all of their cartoons. Should we edit the cartoons?

We have a policy on our site that we don’t edit cartoons for content.  When we accept cartoonists on the site, we post all of their cartoons.  Should we edit the cartoons? Here’s a new one from one of our regulars, Emad Hajjaj, a top cartoonist in Jordan, along with a reader email urging us not to post the cartoon below.

Daryl,

I have enjoyed your editorial cartoon collections for many years, it is really a great site.  There have been a few occasion when a cartoon would offend and anger me, but   what I saw on your site this week caused me a different reaction : complete bafflement.

I am talking about Emad Hajjaj “cartoon” named “Israeli stole organs of wounded & dead Palestinians.  I am not going to talk about it’s subject.  You certainly know as well as me that this disgusting rumor is an ugly fabrication of a Swedish tabloid; even it’s own editors and it’s alleged palestinian source admitted that it had no ground . Which will make no difference, of course, but that’s our world.

I am not going to talk about Mr. Hajjaj.  I used to respect the his art despite the fact that his views were more than different from mine;  I certainly didn’t expect something that low, idiotic, despicable   and obsene from him.  But apparently that’s Emad Hajjaj.  Maybe one day his greatest fear will be a thought that his grandchildren will find out about this drawing.

What I don’t understand, is what does it do on YOUR site?  Certainly if Dr. Goebbels had a website this drawing would be its centerpiece.  But why did YOU publish it?  There have to be SOME explanation, some reason why you wanted it shown under your heading – even if it means  helping to spread a murderous rumor and bringing to yourself the disgust and revultion of many readers.  You wouldn’t publish a KKK drawing of a black person as an ape or cannibal, or a child pornography picture , would you?  Then – why?

Don’t you think it needs to be explained to your readers? Hope to be able to check your blog.

Sincerely,
Boris I. Bronfine, MD.

By Daryl Cagle

Daryl Cagle is the founder and owner of Cagle Cartoons, Inc. He is one of the most widely published editorial cartoonists and is also the editor of The Cagle Post.

44 replies on “Should We Edit Out the Offensive Cartoons?”

I wouldn't censor it–if you censor one, ALL your dominoes will fall eventually…but perhaps a short note would be appropriate if you KNOW the cartoon is based on a totally fabricated rumor and has no basis in fact. That way, you wouldn't be helping to spread a horrid rumor, and rumors, if fed on the Internet with no-one denying them, do have a way of growing.

Wow, this is a hard one. I have sometimes been insulted or offended by a political cartoon, usually one making fun of President George W. Bush, which I felt was unfair. Part of this is because of my perception that most of the political cartoonists I see are far-left leaning.

But I have never questioned the cartoonist's right to publish his or her work. As a student of history, I know that the right is part of our history of vigourous debate.

The cartoon in question is tasteless and offensive. However, I do not believe you should censor it, any more than I would want you to censor a cartoon that poked fun at Mohammed or President Obama. If you do, you risk hitting that slippery slope we hear about from both sides.

Perhaps some balance or a disclaimer? I am not sure how to handle it.

Perhaps we just all need to hold our noses and get over it?

Censorship in any form is the enemy of creativity, since it cuts off the life blood of creativity: ideas. Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose. The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.

The cartoonist has a tool which can be a light beacon for freedom, truth, justice and free of speech or it can be a tool for manipulating, deforming and destruction of all moral and good principles.

Mr. Emad Hajjaj is well known for his truthful and faithful positions which anyone visiting his site would clearly see; he has his clear standing against terrorism what ever was its origins and whoever is influenced by.

Mr. Boris maybe is forgetting that; if you want justice to reveal, you should respect the freedom of speech first. Stolen organs of wounded & dead Palestinians is not an ugly fabrication of a Swedish tabloid, it is a case which shocked the world and the body organs trafficking network exposed was the largest ever world wide. Just search the internet and check any well known news agency and read about this subject before suggesting any explanation for the readers. Readers are not ignorant and with the current excessive accessibility to knowledge and information through the internet can distinguish between the true and the lie.

Mr. Boris; please be direct and careful when you chose your words and phrases, readers don't like raising subjective questions, it is a very low way. Please give us your opinion on: "What does it do on YOUR site? Certainly if Dr. Goebbels had a website this drawing would be its centerpiece. But why did YOU publish it? There have to be SOME explanation, some reason why you wanted it shown under your heading – even if it means helping to spread a murderous rumor and bringing to yourself the disgust and revultion of many readers. You wouldn’t publish a KKK drawing of a black person as an ape or cannibal, or a child pornography picture , would you? Then – why?".

Wael

It is certainly racist but you certainly shouldn't edit. its classic antisemitic facial caricature whether based on fact or not. and its better for this imbecilic purely propaganda work to have a light shown on it. Dude also needs a typography lesson. I wouldn't edit, dialogue is better. If you censored, folks like me wouldn't be able to declare in public that its simple-minded rumor-mongering garbage (that was never determined as being factual or close to it) and an awful unintelligent propaganda cartoon. Aside from racist, its just a poorly done cartoon. there's no subtly here no sophistication, just an illustrated hatemongering incendiary rumor.

Daryl the fact that there was factual corroboration from over a decade ago makes the cartoon even that much more irresponsible, moronic, and blatantly incendiary. This is not commentary, this is pretty close to shouting fire in a theater, close but i don't want to go there. If he's referring to something that may have happened 10 years ago, and not now (as this cartoon implies by having no reference to a 10 year old incident) then its even worse. Still doesnt mean it should be censored, just called out for what it is, a hate-illustration.

A cartoonist wouldn't dare drawing Mohamed with rockets coming out of his turban; not because of fear or else; because the first principle of communication is "Respect the other".

Since Mohamed, Jesus, Moses or any religion figure is important to the other; the cartoonist won't badly point or present these figures due to his respect of the other and accordingly the respect of himself clearly be readable from level of communication and thinking.

Wael

Daryl, in that article it also states "Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives." in no way implicating this was a practice specifically targeting Palestinians or Arabs, again, making this cartoon even more foolish, and hate-mongering. Shame on the cartoonist for propagating hate, but let his shame be public by not censoring.

Wael, I've often considered doing a series of cartoons depicting nothing other than leading religious and political figures in the most racist, sexist, degrading, objectifying, atrocious manner possible. But all at once, and then naming it "Politically Correct."

Two purposes to it, too – one, because barriers exist only because somebody drove the fencepost into the ground arbitrarily, and second because I love pissing off people who take cartoons way too seriously.

Okay, sure, so maybe one reason is slightly more admirable than the other, but still. :- P

Oh, and most importantly – KUDOS to you Daryl for running the cartoon!

Lexingtoon, I have two questions, can you give me your feedback on them:

In order to communicate properly and to preserve all parties rights; shouldn't barriers and fencepost be established and agreed on first?

What do you think; should a person takes cartoons seriously?

This piece of crap is just another shabby example of the old "blood libel". The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sad.

The fact that the harvesting happened a decade ago is irrelevant — it was just confirmed and therefore the clock starts running now. More relevant is that the revelation of harvesting is that it was not the taking of organs from dead soldiers in a specific conflict but, rather, overall disrespect for the dead and their families, and a type of disrespect that would produce some religious issues for at least some of them.

So the issue with this cartoon is that it uses the true fact of harvesting to perpetuate a rumor about organs taken from fallen soldiers. Granted, the stakes are high in this case. But in the US, we've seen cartoons about "death panels" for health care, about Al Gore claiming to have "invented the Internet" and about how if it snows, that proves global warming is a myth.

I don't like cartoons that misstate facts, but they go back to the roots of editorial cartooning — Abe Lincoln, Andy Jackson and others were also the targets of cartoons that played fast-and-loose with the facts.

Write a letter of protest and then go back to your life. This style of commentary is not going to disappear.

Just to clarify, Israel didn't admit to harvesting organs from anyone; it admitted that organs were harvested by a doctor at an gov't run medical facility, who then sold these organs and assorted other body parts to people looking for organs, or medicals schools looking for parts. In other words, it seems to have been by an individual, not a matter of gov't policy. Furthermore, the doctor in question did this not just to Palestinians, but Israelis, foreign tourists, and anyone else whose corpse managed to land on his table. As far as this cartoon being a depiction of "facts" as one poster suggested, please note the cartoon suggests that Israel took organs from "wounded" Palestinians, meaning that Palestinians were actually killed for their organs, which is completely unsubstantiated.

Given the fact that Israel uses the star of David on it's flag, it's at times difficult to separate antisemitism from antizionism in political cartoons. In this case, the star is pretty clearly a Jewish symbol as opposed to a national symbol (and check out the nose on Frankenstein's monster–but I'll be generous and presume the artist doesn't think that Dr. Frankenstein was a member of the Tribe).

Ultimately, if you're going to feature political cartoonists from the Arab world today, you're going to end up with some antisemitic cartoons. Not a reason to exclude them, but that's the reality.

Wael:

"In order to communicate properly and to preserve all parties rights; shouldn’t barriers and fencepost be established and agreed on first?" That could be argued, yes. However, the problem arises when someone takes it upon themselves to decide where everyone else should think the line is. It's not up to me to decide what you should think is appropriate or not, and the reverse is true, too. This cartoon is something of a travesty, if it is false – but I would never, ever dare to suggest anyone take it down. I don't think it's ever right to tell someone else how to run their life.

"What do you think; should a person takes cartoons seriously?" That depends totally on the context. If a cartoon is printed in the funny pages, should I take someone lampooning the NRA as a threat to our second-amendment – probably not. On the other hand, let's say someone publishes a regular, series serial online and consistently has anarchist and violent themes running in both the cartoon and the author's notes below the comic. Then one day, he makes a comic of himself saying "I'm off to kill the President!" That would be a reason to take a cartoon seriously.

Basically, you must balance it against the author's intent. In this case, I'm going to go ahead and say I think the cartoonist was misinformed, but did not write this cartoon out of intentional malice, but instead from outrage over what he perceived to be a great trampling and desecration of the dead. Thus while his cartoon may ring intentionally offensive if the story it's based on is a fabrication, I think it's the case that it's unintentionally so.

Any time someone reads a cartoon and is instantly incensed and outraged over it, I will tell them to read -more- and see if they've missed something. Because they almost always have.

Every person has their own tolerance for ideas conveyed in either the spoken or written word. Since day one of our Republic, Americans have had zero tolerance for censorship. We all have the freemdom to look away if we happen to view something that offends us, but again the same subject or topic doesn't affect any two people the same way. The cartoon in question didn't upset me in the least since the Middle East has been the site of brutal acts for thousands of years. I was more put off by the cartoon comparing the 'blue people' of Avatar with a freezing homeless family begging for help outside the theater. So there everyone. The social mores of all people are diverse and must be respected.

This transparency is probably the best way to address this issue. As a default, I would say to not censor or edit cartoons. It's in the interest of your site to promote all opinions, not certain ones. However misinformed it is doesn't really come into play, then.

Perhaps the most convincing agrument for publishing this drawing is that it had lead to such discussion. I admit that many points raised here are valid. At the very least, it may be important for the granchildren of todays Arabs to see it just as it is important for today's Germans to know about Nazi propaganda.

However, when I try to figure out what exactly in it caused my reaction, I still come up with at least two issues:
First, it is indeed the one of "crying "Fire!" in a crowded theater" . Worse, repeating this cry while knowing that it is false.
Second, it is the basic-decency factor. Let's be frank : the name Daryl gave to this discussion is incorrect. We are not talking here about something just offending or insulting. Emad Hajjij's cartoons were often biased, insulting or offending to Israel and Jews – this is different. If I go around calling my neighbor thief and crook, that's an insult. If I spread the lie that he stole my wallet, this is not just an offence – this is a libel ( felony, isn't it?) . And what do you call me if I declare that he stole, killed and ate a child? Are the normal people who know that this is a disgusting lie under obligation to reprint it in the interest of freedom of speach?

If a person makes an obscene racist comment in my house, in front of my children, he will sure not be welcomed there anymore . They will have to enjoy their "freedom of speach" outside. The site is not different, isn't it? Perhaps we are too politically correct in the opposite direction if we don't feel that it is right to just show such person the door.

Sincerely, Boris B.

I just want to thank Daryl for posting the link to the newspaper stating that this is a fact and not a rumor. As for the cartoon it cannot be more offensive than the facts we see every day in the news..should we censor these as well? it is not meant to be shown to kids anyway…

Amy Alkon,

When you say "The Quran is meant to be taken literally, and the Verse of the Sword commands Muslims to convert or kill the infidel……"

One should STUDY THE HISTORY OF SPREADING OF ISLAM IN DEPTH before throwing accusations….

Amy—"kill the infidel"—Christians and Jews are NOT infidel to Muslims. They are "people of the book", ie. sister religions.

"Jews and Christians don’t endanger our lives"—No, they endanger the lives of Muslims. Who killed more, the 9/11 bombers or the US and UK military? And look at the history of Jerusalem, what happens when Christians and Jews take over as compared to when Muslims took over and ruled?

Obviously this cartoon has lead to different directions other than the cartoon itself…and the idea of answering to some of the posters is not for the posters themselves who may have for some reason their own twisted way of understanding facts….but other innocent readers are worth knowing the truth in some regards….
The thing about "Christian churches are burnt down in Muslim countries is "science fictions" considering that it has happened in history and in all religions to have people demolish "houses of God" regardless of the religion…what the poster is referring to is a single case maybe in one of the Arabic countries but surely by individuals probably "intruders" just to mutelate the picture of the goverment in which it took place…

By the way in the country from where the cartoonist Hajjaj comes from, churches and mosques are standing beautifully together in the horizon and..Christians and Muslims are best neighbours, and co-workers with more than fair chances for each…

By the way Dubai is an Arabic country..and I see a lot of Europeans and Americans more than willing to have their businesses and employment over there among other Gulf Arabic countries..had it been as barbaric as the poster implemented noone would have dared go there…isn't this worth thinking about..

Anyone who has a question in this regard is more than welcome to visit any Arab country to see for themselves how people of other religions are treated.

Amy,

If Islam is as you said; why Islam is number 1 most spreading religion in the world?!!!! It is expected in 2020 to be number 1 in the world and Christianity 2. This is from the CNN if you want to check. Why Muslims celebrate Christmas and New Year with Christians and the opposite is not happening?! Why till date; there are Christians and Jews living between Muslims and they have their worshiping places since 1400 years (since Islam ruling Middle East)?! Why people from America, Europe and Russia go's to Dubai or Bahrain to celebrate Christmas and New Year?! Why they like to work in the Gulf countries and trust me when I say I have friends from UK, France, Greece and Cicily who are Christians and work in Bahrain and Jordan since 20 years and more and they with their families had the Bahrain and Jordan nationalities and not interested to go back to their original countries?!

I have close friends and neighbors who are Christians and we celebrate each other happy religious occasions, our families are neighbors since hundred of years; so how the hell our Christian neighbors and friends managed and bear to live between the terrorist Muslims?!

By the way; why the terrorist Muslim countries has regulations which prevent discussing or presenting badly any religious figure of any religion?! Do you know that not a single church was touched in the era of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, why that happened after USA LIBERATE Iraqis from SH rule?!

Comments by the posters went out of the original orientation; at the end; we are all equal and no one and not any country is above the law.

Why not?!! Stealing lands, farms and now body organs. Don't ask why otherwise you will be accused with anti-Semitism LOL,

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