Last weekend I was at the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention in Sacramento. I’ve been going to this for more than 20 years and it is nice to see old cartoonist buddies. This first pic is five of us having lunch in a pie shop. From left, that’s Tim Eagan, Pedro Molina, Kevin Siers, the New Zealand Herald’s Rod Emmerson and me. Mmm. Pie.
Pedro is in a dangerous spot in Nicaragua, where government goons are attacking civilians under the direction of strongman Daniel Ortega. He won the CRNI Courage in Cartooning Award this year, given to him by cartoonist Zunar from Malaysia, who is quite a hero himself, having recently faced years in prison as the regime cracked down on him, Zunar’s case was thrown out as the regime changed. Not all of the cartooning news is bad news.
Here’s my Canadian cartoonist buddy, Graema MacKay of the Hamilton Spectator winning awards from the leader of the of our cartoonist buddies to the North, and my new buddy, Wes Tyrell.
A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a woman who called herself, generically enough, Mary. She said she wanted to hire me to “make cartoony of” a portrait of her family, so she could give it to her husband for his birthday. She attached a photo of her husband, two kids and herself. (See the photo at the top of this web site). She also let me know that she was engaged in humanitarian work, shuttling between Nepal and Australia, helping earthquake victims. Commendable. Damn commendable.
Why not? I thought. I can squeeze it in. I quoted her a price—not cheap, but I have bills to pay, Mary’s humanitarianism notwithstanding. I followed my standard policy for people I don’t know (and some I do)—credit card only, half up front. She got right back to me and said she would be paying by check, and therefore needed my cell phone number. I got right back to her and said sorry—credit cards only and I don’t give out my cell phone number. I never heard back, and didn’t give it a second thought.
A day or two later I learned that a cartoonist friend had taken her assignment. He did the requested family portrait and received a check for the amount he had agreed upon—plus $4,000. He emailed her and she said no problem—she had miswritten the amount. Go, ahead, she said. Cash the check, send her another check for $4,000 and keep the rest. At this point my friend realized that scamminess was afoot. He never cashed the check, but he lost valuable time doing work for nothing.
I can cast no aspersions because I myself almost fell for it. In retrospect, as usual, I could see four red flags. Who can tell me what they were? Okay, never mind—I’ll tell you.
1) Mary’s family photo was a little too cute. An ecstatically happy Caucasian family at the park—all grinning idiotically, with exceptionally good teeth. It had that slick stock-photo quality. Further, a Canon digital SLR is strapped around Mary’s neck. She’s white and blonde, yet she writes in broken English. “Make cartoony of”? Okay, maybe she’s Latvian, but probably not.
2) Why doesn’t she have a credit card? After all, she’s got a spendy camera, she shuttles between countries, and the kids in her photo have designer jeans. She writes checks for this stuff?
3) Why does she need my cell phone number to write a check?
4) Why do I need to know about her humanitarian work? Perhaps she was just sharing.
Oh, I almost forgot. Mary’s initial email came through the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) website. She was apparently looking for cartoonists to scam. Really — why editorial cartoonists? C’mon! We don’t make a ton of money. Most of us need other sources of income to support our cartooning habit. We fight for the oppressed and downtrodden. We stand against injustice, greed and exploitation. For that we get hate mail and death threats. Why not scam greedy hyper-capitalists and human traffickers instead? Here’s a suggestion for cartoonists. The next time a scammer emails you, go ahead and agree to do the work. Then send them a terrible, poorly rendered cartoon with awful perspective, garish colors, bizarre anatomy and confusingly tangent lines. Sign it as Marc Chagall. Few people will be able to tell the difference, but the scammer will likely be arrested when he or she tries to pass it off as genuine. And you’ll feel good.
Just kidding. I love Marc Chagall.
I’d be interested to know how many cartoonists fell for this one. I got this e-mail too.
I Googled the scammer’s e-mail address and found a post on the “Grand River Woodturners Guild” Facebook page, dated October 5th, warning of basically the same scam and noting that “all woodturners are getting this e-mail.” For the woodturners, the e-mail came from a man who was asking for a vase to be made for his wife.
Ambassador Michael Oren
Embassy of Israel to the United States
3514 International Dr. N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Dear Ambassador Oren,
I am writing to urge Israeli authorities to release a Palestinian political cartoonist, Mohammad Saba’aneh, who was jailed by the Israeli Defense Forces, on February 16th, at a border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan. He is being held without charge and is denied access to an attorney. Under Israeli law, Muhammad may be held indefinitely without charge. Only Israeli authorites know why he is imprisoned.
Muhammad is a cartoonist for Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, and he works at the Arab American University in Jenin on the West Bank. He is a respected cartoonist; he is not a terrorist or a criminal. Arab cartoonists often draw ugly, racist, offensive cartoons about Israel, but Muhammad’s cartoons are not among those; his work, although critical, is more balanced and artful.
Click on the photo above to read more about Saba’aneh’s plight from the Cartoonists Rights Network site.
I met Muhammad in 2010, when the U.S. State Department sent him to our Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention in Florida, where he got to meet many of his American colleagues. Muhammad told me he was a fan of my work; he is a charming guy, eager to show his own cartoons to all of his new friends. Muhammad is active in the global cartooning community and cartoonists around the world are closely following the story of his plight in Israel.
I run a small business, Cagle Cartoons, Inc., that syndicates the work of cartoonists from around the world to over 850 subscribing newspapers, including half of the daily, paid-circulation newspapers in America. Among the cartoonists we distribute is Yaakov Kirschen, the cartoonist who draws Dry Bones for The Jerusalem Post; Yaakov’s cartoons run in Jewish newspapers throughout the USA. Our American editorial cartoonists are great supporters of Israel, in contrast to cartoonists from the rest of the world who harshly criticize Israel. The contrast is easy to see as editorial cartoons reflect world opinion. American cartoonists are Israel’s most visible suporters, and my own small business is the leader in distributing these views for America and the world to see.
It seems clear that Muhammad has been jailed to chill his cartoons that are critical of Israel. Instead, this ugly incident risks chilling Israel’s most visible supporters in America’s press, at a time when Israel needs our support more than ever.
American cartoonists like to see Israel as a champion of democracy and press freedom in a hostile Middle East – Muhammad’s case undermines that perception and seems to be a clumsy attempt to silence the press. This incident makes Israel appear to be no better than its repressive neighbors.
I’m writing to you in the hope that you will urge the authorities in Israel to release Muhammad, return him to his family and allow us to again see Israel as a democracy that respects a free press.
President, Cagle Cartoons, Inc.
This past weekend, editorial cartoonists from all across the country gathered in Washington, D.C. for our yearly Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) convention.
C-SPAN aired a segment about the role editorial cartoonists play in journalism featuring syndicated cartoonist Mark Fiore and our very own John Cole, the staff cartoonist for the Scranton Times-Tribune (whom I syndicate via Cagle Cartoons).