The cartoon that provoked 1000 complaints

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Cartoon of the series Six Chix of Bianca Xunise of Tuesday 28 July 2020 served by the agency King Features Syndicate for different media.

The unmasked white woman says to the masked black woman wearing the T-shirt with the slogan “I can’t breathe”:

“If you can’t breathe, take off that silly mask!”

Cancelled

Some of the newspapers where this cartoon appeared communicated their decision to stop publishing the Six Chic strip, some even planted an apology in the place where their next strip was to appear, calling it inappropriate and offensive and also asking for an apology from the agency.

La viñeta que provocó 1000 quejas

“Tuesday’s edition included a Six Chix cartoon that was inappropriate and offensive. We have notified the agency provies the comic that we will no longer publish Six Chix in our newspaper as a result. We ´ve also requested an apology from them.

Our apologies for a cartoon that reflected the exact opposite of what we stand for as a newspaper”.

The author of the cartoon, who shared this screenshot of a media outlet’s apology, not only has no intention of apologising for the joke, she also considers it an act of censorship.

“So, apparently, responses from those offended caused my cartoon to disappear from some newspapers and an apology, which I did not approve of, is appearing in its place. For the record, I do not apologise for this cartoon and this is censorship.”

Decision which he endorses Tea Berry-Blue, its publisher, who has made it clear that the agency also does not intend to apologise.

Bianca Xunise is clear: “I’m being silenced by white sentiment for a humorous cartoon. This is a complete step backwards in the wrong direction.

The cartoon that provoked 1000 complaints
Bianca Xunise. Instagram @biancaxunise

After posting on Twitter what Xunise calls“the cartoon that provoked 1000 angry responses”, explained her idea and what she thought about how it was misinterpreted.

And she wanted to clarify: “It’s easy to assume that the white woman talking to me is racist, that may or may not be true, but that’s not the point

 
   

“The point of the cartoon is how white people see problems affecting black people as trivial” (…) “not systemic”

“The whole debate about the mask has been compared to oppression, something I find incredibly offensive.

“The fact that white people want to denounce oppression now because they have to do their civic duty to protect others is not the black struggle at all”.

Offended here, there and everywhere

What is curious is the spectrum of complaints, which do not go in a single direction as usual. Some see it as “not only defaming Floyd(See with VPN) and the Black Lives Matter movement, but also trampling on the well-established scientific fact that masks are not ‘dumb’, that they are important in stopping COVID-19 and saving lives”.

Others, however, feel that it unfairly and gratuitously attacks white and/or rampaging anti-mask denialists. There are also those who believe it is a flawed or poorly resolved cartoon because it is misunderstood, can be interpreted in different ways or is simply not funny. This time there’s a lot of kicking and screaming to go around.

About Six Chix

Six Chix is a daily comic strip that is published in more than 125 newspapers in the United States and other countries. What is not clear to me is whether the decision by some newspapers to cancel Six Chix will now also rebound on the other five female authors.

Six Chix is drawn by six women, one day of the week each, and then they rotate to take over the Sunday strips Isabella Bannerman she draws on Mondays, Bianca Xunise tuesdays, Susan Camilleri Konar wednesdays, Mary Lawton thursdays, Maritsa Patrinos fridays and Stephanie Piro draws on Saturdays. Each author writes and draws with her own style and perspective. The subject matter of the jokes is varied and can be about economics, technology, even zombies or health-related issues. The main characters in the strips are women.

The Six Chix series was created in the year 2000 by Jay Kennedy (1956-2007) when he was the editor-in-chief of King Features. He wanted to launch new authors and try to attract more women creators and readers to comics. With Six Chix he got what he wanted. In 2014, Six Chix received a nomination from the National Cartoonists Society for best newspaper comic strip of the year.

Opinion on the fly

For any author or reader of a certain age, giving an opinion on this is already exhausting. It’s repeating over and over again, looking for variations on the same old thing to keep spinning in the same old circle.

A few days ago i spoke for a long time with the colleague Cristian Sáncheza Colombian cartoonist for the daily El Espectador and Publimetro who signs as X-tian and lives in Spain.

 
   

Cristian is doing a Masters in New Journalism and Political Communication at the University of Valencia and his final project is about the transformations of graphic humour under the new political correctness, for which he asked me for opinions that he would add to those of other well-known graphic humourists from Spain and Colombia whom he has interviewed.

The cartoon that provoked 1000 complaints

I tried to defend that the issues that provoke the controversies that lead to fights with harmful effects for the authors haven’t changed that much, that essentially they are almost always the same. I also wanted to take some of the drama out of the waves of offended people, because although they are intense, they tend to subside almost as quickly as they rise up. That’s how quickly everything expires in today’s marketplace of opinion and attention.

Perhaps we are now quicker and quicker to take offence at anything, we think less before we take offence, or we are simply more visible as an angry mass, and this has contributed to making indignation the official sport of the internet. Nor do we yet know if the resurgence of the “cancellation” culture is endemic or if it may even get worse.

The point is that each of these passages is stripping me of arguments to take the heat out of virtual bashing. The unconditional handing over of a dangerous and overwhelming power to an undefined mass to judge, sentence and punish opinions almost as if it were an unwritten divine law is becoming naturalised.

The cartoon that provoked 1000 complaints

It is worrying the cowardice of those media that so quickly remove an author from their pages by the grace of simple criticisms, be they ten or ten thousand.

Criticisms that both those who issue them, the cartoonists, and the media should already have more than assumed as basic rules of the game of freedom of expression without anyone having to lose their job or have serious problems for receiving them, even less for a joke. For a fucking joke.

The cartoon that provoked 1000 complaints

Humour in trouble, a collection of cases (III)
Cases of cartoonists who have had problems of some importance because of their cartoons or satirical illustrations. There are also some stories of other people who, without being cartoonists, have got into trouble for sharing them.

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