When a joke isn’t funny, the case of Don Edi

 
Cuando un chiste no hace gracia, el caso de Don Edi

Cartoon by Eduard Torres in the Diari de Terrassa.

Judge: Why did you hit your partner?
Man: I thought it was the day of the purple ones.

First case of 2017 for the list. This cartoon by Eduard Torres, who signs as “Don Edi”, was published on Tuesday 14 February in the Diari de Terrassa, in its paper edition. And it provoked an outpouring of complaints. The peculiar thing about this ruckus is that the newspaper’s workers have spoken out to reject the drawing.

Podem, PSC and CUP, along with several city councillors, also expressed their indignation at the content and message of the image.

From the Gender Policy Service of the Terrasa City Council they criticise the cartoon the newspaper published a shameful and regrettable report and expects a public apology soon.

Don Edi

Noemí de la Calle, Ciudadanos deputy in the Catalan Parliament and spokesperson for Social Affairs and Equality, describes it as an unpresentable trivialisation of gender violence.

When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi

The following day, the newspaper’s workers issued a statement, which is also published in the paper edition, expressing their “most forceful rejection”. They dissociate themselves from the cartoon, considering it to be totally reprehensible for its misogynist tone in which it trivialises gender violence.

When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi

On the same day a letter from LGTB Terrassa was also published.

“We find it totally unacceptable that the suffering of so many people who suffer violence is mocked in the media, even in a satirical way. Unfortunately, this action contributes to a micromachismo that inflames the spirits and jokes of abusers.

We ask for more responsibility from the professionals who work in communication and that they join the fight; we know the professional trajectory of Don Edi and we hope that this was a slip of the tongue, but that does not mean that it is free from condemnation”.

When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi

Diari de Terrassa 15/02/2017

Don Edi’s joke in the headlines

Almost all the headlines already carried the sentence: the cartoon was sexist, they spoke of mockery and frivolity, emphasising that the workers of the newspaper rejected it.

When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi
When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi
When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi
When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi
When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi
When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi
When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi
When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi
When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi

Reactions

On 15 February, the newspaper published a note an apology from the cartoonist

Public note by Mr. Edi

15.02.2017 | 18:44

I am very sorry that a joke made by me has given rise to so much unrest. After publishing 30,000 jokes, this has never happened to me before. I’m sorry that the reader interpreted a play on words as an apology for abuse. I am a person who does not accept any kind of abuse.

I apologise wholeheartedly to anyone who was offended by the joke; it was not my intention.

Mr. Edi

An hour later, the newspaper published an editorial entitled Error:

Mistake

EDITORIAL 15.02.2017 | 19:56

In the course of a day, countless decisions are made, some of which may be inconvenient, inappropriate and wrong. Any one of those adjectives (there are bound to be those who could use harsher ones) could be used to define the decision to publish Mr Edi’s cartoon in our edition of Tuesday, 14 February. We consider the joke to be inopportune, unfortunate, in bad taste and that its reading could be understood as trivialising an issue as dramatic and of such social transcendence as violence against women. It goes without saying that this was not our intention when it came to giving visibility to the joke. In this case, it is not enough to remember that Diari de Terrassa does not necessarily share, as is the case, the opinions expressed by its collaborators; on this occasion, moreover, we must recognise the error and publicly apologise to our readers, men and women, as it is not a gender heritage to feel offended by an unfortunate gesture, also recognised by its author, who also apologises in today’s edition. Nor was there any offence in the intention of our contributor.

The editorial principles of Diari de Terrassa have always been on the side of values and the defence of individual rights; never in our forty years of history has the editorial line of our newspaper been separated from radicalism in their defence. That is why we regret that an error could call into question this trajectory. Although the debate is not a peaceful one, as we have had occasion to see in cases of international importance, for us freedom of expression has always been limited by respect for human rights. It is true that freedom of expression, even as a fundamental right, must be weighed and cannot always be understood above other constitutional rights.

We take this sad episode as an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to justice, equality, freedom and the dignity and integrity of people, especially women, who are still unequal in many areas of our society. This is not only an apology, it is also an exercise of responsibility towards our readers and towards the city of Terrassa. From the humility of the apology, we hope that it can be understood in this way and we hope that, without avoiding the seriousness of what happened, the reading of this episode will not be understood as an error in the functioning of our internal filters and not as a denial of this newspaper of the right to dignity and integrity of people.

Communiqué of the City Council of Terrassa

Some media published that the Department of Gender Policies of Terrassa City Council had announced that it was going to take legal action against the newspaper for the publication of the illustration, so I spoke on the phone with Natalia Perona Vizcaíno, head of the women’s services of the Department of Gender Policies of the City Council, to ask her about this issue.

Natalia told me that on the afternoon of Thursday 16 February the “8 March” Commission, made up of different women’s groups and organisations, as well as the municipal groups and trade unions, would be meeting to draw up a communiqué.

It also assures that this issue has provoked more than one local debate and insists that sexist messages, from broadcast platforms such as the media, are very harmful and deteriorate the work of awareness-raising.

In their response communiqué, as well as rejecting the message conveyed by the cartoon, they thank the newspaper for their message and all the people who have joined in their rejection of the cartoon.

They also recall that the newspaper has ignored the invitation of the organisations of the 8 March commission to know the actions they are carrying out and that “it has allowed, without any filter, the expression of clearly anti-feminist ideas”.

We recommend, in this sense, a detailed analysis of the contents, which would allow us to see how little visibility and authority this media gives to women, to women’s organisations and groups, and to feminist struggles. On more than one occasion, the newspaper has ignored the invitation of the organisations of the March 8th Commission to learn more about and disseminate the actions it carries out in favour of equality between women and men, and instead has allowed, without any kind of filter, the expression of clearly anti-feminist ideas.

In addition to accepting “with nuances” the apology of the cartoonist, they consider that the Terrassa newspaper is characterised by a line that is “not very sensitive to gender issues”. And that “this was not the only misogynist episode”.

They also offer to advise the newspaper on how to incorporate a gender perspective into its news reporting, in accordance with current legislation and, in particular, with the Municipal Regulations on Equality.

The acceptance, with nuances, of the note of apology from the cartoonist and the acknowledgement of the error by the management, which is reflected in the editorial published yesterday, 16 February, in the Diario de Terrassa. While it is true that everyone has the right to make a mistake, to rectify and to have a second chance, it is also true that this misogynist episode was the most visible, but not the only one. In fact, the Diario de Terrassa itself, which allowed the publication, is characterised by a line that is not very sensitive to gender issues.

When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don EdiFull communiqué

In the comments in one of the media where the communiqué is published, there are various opinions, from those who consider the reaction excessive to those who remember that the Diari de Terrassa publishes advertisements of prostitution, which should be suppressed.

When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi

Interview with Eduard Torres

I knew nothing about the work of this cartoonist. Nor did I know if he had had any notable problems before because of any cartoon.

I spoke to him on the phone on 22 February 2017 to ask him about this and a few other things. Eduard, at 73, has a quick mind and remembers many details and anecdotes. He is an agile conversationalist.

During the twenty minutes of conversation he doesn’t miss an opportunity to slip in a joke, he gives the impression that he is not worried despite the commotion that has arisen.

The conversation begins with a declaration:

“Everyone knows me here and they know that I am neither sexist nor aggressive, nor anything else. Even so, I apologised, which was the right thing to do”.

has this affair caused you any problems of any kind?

“It’s been talked about a lot and many people have stopped me in the street to ask me: “Edi, what happened”, but nothing more. Some had heard something, but they didn’t know much more.

He claims that no local, national or digital media have called him to ask him about the cartoon, and he believes that this is an attempt to look for the three feet of the cat.

Has any media outlet contacted you to ask you about the message of the cartoon?

“No.

not even any local media?

“Nothing, nobody”. He insists.

why do you think the cartoon was understood to be sexist?

“Some people from some groups wanted to make a show out of it and make people talk about them.

It was just a play on words.

They wanted to look for the three feet of the cat, it seems as if an “Anti-Edi” movement had suddenly appeared

what do you think of the Diari de Terrassa workers’ statement of rejection?

I imagine that a few of them have signed it, encouraged by someone, and that others haven’t even heard what it was all about.

didn’t anyone see anything wrong with the cartoon when you handed it in?

Well, no, and I’ve been called on occasion because of some detail in a cartoon and I’ve spoken to the director. I have no problem changing something if someone thinks it’s a mistake. I remember one I did about the rise in electricity prices in which I quoted Endesa and I had to change the name of the company to “electricity or electric” because of possible problems with an advertiser. This time nobody said anything to me.

have you ever had a problem before, that you consider serious, because of a cartoon?

Not seriously, no. Sometimes someone has sent a letter to the newspaper when they felt they had been reflected or offended. I must have received four or five letters.

Once I received a complaint from the police union about a cartoon in which they felt I was being racist, it was about a black policeman who had joined the police force. I drew a joke saying that he would take care of the top manta. Thanks to this we became friends, he ironises.

Another time I did a cartoon about a basketball game involving wheelchair players and wrote something to the effect that if they didn’t pass the ball they would be whistled for passes.

Some readers sent complaints to the newspaper feeling offended, they didn’t like the joke. The funny thing is that, regardless of the joke, it is stated in the rules, it is not called any other way for the disabled.

Furthermore, an association of disabled people called me to congratulate me for the cartoon and to ask me for permission to add the cartoon to the match report under the title “Así lo vio Edi” in a magazine they were publishing. This shows that often those directly “affected” are the ones who, as well as not being offended, take it with more humour.

At this point, Eduard, takes the opportunity to recall some supporters and quotes a sentence by Vicenç Villatoro in ARA in an opinion entitled “New blasphemies

But there is a paradox: some of those crucifying Edi’s friend had long ago put on a sticker saying “Je suis Charlie “(those who say you have to joke about everything).

After exchanging six or seven more jokes, we said goodbye. Eduard invites me to Terrassa. I don’t have the feeling of having spoken to a bad person.

About the author

Eduard Torres Crusat (Terrassa, 1944)

He published his first cartoon in the newspaper Terrassa Informació in 1974.

He has been drawing for the Diari de Terrassa since 1977, and is well known for his caricatures of popular characters in the city and for his links with the local hockey club, as he has been a referee for many years.

This year he has created the poster for the Terrassa Jazz Festival, which shows the caricatures of different authors who have performed at the festival. He has been, among other things, the town crier for the 1989 festival, a contributor to radio and the municipal magazine La Gaseta de Matadepera, the local municipal channel Matadepera Televisió and the author of several books. His last book (2013) was entitled 40 anys d’EDIctadura, in which he compiled some of his work over the last four decades.

In an interview on 12 November 2007, he ironically confessed:

“‘Mira que eres burro’, is the phrase I hear most often”

In the same interview, when asked about his retirement, he answered: “‘How long will I go on drawing jokes?

how long will I go on drawing jokes?

I’ve already told my wife: “the day they’re not funny, tell me and I’ll fold”

When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi

Clipping found in the account of Facebook of Eduard Torres

As he says in this other interview of 7 September 2012. (PDF) Page one. Page twohe still goes to the newspaper’s editorial office every day. There he leans on the reception desk and draws the cartoon of the day. This is how he has been doing and delivering his cartoon for more than 40 years.

When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi

Interview in 2012 on XIP/TV (CAT) video

On intentionality

I find it very boring to write the same thing over and over again, even if I do it in different ways so as not to get tired of it, but situations don’t change much. It’s also fucking dangerous to go a bit against the grain in these cases, when everyone has already made their interpretation and signed the verdict.

Before taking three breaths, the media had already made their verdict. None of them spoke to the author, although it doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

It seems a lost war to remember that what really counts is the intention and that it is not very healthy to treat a joke with a play on words in the same way, however obvious and simplistic it may be, with its touch of old-fashioned humour (understood as very much in the style of cartoonists of his own ilk) as the declarations of a ruler or someone influential, in any field, seriously thrown in the deep end and explicitly.

Although the media are always responsible for what they publish, we seem to have forgotten that cartoons, regardless of whether they are more or less brilliant, are still licences to fabulation with fictional resources with nods to reality and/or current affairs. And any intelligent person understands and, more or less, accepts or tolerates this unwritten agreement between the humorist and the public.

No one has wanted to question whether the author’s intention might have been to ridicule the aggressor character in the cartoon, showing him as a fool. Or if he just intended a silly, white joke, with no further story. The alarm provoked by the subject matter went over his head. And with everything.

Nobody in the newspaper saw a negative message in the cartoon until other people started to see it as an alleged justification of the attacks.

Everyone assumed that it was an openly sexist and misogynist message, deliberately spewed out, with which the author wanted to immolate himself that day. They dismissed from the outset any possible trace of irony.

This is quite absurd, because in this case we are not talking about hard black humour. If I were certain that he meant it that way, with malice, I would be the first to charge. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Another detail that struck me is that, after forty years of publishing cartoons, there is consensus among the staff of the Diari de Terrassa when it comes to condemning the cartoon. There is nothing worse for a cartoonist than not receiving any support from his medium, even if he has made a mistake.

I suspect that this supposedly unanimous reaction might have some other loose ends that I don’t know about.

Yes, he may have been wrong in the approach, execution and resolution of that cartoon, leaving too many possible readings and interpretations open, always inevitable. It is a hackneyed pun. Eleven years ago I used the same silly play on words, the difference being that I made it clear that it was a vindication, protest or denunciation.

Maybe that’s what it lacked, to be even more obvious and not to rely so much on the easy and silly joke. And not to have been a little more distrustful of the very different understandings of the staff. Nor where everyone’s humour lies.

I would like to thank Josep Arnero, Editor-in-Chief of Diari de Terrassa, for the time I took up with my questions and for his help in contacting Eduard.

When a joke isn't funny, the case of Don Edi

Eduard Torres he passed away 30 April 2020.

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