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More From Jeff on the Capitalist Piglet Cartoon

John on March 11, 2006 at 4:30 pm

Yesterday I posted a response I received from Jeff about his capitalist piglet cartoon. His response was brief and he indicated he would return when time allowed him to engage some of my questions more fully. Today, good to his word, he left a lengthy comment to the previous post laying out his perspective. Since it is a rather long, I’ll paste the whole thing below in sections, with interruptions for my comments.

John, I agree I do often overstate things, but I still stress that the situation just is not the same here as in a lot of other places. So again, that is part of the “perspective” difficulties that are out there.

The biggest reason that critics find the perspective to be missing or at least far off, is because the comic simply was over the top, and required the viewer to already see many of the things I was seeing.

Yes, but Jeff isn’t that the basic responsibility of any author/cartoonist in any type of publishing or broadcast communication. What seperates good communication from bad is the ability to “get across” a perspective which the reader/viewer does not already share. Using this blog as an example, I can’t assume those who read what I write here will know where I’m coming from and “just get” what I’m saying. I have to persuade them to my point of view by communicating my perspective. It’s no good, as a cartoonist, to throw up your hands and say “You just don’t see it.”

The people who could possibly have done that were the editors of The Sheaf. It was intended for them and only them, in order to show them how some things are just not fit to be published.

When the comic was drawn, there was a strong chance that one or some of the offensive Mohammed cartoons were going to be reprinted, and it seemed the editors didn’t understand why that was a bad idea. With my comic, I thought I could help them empathize. Empathy is something which a great deal of people lack, and apparently they also did.

Now honestly, I have to say I’m not disappointed it was printed, because artists are always flattered when their material is printed, but I will say that I am shocked.

So do you see what I might mean by the empathy part?

Yes, I see how this cartoon might have been more suitable as part of an in-house discussion. So why in the world did you allow the editors to publish this? Once you saw that the Mohammed cartoons were not going to be printed — which it seems was settled when the prior editor resigned — couldn’t you have let the new editors in on the game? And honestly, if the cartoon was designed to be over the top — to be shocking — in order to make a point to the editors, why did you defend it in the next issue of the Sheaf as “comic gold.” Why did you state that it was not intended for shock value? Either it was or it wasn’t. You seem to be trying to have it both ways.

Your writing suggests that you are smart and do understand why Muslims were hurt by the other comics, and I would guess that if you were in the position to print something, you wouldn’t try and hurt people just because they are a different religion than you. And that’s what the editors of The Sheaf would have done had they printed the other comics.

Yes, but they didn’t print the other cartoons. They did print yours. So if your chief concern is not offending people, you have failed. You protected the feelings of Muslims by assaulting the feelings of Christians. What’s the net gain?

Now, an interesting thing that happened on our campus last week: The Muslim Students’ Association sent a letter in solidarity to the campus chaplains (a Catholic group), and said that they too were offended, and not just because JC is their profit also, but because they knew it was hurtful to Christians.

I am so proud of the members of the Muslim Students’ Association, as the empathy that they showed is exactly what I wish more people could.

Anyways, sorry that was so long, but I thought it was worth writing


It sounds like the Muslim group did the right thing, but, what about you? You’ve taken responsibility, but even as you did so (in your published letter in the Sheaf) you seem to be minimizing the offense and saying the whole thing is just a big joke. If you really feel offensive cartoons should be taken seriously, then take yours seriously and apologize sincerely to everyone who was offended and also to those who resigned over it. People have lost jobs over this, Jeff, it’s not good enough to blame it on a misunderstanding.

As it stands now, your empathy for Muslims who might have been offended does not free you from showing empathy for Christians who were offended. You have, in a strange way, become what you claim to despise, i.e. someone with a complete lack of empathy for those he offends.

Update: Please note Jeff’s additional comments below.

Jeff, I’m really interested to know what happened behind the scenes at the Sheaf. From your description, the publication of the piglet cartoon was not so much an error as something that “couldn’t be stopped.” Did someone override the editor? Was there a disagreement about this? Please enlighten us.

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