These words of a detained Malaysian cartoonist resonate after Charlie Hebdo and Copenhagen


Michael Cavna, Washington Post

THEY ARE the four silliest words I often, as occupational hazard, hear.“It’s just a cartoon.” Silly because a good cartoon is one of the clearest and most concise ways to communicate an idea, an intellectual laser-beam of a thing that hoodwinks the brain’s misdirected critical filters and kidnaps the cortex like the nastiest of Nastian cartoons. The usual defenses don’t stand a chance, as the cartoon is instantly lodged in the noggin. From conception to inception, it can creep in on little cat feet…and then bare its claws.

Which explains why so many offended forces want their local cartoonist declawed. Because what those four words in truth translate to is, “It’s just an idea,” and few doubt the power of a potent idea.

Recent attacks on artistic expression from Charlie Hebdo to Copenhagen have only shined brighter klieg lights on the threats and imprisonment and violence faced by editorial cartoonists around the world. And now, as we enter the height of awards season, soon followed by the height of convention and festival season, that illumination turns into spotlights and camera lights.

Let the ramp-up begin.

On Thursday, for instance, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University will host a “mini-symposium and conversation”as a range of scholars discuss satire in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. A round-table talk will include Billy Ireland curator Jenny Robb, who recently returned from France’s Angouleme International Cartoon Festival, which honored and celebrated Charlie Hebdo within the same month of the attack.

In a similar vein, the George Polk Awards announced yesterday that it will hold a seminar on the role of comics and satire in light of Charlie Hebdo, April 9 at Long Island University Brooklyn. The talk will feature 2015 Polk career-award recipient Garry Trudeau (“Doonesbury”), 1961 Polk Award winner Jules Feiffer (the Village Voice legend) and Django Gold (senior writer for The Onion). Trudeau will be among those honored the following day in Manhattan.

And the Virginia-based Cartoonists Rights Network International — which presents a Courage in Cartooning award each year — is currently running an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to help threatened cartoonists around the world. “The CRNI Indiegogo is a great example of people around the world uniting to make change,” Indiegogo co-founder Slava Rubin tells The Post’s Comic Riffs.

[ECHOES OF HEBDOAfter Copenhagen attack, CRNI speaks to “this very brutal war…right under our noses.”]

Amid these crowds and crowdfunding for the cause, the artists themselves continue to draw fire on the front lines. And one such cartoon combatant has just been released from jail, as he continues to criticize his government.

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