Over at Powerline, John Hinderaker notes the Minneapolis Star Tribune comics page spiked a handful of Doonesbury strips last week. For readers under 60, Doonesbury is a charming period piece about an average suburban guy who puts on a bow tie to go to work every morning but still finds himself running late for the streetcar and is happily married to his lovely wife Blondie . . . oh, no, wait, that’s something else. Anyway, in a fast-moving world, Doonesbury remains reassuringly immune to change and innovation. Last week’s strips concerned Texas abortion laws. Demonstrating the lightness of touch for which he’s renowned, Garry Trudeau shows a Lone Star doc picking up his “10-inch shaming wand” to perform a sonogram and declaring: “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”
Hard to believe America’s dying monodailies don’t recognize Mr. Trudeau as the path back to solvency, but there it is. Explaining her decision not to run the strip, the Star Tribune’s editor Nancy Barnes made the following comparison:
A few years ago, we had a similar controversy over a decision not to publish some highly controversial cartoons circulated in a Danish newspaper that caricatured the prophet Mohammed… We chose not to run them in the Star Tribune because they would have been inflammatory and offensive to many readers.
As John Hinderaker points out, the two cases are not in the least bit similar: one’s a comic strip you run every day; one’s a news story about mass murder by frenzied mobs. You’re not being asked to carry a comic strip in which, say, Beetle Bailey accidentally burns a Koran; you’re simply being called upon to cover a news story in an honest fashion that provides readers with the basic information. If a newspaper can’t do that, who needs it?
Meanwhile, Lars Vilks, the Swedish artist with whom I had the honor to share a platform in Copenhagen a year or so back, lives under constant threat of murder but refuses to go into hiding. He has had his home firebombed by some strikingly inept fatwa-enforcers who managed to set their pants alight and were forced to flee trouserless through the snowy wastes. Artists congratulate themselves incessantly on their “courage,” far more than soldiers or firemen do. But Mr Vilks is actually having to live up to it. I would be more hopeful about the future of the west if the ranks of “bold” “transgressive” artists numbered more Lars Vilkses and fewer Garry Trudeaus. (Plug alert: I’ll be speaking on this and related topics in Toronto next month. So far, compared to Lars’ pantsless incendiaries, the death threats are rather dull.)