Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Monday, February 23, 2009

'Let Cartoonists Draw As They Please'

Let Cartoonists Draw

Blogitorial by Norm Kent

A week ago, when a group of African American teenagers were shot up in Miami by a random gang armed with AK 47’s, I was impressed with Al Sharpton showing up in South Florida to condemn the senseless acts of violence and the ‘culture of silence’ which contributed to killers going unidentified. Nice going, Al. I was impressed because you were sticking your head into something useful, which could save lives.

But this week Al Sharpton showed his head again, and regrettably it was not in defense of lost lives. Nope, Al decided to invoke his presence into the growing and unnecessary outrage against a NY Post editorial cartoonist, whose latest drawing was politically incorrect. Sharpton joined the chorus of voices censuring Sean Delonas, who published an editorial cartoon which implicitly compared President Obama with a primate. It evoked a history of racist imagery of blacks. It was not in good taste. So what? Satire does not have to be.

How many times do you have to repeat that the First Amendment is not for voices that agree with us? Jerry Falwell is gone now but he never liked what Al Goldstein did to him in Screw Magazine either. Al was a friend, a client, and understood his job, his duty, his obligation as a porn publisher was to press the envelope. It was easy for him. All things he considered moderate others deemed excessive. For Al, too much of a good thing was not enough. And there were no limits, so much so that he spent many of his thirty years publishing Screw Magazine in court defending it against pornography charges. Thank you, Herald Price Fahringer.

How many of you in college had the incredible poster of all the Disney characters from Minnie and Mickey and Pluto fornicating hanging up in your dorm room? You thought it was funny? I am guessing the late Walt Disney did not.

Not had a lot of dealings with Larry Flynt, but do you remember when Hustler Magazine ran the cartoon parody of Jerry Falwell having sex with his mother in an outhouse, saying he always liked to get ‘sloshed’ and have a little foreplay before delivering his sermons? Jerry, upset as he was with the First Amendment, then had no problem 20 years later censuring a cartoon character named Tinky-Winky for being ‘too gay.’

How many times over the years have I heard people say my client on 560 WQAM, Neil Rogers, has ‘gone over the line?’ No, he never went over the line. But his divine, funny sarcasm made you think about crossing it. That is what a host is supposed to do. That is what editorial cartoonists also do. That is sometimes what an attorney has to do when zealously representing his clients. That is the blessing and breadth of the mother of all amendments, the Amendment we call First.

Publishing this blog, I have made the ‘Editorial Cartoon of the Day’ a daily feature. Paid a subscription fee to acquire them. It is not just because a picture is worth a thousand words. Nothing reflects the cross section and breadth of an American free press more than the satirical reaches of comedic art as expressed in your newspapers. I have been balancing conservative and liberal cartoonists alike, just to create an entertaining daily blog.
Having been a radio host for over a decade, and representing them for three, I learned people do not care so much what you say as how you say it. You can be the greatest liberal or conservative in the world, but if you are not entertaining, your show will fall flat. Ever hear an author give a speech at a book show? Most of the time it is death warmed over.

Spent most of the week thinking how to write about this, then I saw that Scott Greenfield wrote a thoughtful blog this week already on the topic at Simple Justice. He is so right on. Editorial cartoons are satire. This is what Greenfield concludes:

“Obama is fair game. Obama cannot be untouchable. No President can be untouchable. No political commentary should be subject to rules. And who cares what Rev. Al has to say anyway.”

How could we dare think otherwise?
I come to these pages after 30 years of seeing issues like these make the news. A high school student in Illinois named Tinker could not wear an armband. An activist named Abbie Hoffman was not allowed on TV wearing an American Flag shirt as a motif. Comic books were too violent 50 years ago, and now video games are so today.

Spencer Toys sold pornographic Santa Clauses and some high school kid’s project was thrown out of the art show because it depicted Jesus with an erection. Who cares? Our nation has survived wars, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, natural disaster and man-made calamities, can’t it handle controversial cartoons? Let us protect the expression of ideas as jealously as we are supposed to our natural resources.

I am really over it, debating the first amendment. It is there. Use it. Abuse it. Enjoy it. Step on it. Tread on it. It will still be there, long after you are gone crying about the fact that it did not blow your way. But that is why it was there. It was not made just for you. It was made for the guy you disagree with, and maybe for that day you disagree with all those things ‘They’ are telling you that you have to buy into and believe.

We come together as a society not to restrict the rights of any, but to secure the rights of all. So the next time you see something YOU don’t like, suck it up and say ‘Thank you, America. One day I may choose to be that guy.’

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  1. Great blog. The commentaries here put Jaablog to shame, can't even read it anymore most of the time.

  2. Excellent piece of journalism, as was the thoughtful piece on the judiciary's error of their ways. And the one on Judge Ginsburg in the Sun Sentinel. Hey, Kent, you oughta be a writer. :-)No this is not your mom, just a girly friend