October 5, 2017
After Las Vegas, two newspapers apologize for a controversial cartoon
by Taylor Sperry
Following the terrible violence at the Mandalay Bay on Sunday night, the Bennington Banner of Bennington, Vermont and the Telegraph Herald of Dubuque, Iowa have issued apologies for running a cartoon by Randall Enos. The illustration depicted a pile of bodies accompanied by the caption, “What ever happens in Vegas…”
For the Philadelphia Inquirer, Rob Tornoe reports that the audiences of both newspapers were quick to criticize the cartoon for its insensitivity and cruelty in the wake of such horror; the Banner’s executive editor, Kevin Moran, offered the following explanation along with his apology: “Our interpretation of Randall Enos’ cartoon was that little would be done with regard to gun control measures in the United States even after such an unprecedented tragedy.”
The public reaction to Enos’s cartoon recalls the controversy surrounding PEN America’s 2015 decision to award the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo their Toni and James C Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award, after twelve people were killed in an attack on the publisher’s offices by Islamic terrorists.
The circumstances, both horrible, are different directionally—in the case of Charlie Hebdo, the cartoonists themselves were victims of violence; the cartoon in question now is “about” victims of violence—but the uproar revives an urgent conversation about how we address—and we must address them—the issues that challenge us the most.
As it happens, Charlie Hebdo has just launched an English-language project entitled “Feeling the Burn: The Left Under Trump” which James McAuley reports for the Washington Post will appear in weekly online installments, turning Charlie’s satirical eye and arresting cartoons on “the so-called American resistance.”
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.