The horrific events in Paris were especially jarring to cartoonists. Our global tribe of malcontents, jokers and self-styled critics enjoys a kinship which transcends nationality, language, culture, even political philosophy.
At gatherings over the years, in China, Cameroon, Cuba, France, even Soviet-era Russia, the camaraderie has been unmistakable and delightful. And, as we're given to angst-ridden soul-searching on good days, you might imagine how bleak this week has been. So, although we're supposed to respond to barbarism with mighty pens, I suspect none of us is lamenting the swift sword brought down by French police.
I've been asked by various journalists this week about a chilling effect on U.S. cartoonists. There won't be one, but maybe not for the reasons you might think. Corporate journalism has already done a pretty good job of silencing us, laying off more than half of our ranks. Our largest and most influential papers, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, not only employ no cartoonists, but don't run syndicated cartoons. Only USAToday provides a national print platform for the craft, and the chances of getting reprinted are a lot stronger if you draw about lost luggage than global jihad, global warming, global population or any other lost cause.
In France, it's not just niche magazines like Charlie Hebdo which provoke with cartoons. Big-city dailies like Le Monde run cartoons on the front page, which was commonplace in U.S. papers until the last half of the last century. American journalism, despite the enormous popularity of humor and satire on television and on the web, is going the other way. We are corporate, we are cautious, and we are definitely not Charlie.