As a cartoonist, explained my insurance broker, I can be open to libel and slander.
He wasn't joking.
So, I told him that he should maybe look at my cartoons and make a judgment. I emailed him some cartoons from WSJ & so on, along with the link to my blog. Here's what I sent him:Cartoon from 7/3/07 Wall Street Journal
I also sent a link to a piece where I talked about drawing cartoon finishes for WSJ.
He forwarded these to some insurance underwriters.
Sure enough, a couple of insurance agencies pulled out.
Has any other cartoonist had this happen to them?
I asked illustrator Steve Brodner if he ever heard of being a cartoonist being so high risk that an insurance company won't touch them. He never heard of it.And now I see cartoonists jailed in Bangladesh, threatened with death in Sweden, and -- this is just breaking in the past couple of days -- when a Connecticut schoolteacher gave a comic book (by an award winning literary graphic novelist whose work is now being serialized in the Sunday NY Times mag) to a 14 year old student, parents lash out calling the book "pornographic." The teacher resigns. The comic book, by the way, had been collected in hardcover graphic novel format by Random House. Tom Spurgeon, of the Comics Reporter, comments here.
Above: Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks showing a dog with the head of Mohammed.
Above: From the Reporters Without Borders site, the translation of the above cartoon drawn by Bangladeshi cartoonist Arifur Rahman:
Images of the Bangladeshi cartoon and the Swedish cartoon are from the Comics Reporter site.
The drawing was accompanied by this dialogue:
Boy, what’s your name?
My name is Babu.
It is customary to put Mohammed in front of the name.
What is your father’s name?
What is that on your lap?
Is my insurance agent right? And is American media, under the guise of sensitivity, missing the whole point of freedom of expression when it chooses not to show the very cartoons that are getting people upset? They cover the "controversy," get in some talking heads -- but they do not show the cause and talk about it.
And it's not just satirizing Islam that's a big no-no, it's now graphic novels. Heck, even my Wall Street Journal cartoons? These "damn pictures" are dangerous.
Last year, Harper's magazine published all 12 of the Danish cartoons, with a long analysis by Art Spiegelman. Everyone knows about the Danish cartoon controversy -- but who has seen the cartoons? Who has placed them in context? If you went to buy the June 2006 Harper's at the Indigo book chain in Canada, then you were out of luck. The chain, citing security concerns, pulled the mag from its nationwide chain.
My insurance agent, I decided, is pretty prescient.