I still read the print edition of the Plain Dealer, every day. Have had a subscription since I moved back to the Cleveland area in 2004. I read the sections in order and save the comics for last (my habit since I was in my teens). So I was taken aback yesterday when I found this on the comics page:
“Editor’s note: Today’s “Non Sequitur” strip was withheld because it was deemed objectionable by Plain Dealer editors. A replacement strip was unavailable by press time.”
I knew I was going to find that message–my husband had already seen it (and written a letter to the PD editor, Debra Adams Simmons). I asked what the problem was and I expected something about religious or political content. He described the cartoon: two men and a rabbit sitting at a table with a police line-up in progress. On the other side of the two-way mirror: a cat, a bear, a wolf, and a snake. The rabbit’s line, “OK, I know how bad it sounds, but they all really do look alike to me.” You can see the original here on the Seattlepi.com website.
The contents of the rest of the PD, including the comic section, make that bit of censorship seem ludicrous.
I’m not sure who made the decision about the comics page. Ms. Simmons is the editor, but the choice could have been that of the features editor or a combination of people. It seems as if someone saw the cartoon as racist, racially offensive, or just patently offensive because of the line “they all really do look alike to me.” We all understand that the phrase in question can be highly charged and insensitive.
But if that were the case, and the issue was really the offensiveness of the rabbit saying, “they all really do look alike to me,” then why did the PD run the Mutts cartoon on the same day? The January 13th Mutts panel featured the cat character continuing his search for two identical snowflakes. The cat gets all excited because he may have found his quarry and his dog friend asks for confirmation. The cat’s response? “I dunno. . . . They ALL look the same to me.” Seattlepi.com also has that strip online here.
Perhaps the paper was being sensitive because Monday will be Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Perhaps Ms. Simmons (who is African-American) or another editor was particularly offended by the line-up image but overlooked the identical line in a reference to snowflakes. But there was obviously no consistency, even in the same section on the same day.
It’s not as if Non Sequitur’s Wiley is a stranger to controversy, either. Within the past six weeks, there was the Klansman with the “Cain for President” sign, a reference to the pepper-spraying cop, and a solid jab at the Tea Party.
But why include the announcement about the offensive content unless the purpose was to draw attention to it? Why not just leave it blank, move the cartoons around and put an ad on the page? I know–layout costs, etc.
So, what else was in the paper on Friday? On the front page there was a gallery of floating heads illustrating the major players in the ongoing county-corruption scandal. One of the faces was greyed out, but she is described as having “provided sexual favors” to the current defendant in exchange for a job. Today’s paper contained a detailed account of the defendant’s Las Vegas trip, complete with prostitutes, a dip in the “Bare Pool” at the hotel, and descriptions of topless women in the pool.
I guess none of that is “objectionable.” A bit nauseating, perhaps, when you know that the defendant in question probably tips the scales at 350 pounds plus and is quoted as saying, “I came in with a proper pristine image and I’m leaving a man whore.” But this kind of objectionable sells papers.
So I’m waiting for an explanation. Maybe the explanation is that I’m just insensitive. I don’t think that’s it–but I’m looking for the official answer.