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I wrote this cartoon in July of 2020, and posted a sketch on the Discord. Here’s what it looked like then:
One Discord participant, ChessyPig (hi, ChessyPig!), made a criticism that stuck with me:
I am particularly uncomfortable with the second panel because I know entirely decent people who live in fear of Twitter criticism and think that it means that they’re about to be cancelled, because the hype about cancel culture interacts badly with their anxiety.
That struck me as a very good point. There was some more discussion in the discord, and more good points were made, but I didn’t see a way to fix things that left me with a comic strip I enjoyed. So I did what I often do: I left the cartoon to sit and stew in my “unfinished” folder, either forever, or until I saw how to fix it.
Recently I reread the sketch, and noticed a few things.
* First, the original panel four – based on Alan Dershowitz, in 2018, complaining that his friends in Martha’s Vineyard don’t invite him to parties since he publicly hopped on the Trump train – was about an event that virtually no one remembers.
* Second, the “kicker” panel was the funniest part.
* Third, the “Barry as salesman” thing in panel one really wasn’t adding anything and could be replaced with something funnier.
* And finally, the Twitter panel would be easy to rewrite.
With those things in mind, I rewrote the cartoon – deleting the original panel 4 and “promoting” the kicker panel to panel 4 – and felt much better about it. I also added a new kicker panel to prebut the “what about ordinary people who have lost jobs?” criticism.
Panel two could apply to a number of anti-woke academics, but I had in mind British philosopher and transphobe Kathleen Stock, who more than once complained specifically about the terrible burden of having her views criticized within academia. For example:
[Stock] becomes visibly distressed is describing a research talk she was due to give her department in April. Some graduate students organised a rival trans solidarity event, with a guest speaker critical of Stock, and 40 of her colleagues chose that event over her talk.
This event was often included in lists claiming Stock had been “run off campus” by “cancel culture.”
The character’s appearance is loosely based on Stock’s appearance. Since it’s not important that readers recognize Stock (or even know who she is) – the character is inspired by Stock, not Stock herself – I didn’t sweat getting a perfect resemblance. I don’t think Stock wears glasses, but my character does because I thought glasses popping of her face would look funny.
In a similar fashion, the panel three character’s appearance and complaint is loosely inspired by Andrew Sullivan. (I could have just as easily used Bari Weiss, without modifying the text at all.)
In panel four, I got to draw the multiple-waving-arms effect, which is always fun. Especially drawing on a computer, since doing things like fading arms out and adding white “zip” lines on top is so easy.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels, each showing a different character and scene. There’s also a tiny kicker panel, below the bottom of the cartoon.
This panel shows a man with neatly-combed hair wearing a black vest over an orange long-sleeved shirt. He has an expression of intense concentration, and is clasping his hands almost as if praying. Above him, in the panel, is a lengthy caption.
CAPTION: Are you a wealthy and famous reactionary, but somehow your SJW boss hasn’t fired you? Not to worry! You can still be a martyr for free speech with these
CAPTION CONTINUES IN MUCH LARGER FONT: Easy ways to be CANCELLED!
MAN: Please please let me be a victim!
A woman wearing a striped shirt, dark orange pants, and comfortable-looking boots is on a city sidewalk. She’s jumping in shock as she stares at something on her tablet screen, her eyeglasses popping off her face. Her expression is extremely alarmed.
WOMAN: Other academics are criticizing my work! That can only mean…
WOMAN (much larger font): I’ve been CANCELLED!
A strong-looking bald man with a white beard and mustache sits at a desk, with a coffee cup and a laptop on his desk. He’s speaking directly to the readers, shaking his fist in the air.
MAN: My co-workers don’t like me so I’m resigning to start my own incredibly lucrative media site! In other words
MAN (much larger font) I’ve been CANCELLED!
A man stands on a hillside in a park or some other fairly tame natural area. He’s pretty distant from the “camera” and is speaking (well, shouting) directly to readers. He’s waving his arms so fast and frantically that it looks like he’s got six arms.
MAN: My book got panned? CANCELLED!
MAN: My $20 million Netflix special was criticized? CANCELLED!
MAN: Mocked in a cartoon? CANCELLED!
TINY KICKER PANEL UNDER THE BOTTOM OF THE CARTOON
The white-bearded man from panel 3 speaks directly to the reader, while indicating himself with a thumb.
MAN: Hey! Some non-rich people have actually been fired! Which clearly validates my claim to be a victim!