Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sneik Pique of the Weak

Perusing the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists web page this morning, I noticed one of my respected brethren making a reference to "alter boys" in today's cartoon. I do a lot of church work (which may come as a surprise to some readers of my cartoons), and that is an error I see often. With any luck, the newspaper copy editor was able to catch that the table at the front of a church is spelled "altar," not "alter," and was able to get the cartoonist -- or someone handy with Photoshop -- to alter the cartoon accordingly before printing thousands of copies of it.

The occasional need editorial cartoonists have for copy editors arose last week when a cartoonist for some local Kentucky newspapers posted a cartoon on the AAEC web site denigrating "Canzian" economists. I had no idea what he was attacking when I read the cartoon -- given the conservative bent of that particular cartoonist, I figured that Fox News had turned its attack guns on some deputy assistant undersecretary in the Obama administration named Canzi or something like that.

What the cartoonist had meant to attack, as it turns out, was "Keynesian" economics, named after the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes, whom one could easily find in a dictionary or on Wikipedia if one knows enough high school level Econ 101 for a passing grade. After one of our more established colleagues sent this cartoonist a caustic e-mail (and perhaps an editor of one of those local newspapers said something to him as well), the cartoonist yanked the cartoon off the AAEC site.

I can't claim infallibility for my cartoons. I don't have spell check on my drawing board; and because I'm left-handed and therefore ink my cartoons from right to left, I've occasionally dropped entire syllables -- even words -- from cartoons, and haven't caught the error before sending them off to my editors.

Spelling errors are the least of our worries in this business. One certainly doesn't want to get caught making a factual error. There are plenty of other potential landmines as well. Take for example the difference between an ex-marine and a former marine. You might have thought that those terms mean the same thing; but to a marine, the difference is huge, and I wouldn't want to get caught making the mistake of using the wrong term in a cartoon.

Heck, I get enough flack at home whenever I draw a nurse wearing one of those traditional nurse hats that nurses don't wear any more. Or a doctor with a stethoscope draped over his shoulders.

The fact is, we cartoonists pretend to be authorities on plenty of subjects about which we frankly have little authority at all. We draw cartoons critical of the FAA even if we're not licensed pilots like Pat Oliphant is. We draw cartoons about what people in a foreign country we've never been to supposedly think. We predict the outcome of tax policy and budget deficits without even a bachelor degree in economics.

And some of us can't tell altar from alter, its from it's, or discreet from discrete.

None of which will stop any of us from lampooning Sarah Palin's latest refudiations.

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