Political Correctness Run a Duck

March 9, 2021

Cartoonists ought to be mocking the cancel culture -- not becoming victims of it! Apparently, not only is the mob overbearing and hypocritical, but humorless too. They've turned their corporate guns on everything from the gender-insensitive Mr. Potato Head to Pepe Le Pew, a Looney Tunes skunk the New York Times accuses of "normalizing rape culture." (What's next? A #MeToon hashtag?) Now, 27 years into a comic strip about a fictional duck, the banning of Mallard Fillmore in newspapers across the country is showing everyone where the liberal quack down might lead.

"I've thought a million times, 'This is it,' cartoonist Bruce Tinsley said. But of all the comic strips he thought he'd be blacklisted for, this wasn't the one. "You know," he explained on "Washington Watch," "I don't understand. It was just over two cartoons." One was about the Equality Act and another about girls' sports. Neither of them "attack[ed] transgender people in any way," he assured listeners, "but it did support a woman's right to compete only with other biological women in sports. And to me, it's just a matter of fairness."

But "fairness" wasn't on the minds of executives at Gannett. "The president of my syndicate, King Features, and my editor both said they'd never seen it before -- because what happened was that I was canceled at the corporate level. They went over the heads of all the local newspaper editors all over the country from Florida to California to everything in between and didn't even give their editors or publishers a say. They said, 'We're canceling Mallard Fillmore immediately.'" Honestly, Bruce said, no one knows what's going on -- only that "the current cancel culture climate is really scary." And 64 percent of his country agrees.

Look, he said, "I've worked in newsrooms all my life. And there was a time -- and I'm sure you probably remember it -- when [liberals] really encouraged debate, even if they were against your position. Debate and discussion were [even] encouraged in colleges and in the media. And it seems like all of that is suddenly changing in a really frightening way." Right before Bruce came on Monday's show, he got a call from another editorial cartoonist for Creators Syndicate. "Guess what?" the voice at the other end of the line said. "I'm in the same boat. I just got canceled in 13 newspapers." "It's frightening," Bruce said, shaking his head, "for the future of our country and [free speech]."

And just when people think the world might be coming to its senses, something else happens. This week, it was Pepe Le Pew and Speedy Gonzales. Last week, it was Dr. Seuss. The week before that, Hasbro tried to say that a male and female potatoes were "too limiting." (Then, after the uproar, thought better of it.) "No one asked Hasbro to weigh in on the issues of gender identity, just as no one really wants Jimmy Dean sausage to tell us where they stand on Peruvian labor conditions," James Lileks argued on NRO. But look at where those corporate politics have gotten us. Americans are logging on to their Twitter feeds to see Oreos and Nilla Wafers fighting over who loves transgenderism more. These are cookies, for crying out loud! Big Business can't even advertise snacks in this country without bowing to the cultural extremists.

It's no wonder, Bruce said, that his email and social media are full of "a whole lot of people who are really fed up with it." The problem is, he explains, "They're just average readers and college students -- just regular old people like my audience has always been. And all the power seems to be concentrated within these big corporations." Like him, they don't think there's much hope for dialogue in this country if we can't even laugh at ourselves. Dropping Mallard Fillmore wasn't about being inclusive or sensitive or striking a more unified tone. This was about silencing a conservative perspective and any criticism -- however legitimate -- of this president.

And readers like Indiana's Anita Sewall aren't happy about it. "Every day," she wrote in a letter to her editor, "I think that this newspaper [the Indianapolis Star] was not published for someone like me. Every day, I think, 'Is it worth the money?' ... With the cancellation of the 'Mallard Fillmore' comic strip, you have completely stilled any conservative voice in your publication -- and in the process you have answered my question: No, it isn't worth the money."

Others, like Florida's Jerry Saylor, told his Sarasota paper, "Since Gannett acquired the Herald-Tribune, the Leftward drift of the newspaper has continued unabated. The announcement Feb. 24 that the 'Mallard Fillmore' comic strip will be discontinued, while 'Doonesbury' remains, confirms the trend. Why you wish to alienate your readership only you understand."

It will take more vocal people like that, Bruce agrees, to put an end to this insanity. Americans have to stand up and be counted. "I appreciate readers writing their papers who take [Mallard Fillmore] out and [supporting] the strip and other conservative materials in papers that still carry it." If these companies won't listen to conservative voices, they'll listen to conservative dollars. And the more Americans move their subscriptions to outlets who believe in free speech, the sooner the mob will get the message.