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It's just a cartoon

Adrian Raeside talks about Muslim riots, Tom Toles, and the state of editorial cartoons



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Pique: What about the timing of the Muslim cartoons – was that just bad timing, with wars and other things going on?

AR: Those cartoons were published almost six months before the protests. It wasn’t until a guy from Denmark brought them to the Middle East that the controversy took off. And as for timing, I can’t remember a period when there wasn’t a war going on, somewhere. However, it was good timing for radical Islamists.

Pique: What about Tom Toles’ cartoon. What is your take on that?


The cartoon by Tom Toles says it all, how unelected bureaucrats casually send people to war – generally poor young men and women who are being used as cannon fodder in a war that’s not winnable. The cartoon showed the callousness of Rumsfeld, sending the troops to get torn up and killed, and the way those in power put a cynical spin on the lousy decisions they make.

Polls show a majority of Americans realize the decision to go into Iraq was colossal insanity and Pentagon mandarins are desperately worried about losing their tight control over the real truth about the situation in Iraq.

Tom’s cartoon captures that beautifully. It’s a really brilliant piece.

Pique: Going back to the Bill Vander Zalm suit, when he sued (Bob Bierman) over that cartoon. Did that create any kind of chill for cartoonists in the province?

AR: Once again it brought cartoons to the forefront, which was good, and Vander Zalm lost on appeal, which was really good. If anything, I think it empowered cartoonists, although it didn’t feel like it at the time.

I thought a lot of (Bierman’s Vander Zalm cartoons) were more hard-hitting than the one of him pulling the wings off a fly, but that’s the one that set Zalm off.

I don’t know what it is. Like Toles’ cartoon of Rumsfeld, something – usually the cartoon you think the least offensive – just gets them. Usually the grain of truth.

Toles never sent anyone to Iraq, or took a reservist away from his business and family for six months that turned into a year and a half. What Toles does, on the scale of things, doesn’t matter. But what Rumsfeld does is serious – people die because of his decisions. I guess it’s a lot harder to see the humour when you’re the person that made a bad decision in the first place.

Pique: Has the role of the cartoonist changed, if people are more sensitive than they used to be?