Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Mike Ramirez Responds

From Newsweek.

Cartoonist Michael Ramirez drew a cartoon depicting Hamas's use of human shields for the Washington Post

The Post then erased the cartoon from its website amid an uproar from its own journalists.

Ramirez stands by his cartoon—and its critics.

The gruesome details and brutal savagery of the October 7 attack launched by Hamas operatives on innocent civilians was shocking to even the most battled-hardened soldiers and war correspondents. 

Evidence of beheadings, babies shot in their cribs, parents shot in front of their children, entire families massacred, the torture and execution of the elderly, people burned alive, and hundreds of young people gunned down while attending a musical festival for peace, were widely reported and verified by video, audio, and forensic evidence.

Most people would be horrified. 

Yet in an interview on Lebanese television, Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad hailed the brutal October 7 attack and pledged to repeat the October 7 attack again and again until Israel is "removed," claiming Hamas "was the victim," therefore "everything they do is justified."

That interview was the inspiration for a recent cartoon I drew for the Washington Post depicting Gazi Hamad and his human shields.

But my cartoon was pulled off the Washington Post editorial website amid an internal outcry. Critics claimed the cartoon was "racist" for stereotyping and demonizing Palestinians. 

They said the cartoon ignored the death of thousands and the suffering of millions of Palestinians as a result of the Israeli military response.

Any decent human being would agree that this war is catastrophic. 

I mourn the loss of innocent life—on both sides. I am shocked by the destruction that has shattered their lives and grieve for those families. 

I wish for the safe return of the more than 240 hostages that Hamas has taken. But those are separate issues.

This cartoon was designed with specificity. 

Its focus is on a specific individual and the statements he made on behalf of a specific organization he represents—their claims of victimhood, and the plight of innocent Palestinians used as pawns in their political and military strategy.

That person is Ghazi Hamad. The caricature of the central figure looks like Ghazi Hamad.

The organization is Hamas. The main figure in the cartoon is labeled Hamas.

Hamad's words and the innocents bound to him as human shields and their forced martyrdom reflect the official position of Hamas.

Hamas is a terrorist organization that blames Israel for the attack on civilians, but ignores its own complicity in their suffering. 

It was Hamas that first launched the attack on Israel, continues to use civilian infrastructure as cover, and restricts the evacuation of Gaza civilians from areas which Israel has given advanced warning of strikes.

Gaza civilians are victims. Hamas is not.

It's ironic that those who criticize the cartoon for overgeneralizing and stereotyping cannot seem to distinguish between a known terrorist group and Palestinians. 

And it's a tragedy that their only way of coping with the truth depicted in my cartoon is to erase it from view.

In my speeches, I say, 
"An editorial cartoon is not humorous for the sake of humor. It is not controversial for the sake of controversy. 
Whether you agree with it philosophically or not, a good editorial cartoon engages the reader in debate. 
It informs and challenges. It draws the reader into the democratic process."

Liberty, the free exchange of ideas, is the foundation of our democracy. 

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "Our Liberty depends on the freedom of press, and that cannot be limited without it being lost." 

The reason our Founding Fathers included the right to a free press in our Constitution was because they knew the communication of ideas and information, the right to inform and be informed, the dissemination of ideas and the expression of opinion, are all necessary components in a political system based on self-governance and individual liberty. 

Limiting the exchange of ideas even in our common culture limits our freedom.

The purpose of an editorial cartoon, and a good editorial page is to be the catalyst for thought. 

By promoting the thoughtful exchange of ideas, we forge a consensus through the fiery heat of debate.

Today, political correctness and the woke movement have defined words and images as weapons that should be banned for offending political categories and self-defined oppressed groups. 

It is tolerance of all ideas—except those they disagree with, and it follows the adage that if you can't win the argument, you change the rules. 

It treats people as children who must be shielded from conversation, unable to manage a verbal exchange without supervision, and it is a direct threat to freedom of speech and liberty—as well as the truth.

Critics of my cartoon are using an accusation of racism as a device to "cancel" the truth—the overwhelming empirical evidence that Hamas uses civilians, both Palestinians and Israelis, as human shields. 

Their bases of operations exist within or under civilian infrastructure. 

They fire rockets from densely populated areas and hospital roofs, by design, to sacrifice the lives of innocents to exact a political toll from any military strikes.

I do not mind being attacked for my cartoons. People should be emotionally invested in their politics. 

While the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech, it does not insulate you from the consequences of your speech. I accept that. It is part of the job.

I stand by the cartoon—and I stand by my critics' right to condemn it.

It remains on the website of my home paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, who stands firmly behind me.

Yet I have to point out the irony here: The slogan of the Washington Post is "Democracy Dies in Darkness." 

When the protest and rancor of a distressed newsroom, offended by a cartoon exposing the truth, causes adults to retreat to their safe spaces, clutching their participation trophies and "canceling" freedom of speech, these are truly dark days.

They should imagine what it was like for Israelis hiding in a safe room, clutching their children and praying for the safety of their families.

Sometimes, the truth hurts. Journalists have an obligation to keep the lights on and not kowtow to the voices of dissent who want to extinguish the free exchange of ideas, and hide in the darkness.

From my perspective, I think it hurt the Washington Post far more than me.

Mike Ramirez

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