World mad as cartoonists get rubbed out

The email the Usual Gang ofIdiots had been dreading plopped unceremoniously into our inboxes. It began... "What, us worry? Well..." It only got worse from there.

Since that afternoon, many of the world's leading cartoonists, actors, politicians and comedians have publicly lamented the demise of the iconic MAD magazine. After a slew of dreadful management blunders over the past decade, publisher, DC Entertainment made the short-sighted decision to cease selling the magazine on newsstands and commission no new content after the next issue. This would ostensibly end the 67-year run the publication had as the most iconic and influential satire magazine in history. In the Age of Offence, the publication that prided itself on offending the rich and powerful has been put out to pasture.

On a personal level, the news hit me very deeply. MAD was the reason I decided to become a cartoonist. My closest and dearest friends are all MAD cartoonists and writers.

Not one month before MAD made their announcement, the New York Times made the astonishing decision to cease publication of daily editorial cartoons in both its domestic and global editions.

A historic decision by the biggest journal of record that has now rattled through the newspaper industry and given other newspaper editors even more excuses to drop cartoonists from their pages.

The disappearance of satire and humourous commentary is a red flag for any ailing democracy.

In a disturbing, but sadly now-familiar story, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist Rob Rogers was recently fired after a successful 25-year career. Why? For drawing cartoons criticising Trump, of course. A decision made after the newspaper's publisher, John Robinson Block, had endorsed the President and rejected every anti-Trump cartoon submitted for publication.

In a divided political climate in which comedians and satirists are being taken to task for their jokes, sometimes losing their careers and livelihoods for one misconstrued word, it is hard not to feel the overwhelming weight of this gravitational shift in the industry. I must note that I'm not referencing the #MeToo movement or comics like Louis CK. That is a separate story.

What does the future hold for we endangered court jesters? It's hard to say. We all thought this tsunami of censorship would have receded by now, but it only appears to be inexorably ploughing further inland. At this point, all we can do is sling barbs as we sprint to higher ground.

Jason Chatfield is the President of the National Cartoonists Society.

Twitter: @jason_chatfield