On Tuesday, September 17th 2002, all was
right with the universe. Wes had just scammed Comcast to give him yet another
90 day trial of expanded cable TV and Taz the cat had not barfed on the carpet
in the last 72 hours. Seeking something timely and G.A. oriented as a subject
for Thursday's cartoon he went surfing the Internet and stopped at the home
page of AOPA. While scrolling through the home page he came upon the IFR
refresher course that the Air Safety Foundation was presenting on line.
Clicking on the icon he viewed the cool cartoon presentation. It was then that
it struck him that "Erica" the soft-core dominatrix-like regulations
character who speaks with a thick German accent, would make a good target for
satire. In just a few hours he had the cartoon written and sent off to his web
master as well as to the editorial staff at AVweb.
What Wes did not know, was that
AVweb was being bought by Belvoir Publications and the sale was to
be made public on Thursday. On Wednesday morning, Wes got an e-mail
from the AVweb editor who handled the Klyde Morris section of that
publication. She stated:
"Wes, I'm afraid your content this
time round has raised a couple of eyebrows around here. I'm not dead set against
it, myself, but with everything else that is going on around here at the moment,
I think it might be best if we didn't cause any further stress. Do you have
a backup strip we could run for today, and if you want to try this one again
in a week or two, maybe we can better deal with it then?"
Wes responded to the message by asking
the editor to please not talk in circles, but simply tell him what is the problem
with the strip? She replied with:
"Well, Wes, the main problem really
is that AVweb at this very moment is in a transition phase....as you may have
heard already, and will be publicly announced tomorrow, AVweb has been sold
to Belvoir Publications. This means that as of last weekend and continuing with
this cycle, editors from Belvoir are weighing in on all of our content. One
of our staff raised a question that he was not comfortable/not sure about the
Erica the Aryan Dominatrix remarks.... and for me at this point in time to get
an okay from all the various editors who have their hands in the pot tonight
would just be a pain. Thus I suggested that we try it again in a week or two,
when things will have settled down and the lines of approval will be less complicated.
At that time I expect that it will be fine.
Sorry about being too vague. Can we make
this work? I know you've been under deadline pressure lately. If you don't have
an alternate strip we can use then I can proceed with what we have and let you
know later if the Powers That Be object."
Wes felt that since the AOPA's site had
just opened, the strip would lose it's timely nature if delayed, but even more
importantly, he smelled censorship! Having done the Klyde Morris cartoon since
1978, Wes has often had editors over-reach and try to censor content. To Wes,
this was clearly a move by an editor or editors involved in AVweb to censor
and dictate the content of his cartoon strip. He felt that once this type of
control gets started, it grows until the editors are dictating cartoons by committee.
For that, Wes has had a long-standing policy, and he responded with this e-mail:
"…please forward this and distribute
it to all of the editors involved.
There is NOTHING obscene or libelous contained
in the cartoon.
Further, I'd like to express my extreme disappointment that AVweb is transitioning
into the ranks of the politically correct, over-sensitive, censors.
Tell the "uncomfortable" editor
this- Even if AVweb does censor this cartoon, it will still run on klydemorris.com,
and the word that it has been censored by AVweb will quickly spread, as a news
story, the readers will then flock to my own web site and read it anyway. Let
us all remember the Delta censoring of the strip back in May of 2001, when two
days later my
readership shot up by 500% and there were more than 110,000 hits on klydemorris.com
in a single day.
In the 24 and one half years that I have
been doing the Klyde Morris cartoon strip, I have had a very simple policy for
dealing with editors at any level who were "uncomfortable" with anything
that I have written.
Either run it, or pull it.
There will be no back-up cartoon written
or substitute cartoon given.
author, Klyde Morris cartoon"
The editor from AVweb followed with:
"Jeesh, Wes, I find your response
way out of line with the email that I sent you. I did not say that it was obscene
or libelous. I said nothing about "censoring" it. I asked you to help
me out by not having to deal with this on a day when there is already a lot
of stuff going on, and offered you many options, including that if you didn't
have an alternate I would go ahead and submit this one to everyone involved.
Really, there is no need for this kind of reaction.
is important to note that there are several ways that censorship can be committed.
It can come straight on in forms such as banning books and images. It can also
be sneaked in by means of little alterations of content. Once you give up ground
to the censors, you will never get it back. Censoring content under the vague
guise of someone else being "uncomfortable" is the way that the modern
P.C. activists work their scam. It is important also to note here that the original
message from AVweb dealt with content that was not obscene or libelous by any
stretch of the terms. The only way to fight this type of velvet glove censorship
is to draw a line and say "Don't cross it."
Wes responded in part:
"I doubt that the person who was
"uncomfortable" with the cartoon has even been to the AOPA
Air Safety Foundation's IFR refresher web site and run the presentation.
The character in question is named Erica, and speaks with a thick German accent-
she is cast as a soft-core Dominatrix. Go there, view it, and if people wanna
be uncomfortable, let them do so on AOPA. My cartoon was a satire on an observation
What is out of line is asking me to change
because some budding PC Nazi is "uncomfortable."
Please remember what my job is - I'm
here to make those types of people uncomfortable. If you want an easy readin'
cartoon- go contact the syndicates and buy "Kathy."
Thursday morning Wes received the following e-mail from the Editorial
Director of Belvoir Publications:
(The AVweb editor in charge of Klyde Morris)
"was kind enough to share with me the message traffic yesterday concerning
your Klyde Morris comic strip. I found your response to her simple request regrettable,
and I have taken the decision to discontinue your services. I have directed
our webmaster to remove Klyde Morris from today's home page, and to also archive
and return to you any Klyde Morris cartoons presently on Avweb. Any reference
to Klyde Morris will then be removed from Avweb. I have no doubt you've earned
a following, but we will weather any disappointment voiced by the subscribership
until we can audition and secure a replacement."
It is Wes' opinion, after examining the
other publications in the Belvoir house, that there was no place in their format
for a true editorial cartoon such as Klyde Morris. In order to function as an
editorialist, a cartoonist must make people uncomfortable- often! Although the
editorial director from that company has tried to present the situation into
one where Wes was fired due to his manner in a series of e-mails, we have to
ask what else is going on here. Wes stood up against censorship of his work
however subtle. We should all stand up and shout as loud and be just as defiant
and blunt every time that someone tries to slither the snake of censorship into
our work. The battle over censorship, no matter how small is the battle over
liberty. It is a matter of standing up against those who would manipulate our
creative talents to serve their narrow ideals. Censorship, even as small as
we see it here as it buds in the editorial ranks at AVweb, and it will soon
grow. As censorship grows, it overshadows truth. So we have to ask, What kind
of content will we be reading on AVweb or any of the other publications owned
by their new parent company? How may others have had their work censored because
something made someone "uncomfortable?" If this is the case, are we
in aviation actually getting facts from these publications, or simply reading
what made everyone "comfortable?" If you are going to takeover, control
and censor the content of a publication, you have to get rid of the biggest
truth shouter in the publication - fast. Interesting that on the first day of
Belvoir Publications' control of AVweb, Wes was the first one to be axed.
From Wes we have the following quote:
"If losing the AVweb income is the price I have to pay to keep the integrity
and control of my cartoon strip, it is a price I am happy to pay."
The editorial director from Belvoir Publications
said "…we can audition and secure a replacement."
We'd like to say to him:
Lotsa luck pal!