Nick Anderson (2020)

The Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Nick Anderson has described Donald Trump as an “adolescent wannabe authoritarian”, after the US president’s re-election campaign failed to pull one of Anderson’s cartoons mocking Trump’s inaccurate suggestion that injecting disinfectant could protect against Covid-19.

Anderson put his cartoon The Trump Cult up for sale. The illustration shows Trump with supporters in Maga hats, serving them a drink that has been labeled “Kool-Aid”, then “Chloroquine” and finally “Clorox”, a US bleach brand. The cartoon is a reference to the 1978 Jonestown massacre, where more than 900 people died after drinking cyanide-laced punch at the order of cult leader Jim Jones, and to Trump’s widely denounced idea of injecting bleach to protect against coronavirus. Trump has also been taking the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a protection against Covid-19, despite a study showing it has been linked to increased deaths in patients.

But Anderson’s illustration was pulled from sale following a trademark infringement claim made by Trump’s campaign organisation, Donald J Trump for President Inc. Writing on the Daily Kos, Anderson said that he believed the claim was made due to his depiction of Maga hats, and described the situation as “absurd”.

“We live in a strange time when the POTUS can falsely accuse someone of murder with impunity, while at the same time bully a private business into removing content it doesn’t like,” Anderson added.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) and other free speech organisations subsequently got involved, sending a group letter that accused Trump’s campaign of having “misused reporting mechanisms to suppress protected political expression in the form of parody, critique, and satire”, and arguing that the work and those who publish it are protected by the first amendment.

Anderson’s cartoon was reinstated on social media, saying that it strives “to respect IP rights and freedom of speech, but we sometimes make mistakes, as we did here … We’re sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.”

In a statement, Anderson praised social media for recognizing the error, but said there were some “troubling issues” raised by the affair, including that the cartoon was removed less than 24 hours after he posted it, before he had received a single order.

“I doubt anyone had even seen it yet on the site,” he said. “This reveals that the Trump campaign has a system in place, trawling for material they find objectionable. If it happened to me so quickly, it likely has happened to others. How much other content has been removed this way on sites?”

He added: “It must be pointed out: the president of the United States is a hypocrite who complains about the ‘violation’ of his free speech, then tries to actively suppress the free speech of others. These are actions of an adolescent wannabe-authoritarian.”

Trump criticized social media for “completely stifling FREE SPEECH”, after the social media platform put a warning label on two of his posts spreading lies about mail-in voting.

CBLDF executive director Charles Brownstein said the organisation was “sensitive to the issues companies face in balancing competing rights owner issues, and were alarmed to see the president’s re-election campaign exploiting those issues to suppress protected speech”.

“We’re pleased that social media has done the right thing in this case,” he said. “We hope that they will continue to assert the First Amendment rights they and their sellers are guaranteed by rejecting any similar censorship attempts.”

Christian Monggaard (2019)

From Fritz the Cat to Mr. Natural – meet the cult cartoonist Robert Crumb, whose artistic world is full of anti-heroes and demons from modern America and his own subconscious. In this rare interview, Crumb talks frankly about refusing to adhere to political correctness, and about his never-ending urge to unravel the layers of delusion in the world – as he says: “I’m still digging.”

“I was so alienated when I was young, that drawing was like my only connection to society. That was the only thing that I could see was going to save me from a really dismal fate of God knows what.” Crumb describes his social skills as a young man as being “completely nil.” At the same time, he was driven by his “fucked-up ego,” and he had to balance those two sides. Drawing became a way for him to deal with reality, and in the 1950s, where “being a comic-book artist was the lowest level of commercial art,” he pushed toward a more personal use of the medium: “At a certain point I decided I don’t want to be America’s best-loved hippie cartoonist. I don’t want that role. So I’ll just be honest about who I am, and the weirdness, and take my chances.” Consequently, Crumb alienated a lot of people with his often provocative content: “It was just too disturbing for most people, too weird.”

Crumb has an urge to question things and is acutely aware that he’s going to get hell for what he’s doing – even lose friends – but he is willing to take the heat for it. He feels that he plays with images, emphasising the word “play.” Nowadays, he argues, there’s a tendency to take everything at face value – including his artwork: “The artwork I did that used those images and expressed those kinds of feelings, I stand by it. I still think that that’s something that needed to be said and needed to be done. It probably hurts some people’s feelings to see those images, but still, I had to put it out there.”

Putting down anything that stands in the way of political correctness, he feels, becomes extreme and suppressive: “I can even lead to censorial policies in the government and stuff like that. They don’t realise that they’re playing into the hands of some very bad people.”

Robert Crumb is an American cartoonist. Crumb, a counterculture comic book artist and social satirist, has enjoyed cult status for his underground comic strips, full of anti-heroes. Among these is a wide range of popular characters including Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural. Much of his work has also appeared in Weirdo magazine (1981-1993), which he founded himself, and which was one of the most prominent publications of the alternative comics era. Crumb has received several accolades for his work, including his induction into the comic book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Angoulême Grand Prix in 1999. Crumb was also among the artists honoured in the exhibition ‘Masters of American Comics’ at the Jewish Museum in New York (2006-2007). In 2012 a retrospective of Crumb’s work was exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. He has frequently collaborated with cartoonist Aline Kominsky-Crumb, with whom he is married, and the couple have made a joint comic strip based on their life together through four decades. A collection of the comics, ‘Drawn Together’, was published in 2012.

Robert Crumb was interviewed by Christian Monggaard in connection with the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark in August 2019.