Opus 388b (February 20, 2019). Here’s the story of how Non Sequitur is getting screwed—and at the end, what you could do about it—:
NON SEQUITUR GETS SCREWED
If Wiley Miller had kept his mouth shut, he wouldn’t have lost several dozen newspapers. For reasons not readily apparent, he scribbled a message for the Trumpet in the lower right-hand corner of a Sunday Non Sequitur that featured “Bearaissance” with one of his bear characters named Leonardo Bear Vinci. The scribble is almost illegible, but if you work hard, you can make it out: “We fondly say go fuck yourself to Trump.”
In a statement to HuffPost on Monday, Miller said he didn’t notice the message at first when he opened his newspaper the day before: he’d scribbled the notation eight weeks ago and had forgotten about it. But then he remembered, and, seeking to make light of it, he tweeted: “Some of my sharp-eyed readers have spotted a little Easter egg from Leonardo Bear Vinci. Can you find it?”
His teasing prompted readers to look hard, and some found the message. And some of those complained to their newspapers, and some of those papers expressed alarm and disgust.
Jenna Amatulli at the HuffPost reported that Ron Vodenichar, the publisher and general manager of the Butler Eagle (published just north of Pittsburgh), said in an article on the paper’s website on Sunday that he was made aware of the message by a reader.
Vodenichar was puzzled as to how the message got into the strip, speculating that it was “apparently placed there by someone in the creative department of the creator of the comic strip or the syndication which controls it” and indicated that “neither the Butler Eagle nor any other newspaper that includes this strip had an opportunity to remove it even if they had discovered it before distribution.”
He concluded: “We apologize that such a disgusting trick was perpetuated on the reading public. The Butler Eagle will discontinue that comic immediately.”
Over the next couple days, thirty or forty other newspaper subscribers to Non Sequitur expressed their disapproval and dropped the strip. Ten days later, the number spiraled over 100. Non Sequitur is carried by about 700 newspapers, but cancellations by even 15 percent hurts.
Miller issued a statement, explaining how the obscenity occurred:
“I now remember that I was particularly aggravated that day about something the President had done or said, and so I lashed out in a rather sophomoric manner as instant therapy. It was NOT intended for public consumption, and I meant to white it out before submitting it [to the syndicate], but forgot to.
“Had I intended to make a statement to be understood by the readers,” he continued, “I would have done so in a more subtle, sophisticated manner. This coming Saturday will mark the 27th anniversary of Non Sequitur, and in all that time, I have never done anything like this, nor do I intend to do so in the future.”
Miller’s syndicate, Andrews McMeel, also issued a statement:
“Regarding the February 10 Non Sequitur Sunday comic containing vulgar language, we are sorry we missed the language in our editing process. If we had discovered it, we would not have distributed the cartoon without it being removed. We apologize to Non Sequitur’s clients and readers for our oversight.”
Non Sequitur has won four division awards for best newspaper strip/panel cartoon from the National Cartoonists Society, and in 2014, Miller won the Reuben for “cartoonist of the year.”
Miller has never before shared his opinion of the Prez in the strip, but he hasn’t shied away from expressing his disdain for Trump via Twitter. On the same day the strip was published, Miller referred to Trump as “President Fuckwit” in one tweet and the “gaslighting projectionist” in another.
The number of newspapers dropping Non Sequitur snowballed over the next week, editors universally expressing their umbrage and disapproval before announcing that—of course—they were dropping the strip because it had sneaked something by them, forfeiting their trust.
One editor cancelled because his young granddaughter read the funnies and might see the indecipherable message in Non Sequitur. There you have it: decision-making on a national scale is being turned over to grandchildren and Ann Coulter.
Then by February 17, fans of the strip had started defending Miller.
“I hope you will reconsider,” wrote one. “Non Sequitur is probably one of the most enjoyable comics in the newspaper. ... the artist who produces it is innovative, unique and totally interesting. He has apologized and said it would not happen again. I guess his word is not enough for those ‘people who know who they are’ out there who can’t stand anything different or thought provoking.”
“Good grief!” wrote another. “Is everything offensive? What did of sheltered life are we leaving to the poor snowflakes among us? Be bold! Resume publishing Non Sequitur and add Mallard Fillmore!” (Mallard Fillmore is about a right-wing duck who goes around making conservative comments.)
Said another: “I am appalled at your decision to drop Non Sequitur from your comics!! Apparently your ‘decency’ is limited toward people who don’t like President Donald Trump, as you continue to offer Mallard Filllmore, which is nothing but barely veiled insults to anyone not following the right-wing ideology and anyone who opposed Trump.”
“You gotta be kidding me,” wrote yet another, dipping into sarcasm. “You are removing the comic strip Non Sequitur because, in your opinion, it contained an anti-Trump item? Really? How about all the negative articles you publish daily? How about the Sunday strip you call a comic cartoon, Doonesbury?”
“I was initially only puzzled by your cancellation of Wiley Miller’s Non Sequitur comic strip. That puzzlement has turned to anger, not at the profanity in the strip but at the overly aggressive response of the paper.”
Another reader thought maybe a 30-day moratorium would be more appropriate.
Said another: “The offense you mentioned was trivial at best. I missed it entirely until it was gratuitously pointed out by the PC police; even then, it did not offend me.”
‘Wiley is speaking for a large group of Americans,” said another.
No telling how this will end. Probably none of the cancelling newspapers will reinstate Non Sequitur though: that would require that they admit to making an error in judgement, something few newspapers are wont to do.
Like many of those who wrote in dismay to their newspapers, I’m more offended by the behavior of the newspapers than I am by the obscenity in the strip.
First, the message is scribbled in a manner deliberately difficult to read. It’s one of several scribbles, all nearly indecipherable, surrounding the picture. All of the scrawls are intended to created the illusion of authenticity in the Leonardo-like diagram. Most readers skim over them all without trying to read them. If Wiley had kept his mouth shut, probably no one would have complained.
Second, cancelling a comic strip for committing just one offense in 27 years seems a little extreme. The punishment would be justified if Wiley were a habitual offender. But he isn’t.
Just shows to go you, in the PC age, everything is sacred: the only way to avoid offense is to go underground next to a stone with your name on it.
MEANWHILE, Comedian Elayne Boosler at https://www.elayneboosler.com/save-non-sequitur-comic-strip/ has launched a letter-writing campaign to save Non Sequitur. You can witness her pitch at the foregoing address. If you share her disgust and alarm (and mine) at the cavalier unprofessional attitude on display in these newspapers, she suggests sending to a selection of newspapers (list and links to follow) this letter or something you vary to reflect your own views:
I am writing to vehemently state my objection to the canceling of the cartoon strip “Non Sequitur”, and to appeal to your better angels and responsibility to serve the public. The “offending” word in Sunday’s cartoon was basically invisible, yet became a cause celeb by the same people who cheer when reporters are physically attacked and beaten at Trump rallies.
You decide to destroy a man’s career over one hidden word in a cartoon out of 9896 brilliant previous Wiley cartoons over thirty years, yet you print “shithole” countries, “grab ‘em by the pussy”, etc., though that causes pain and incites hatred and violence. What hypocrisy. One man has blithely coarsened America’s language and character, but you decide to punish a man who has daily brought America laughter, compassion, love and brilliance. Wiley included a subtle wink for anyone being driven mad by this administration. He deserves an award, not cancellation.
You do the public a great disservice by shutting down Non Sequitur, a champion for smart, caring, involved readers. This strip mercifully prevents our hair from bursting into flames from the news. It shows us we are heard, understood and not alone. Please look back upon Mr. Miller’s body of multi-award winning work. He is the invaluable American artist we desperately need right now. Don’t destroy a life for a minuscule lapse. I would be the first to e-subscribe to your paper, and spread the word to my followers, when Non Sequitur is restored. You cannot just erase this artist, when we see daily the second chances given to people far less deserving.
Thank you for your consideration.
The newspapers that answer you will say exactly the following (collusion much?) “That language has no place in the comics, and Wiley betrayed our trust.” That is when you answer with your own version of the following:
“It’s the 27th anniversary of Non Sequitur. Mr. Miller has provided your paper, and all papers, with just short of TEN THOUSAND Non Sequitur comic strips, where he indeed proved his trustworthiness, as well as provided your readers with humor, joy, heart, humanity, and laughter. If you withdraw your “trust” for one gaffe out of TEN THOUSAND perfect strips, where is your humanity sir, and what kind of arbiter are you? As for inappropriate language; first, no one saw the language upon reading Wiley’s strip, I still can’t see it. It was illegible. Second, you have no trouble clearly printing in your paper “Grab em by the pussy, shithole countries”, etc. etc. RESTORE THE STRIP. Show that people who actually DESERVE second chances are accorded such by fair, decent newspaper people. You owe him, and your readers, that much and more.
NEWSPAPERS TO EMAIL IN SUPPORT OF NON SEQUITUR:
You can email these papers in groups. Just click on the links below to pop up an email already addressed to them. (If that doesn’t work, cut and paste.)
Email this list at the Boston Globe:
Email this list at the San Jose Mercury News:
Email this list at the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
2/20/2019 Save Non Sequitur Comic Strip - Elayne Boosler
Email this list at the Hartford Courant:
Newspaper Contact Page Links:
Dallas Morning News
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