Viral Cartoonist: Political Commentators 'Have to Live with the Consequences'

Monica Sanchez | January 15, 2015
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In an exclusive interview with MRCTV, University of Evansville history professor and Courier and Press editorial cartoonist Dr. James MacLeod discussed his powerful, illustrated response to the Paris terror attack on the office of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, as well as the tragedy’s implications for the future of society as we know it.

As the situation in France unfolded, his cartoon quickly went viral, and for good reason.

His depiction of the tragedy shown above was featured on BBC, CNN, NBC, and MSNBC, among countless other digital media and broadcast news outlets.

In an interview with MRCTV's Monica Sanchez, he did anything but sugarcoat recent events.

MacLeod said he does believe that there are boundaries cartoonists shouldn’t cross–but, those lines change with the times:

“The very short answer is, ‘Yes.’ I’m not entirely sure where these lines are and I don’t think they’re static lines.”

MacLeod also mentioned he thinks the Paris attack will make some cartoonists more conscientious about what they choose to draw:

“Is it likely to put a little bit of hesitation in cartoonists’ minds? Yes, I think it is," MacLeod said. "I find myself this week in the spotlight and asking myself, ‘Do I really want to be out here talking about these issues?’”

But, in the end, every creative person has to decide for oneself and brace for the reprecussions from one's commentary, he said:

“I guess, any of us who put our political views out into the public sphere have to live with the consequences.

“I was raised in Scotland and my mom raised me with the principle that, if you’re willing to dish it out, you have got to be willing to take it. So, I think political cartoonists, the very first place that you get callouses is on your fingers, but pretty quickly after that you develop callouses everywhere else, because you need pretty thick skin.”

Dr. MacLeod argued that those who sport the hashtag #CharlieHebdo and embrace the rallying cry "Je suis Charlie" should be aware of what they're really supporting: all forms of freedom of expression, even the demeaning ones. 

The history professor also touched upon how the mainstream discussion of Charlie Hebdo has been nuanced at best, not giving sufficient mention of those moderate Muslims who, too, have a voice and may feel marginalized by the coverage.

While “the taking up of arms against guys who are only holding pens is absolutely unacceptable,” the event itself begs for introspection, he reasoned.

“We have to take a long, hard look at ourselves” in the West.

MacLeod was one of many noble cartoonists who took to social media to demonstrate solidarity with France and the Parisian terror victims, whom he solemnly considered fellow colleagues.

Watch the video below and see what he had to say.