Free Speech

Reason Writers Around Town: Jesse Walker on "Doonesbury," in Newsday

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Reason Senior Editor Jesse Walker, writing in Newsday, puts this week's "Doonesbury" flap in context. Excerpt:

Over the years, more comics have gone missing from the funny pages when they waded too far into controversy—when "Popeye" did its own riff on abortion in 1992, when a character came out as gay in "For Better or for Worse" in 1993, when "The Boondocks" took on the war on terror in 2001. And now "Doonesbury" is back in the same situation.

The difference is that the offending installments are easy to find. In 1964, a "Pogo" fan who subscribed to a politically cautious newspaper wasn't likely to see a suppressed strip before it was reprinted in a book. By 1985, a high-profile cartoonist like Trudeau could arrange to have his "Silent Scream" strips published in a weekly, but less popular artists didn't have that option.

Today everything is online. I don't make a daily habit of reading "Doonesbury" anymore, but I haven't been able to avoid the abortion cartoons—it feels like half my friends on Facebook have been linking to them. […]

So thank goodness for the Internet, that glorious territory where wastebaskets are scarce. Newspaper editors may still quake at the thought of offending readers, but now us readers have a livelier alternative.

Read the whole thing here.