Mr. Fish: In His Own Words

A sidebar to our story "A Dying Art"


A few hours after 12 people were murdered during the Jan. 7 shooting at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, we asked famed San Francisco-based editorial cartoonist Dwayne Booth, aka Mr. Fish, for his thoughts:

"Anyone incapable of interpreting the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris today as anything but a cruel and meaningless act of mass murder deserves neither my respect nor deference. To suggest, as some in the media—particularly those arguing from the right wing—have, that the targeting and killing of editors and cartoonists at a satire magazine is a tragic event, indeed, but that it is an inevitable consequence for those stupid enough to antagonize reactionary extremists is both overly simplistic, offensive and contrary to the purpose and promise of free speech and open democracy. Expressing an opinion with the point of a pencil leveled against a piece of parchment should in no way justify the point of a propelled bullet or bayonet leveled against living flesh as a reasonable response under any circumstance.

"Specifically, exercising one's artistic prerogative to create a drawing that is critical or demeaning of an established religion or political ideology should in no way be construed to equate to kicking a hornet's nest, which it has been, over and over and over again—for centuries, in fact!—as if art making where a form of telekinesis capable of physically threatening life and limb. Instead, art, like every other form of commentary, should equate to the voicing of an opinion, nothing more, even when that opinion is derogatory enough to piss people off by suggesting that there is NOT—nor will there ever be—a single favorite color that everybody must bow down to and claim as the best and prettiest in the universe.

"Of course, an additional point can be made in light of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and that is the place of the editorial cartoonist in modern day society, particularly in the United States. While there exists near universal condemnation of the killings from the overwhelming majority of magazines and newspapers reporting on the subject, there is absolutely no acknowledgment of precisely how little support or tolerance contemporary culture has given to the profession as a whole."