I’ve written in the past about how a frequent benchmark for an editorial cartoonist is either making the reader laugh or making them angry. Based on that, I must be doing a fantastic job, because the latter was rampant in Twitter responses this week.
A strip from a few weeks back about intelligence reports of Russian bounties on American troops—newly relevant again given a recent Axios interview with President Trump—got its responses on Twitter. While the strip saw some “likes,” one critic apparently found the punchline of the President being a puppet for Vladimir Putin ironic, given their opinion that I and my host newspaper are “commies.” Another Twitterer found an urge to counter the same strip with footage of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson sharing a seemingly unrelated opinion that America is “witnessing a brazen power grab.”
That same Twitter user had a similar response to another strip, one that played on the renewed popularity of Hamilton: The Musical with a Trump-led parody musical. An apparent Trump voter, they replied to the cartoon with three tweets with video content—one of Attorney General Bill Barr denouncing Democrats, and two anti-Joe Biden clips. I’ve learned to appreciate the backlash my cartoons sometimes receive. As I’ve said, if my work makes you angry, I’ve accomplished the primary goal—to make you think. And if you take the time to respond, even to share seemingly unrelated footage to only bolster your worldview, then I’ve succeeded in also touching a nerve.
It’s all part of the terrain for an editorial cartoonist. I trade in opinions and provoking thoughts on hot button issues. Now I wear these responses with pride, as badges of honor. I often share the more ironic or pointed responses on my Instagram feed or story. When I do, the posts often receive a mix of comments; some laugh at the responses with me, others feel the need to console me for the negative feedback. And while I intend the former reaction to sharing the haters’ responses, I understand the urge to react with the latter.
But for all my critics, I also have my backers. Case in point, in the midst of these angry responses to my cartoons, another Twitter user recognized my handle and connected the dots to my City Paper work. Unlike the earlier examples, however, this user was a fan. “Keep on rocking with the righteous cartoons,” @JustaGadfly tweeted. “Chucktown needs a regular poke with a stick to keep it honest.”
And that’s exactly why I do what I do—and it’s not just Chucktown that can use a good poke with that stick.
How do you respond to online criticism? Share your thoughts in the ShoutFyre forum!
Editor, Artist, Letterer, Colorist Steve is the long-running cartoonist at the Charleston, SC alt-weekly Charleston City Paper, where he skewers politicians and criminals (and criminal politicians) alike with editorial cartoons and police blotter illustrations every issue. Steve was best known his indie comic book (and subsequent webcomic) BOONDOGGLE