September 23rd 1968  (Age 53)

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Random Thots is brought to you by Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist at the Hamilton Spectator, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Website:

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Monday, February 26, 2007
Drawing Terrorists

A chorus of opinion writers emerged over the weekend to celebrate the Supreme Court of Canada in its decision to declare government issued security certificates against suspected terrorists as unconstitutional. Now some rather local activist minded folk irritated by my cartoon are checking in to tell me how much of a fascist monster I am to swim against the river of support for the Supreme Court's decision.

To them I let it be known that that's supposed to be the job of the editorial cartoonist -- to go against the conventional wisdom of the eggheads in country, whether they're politicians or supreme court judges. This cartoon is to remind the reader that while it may be by all appearances an indictment against government curtailing the rights of a few dubious individuals for the safety of the majority there remains a threat that at anytime in the future this country will endure the horror of a terrorist act. We are, afterall, fighting them with bullets half a world away in Afghanistan.

But then the accusation is made that the depiction of these terrorists using the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a plaything paints me, the cartoonist, as a racist, implying that all Muslims are terrorists. It reminds me of the time I drew Martha Stewart being harassed at the US/Canadian border as terrorists were breezing in without difficulty. Same accusation was made in letters posted alongside the Martha Stewart cartoon.

Should the terrorists be shown wearing suits, or baseball caps on backwards? Everybody knows what the stereotypical terrorist in 2007 looks like, and they resemble the very people you see in today's cartoon.

* * * * * * * * * *

And here's a perfect example:

Mr. Mackay:

So Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols build a terrorist bomb carrying vehicle, blow up a large building in a downtown American City, kill 165 people including men, women and children and as full scale professional terroists, get a full trial, full access to the US Bill of Rights, benefit of the doubt, aggressive lawyers, full disclosure of the government's case, as does every IRA terrorist that tried to kill people in downtown London and every Basque separatist that blows up trains. These are all nice white people, McVeigh a veteran of the US armed forces, they do not wear beards or funny hats. It is obvious that in your world, the absence of beards and non-european headwear makes the big difference for the white folks who, with no real public complaint get full protection when the state takes after them. Even when the white guy without the beard and head gear is a pig farmer who is charged with killing bunches of females and feeding them to pigs, we still make sure he has the benefit of the doubt and disclosure and a lawyer and a fair trial. But the Mackay message is that Beards and Headgear and Mulsim identity get you ridiculed and we are urged by you to think those bearded, headgeared, muslims should not get the benefit of our Charter of Rights, and by inference that the Charter of Rights is something to joke about.

Its hard to imagine a more racist, destructive, mean spirited message than that in your comment on the Supreme Court of Canada decision.

But instead of my words about why you should be really proud to be part of a country that treats its most despicable, feared or evil people with a guaranteed set of rules of fairness and honesty developed over 800 years, I hope you will consider for a moment what an experienced US soldier, Lt. Cmdr Charles Swift, has to say about dispensing with the rules.

If you really believe that our Charter should be mocked in the fashion of your cartoon, there are wonderful countries in this world without a charter and without an independent supreme court. I would be happy to give you a list of places you might consider that would be more in harmony with your views. Given the power of the internet you could easily continue you work by email, so the move could be done with no loss of income. And often the cost of living might be less than here. Although I really doubt you would move to any such place.

Herman Turkstra

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear Mr. Turkstra,

Thank you for your thoughts. Fortunately, we Canadians are free to express our opinions and I know we won't see eye to eye on this matter.

I just don't agree that the Supreme Court did any good to protect the collective interest of Canadians in its decision to protect the rights of a few dubious characters. I also don't agree with Parliament's rejection of extending the anti-terrorism provisions. Especially... and this is what so many naive Canadians and Liberals are casually ignoring... when we happen to be at war with terrorists half a world away in Afghanistan. To not have these safeguards in place at such a potentially dangerous time is reckless. If it doesn't raise the possibility of enduring a Madrid, London, or Bali styled attack, we'll just become more of a safehouse for terrorist cells planning its assaults on our allies. If you think having to get a passport is such a huge inconvenience for getting into the U.S. now, imagine how inconvenient it's going to become as we laugh off America's post 9-11 paranoia with flimsy anti-terrorism laws.

As for the cartoon, the terrorists we're fighting don't happen to be nice white guys with Irish or midwestern American accents, but guys wearing turbans and army fatigues. So, if you want to call me racist for drawing the terrorists the way I did you might as well call all the soldiers fighting the Taliban and Al Qaida racists as well. How you conclude that I've painted all Muslims as terrorists is groundless and unfair. But it's not like I've heard that one before.

While I appreciate getting your feedback on cartoons I think you could be getting much wider coverage by sending it on to the letters editor. Put it on the record, because the moment a bomb goes off in downtown Toronto or Montreal in the name of Islamic extremism I assure you, you'll be eating your words.


Graeme MacKay

* * * * * * * * * *

In dedication to Mr. Turkstra and his ilk, I thought I'd draw another cartoon on the issue. See a related blog entry on ad parodies, otherwise known as wackys, which inspired this cartoon.


Someone who runs the Dymaxion World blog writes a lengthy analysis piece critiquing my terrorists bouncing on the Charter of Rights cartoon filled with "racism and authoritarianism". He thinks I'm a right wing propagandist and he uses the same argument Herman makes by suggesting I'm racist for portraying all terrorists as bearded guys with turbans. He adds the FLQ to the list of white guy terror groups which is a nice bit of trivia, but really doesn't apply to things going on in 2007 despite how lengthy he rambles on about it. 

He demands to know why another blogger dared to post my offensive cartoon. In defence he writes:

The Cartoon represents the opinions of many Canadians (that our security is being neglected for the sake of "rights"). Sure, it could be seen as propaganda, or it can be seen as a reflection of some individuals opinions. Whether we agree or not does not change the fact that such a sentiment exists.

If someone wants to ascribe an opinion to me based on a cartoon expressing the artist's opinion (which isn't supported in any way by my opinion written below), they can feel free.

Posted at 10:41 am by Graeme_MacKay

Herman Turkstra
January 18, 2010   11:31 AM PST
Hi Graeme: This showed up quite unexpectedly on my screen today and I couldn`t resist a comment. Since then we`ve learned particularly in the last year that the terrorists look exactly like us, a lesson we should have learned when the graduates of Waterloo University blew up power lines in British Columbia two decades ago. And one can argue that Henry Kissinger in Cambodia or Cheney in Iraq or the President of Israel in Gaza were terrorists who looked remarkably like you and me. So I wondered if you still think that terrorists all have turbans? OK OK, I understand you have to deal in stereo types, but my ilk keep battling those stereotypes because they generally lead us down the wrong path, IMHO.

Hope all is well with you.

Graeme MacKay
January 19, 2010   01:59 PM PST
Things haven't changed much in my mind since the above cartoons were drawn. I'm certainly disappointed with how events have transpired in Afghanistan since early 2007 - the failure to effectively root out the Taliban from keys areas, the failure to advance democracy in Afghanistan with legitimate elections, and a willingness to accept bribes from insurgents and warlords to enable mobility. Sure, you can call the white guys that ran the U.S. during the Vietnam war, or Cheney during the Iraq war are terrorists as much as you can call Barack Obama a black guy who is arguably a terrorist. I guess there's different degrees of terrorists. A white guy that blows up power lines in B.C. is a bit different than people convicted of successfully/planning on blowing up and killing random innocent people. There are really only one kind of people who are carrying out those acts in this day and age in the post 911 era, and they all happen to be doing their killing in the name of one certain religion, and one certain god.

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