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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Thursday, May 02, 2013
Ignorance is Bliss

Letters to the Editor:

MacKay's cartoon was shameful

Graeme MacKay's cartoon in Friday's Spectator was an obscenity. It portrays Canadians as selfish, avaricious buffoons who care nothing for the plight of garment workers in Bangladesh so long as they can get their bargains. Because of the greed of Western corporations, clothing is outsourced to Third World nations to maximize profits, with little or no regard to the health and safety of workers in those countries. We as consumers are given no choice in the matter. It's impossible to find all our garment needs that are manufactured domestically. Shame on The Spectator for publishing this.

Hadyn Painter, Hamilton

* * * * *

Spec cartoon was in poor taste

The Bangladesh "bargain basement" cartoon in last Friday's Spectator was extremely tasteless. I'm sure I'm not the only one to feel this way.

This is pushing freedom of speech too far.

Paul Laird, Burlington

Posted at 11:03 am by Graeme_MacKay

Thursday, February 14, 2013
Roman Catholics rage against Mr. Infallibility cartoon

Letter to the Editor:

We subscribe to The Hamilton Spectator and a national daily newspaper. The treatment of the resignation of Pope Benedict was treated quite differently.

The Spec introduced the story at the bottom of the front page. The other paper treated it as the main story on the front page, followed by two full pages inside.

The Spec editorial cartoon pictured the Pope being pushed into a coffee shop on a small, wheeled platform toward a table with three seniors, one of whom declares "Better shove over and make room for Mister Infallible." The other paper pictured St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. A hand reaching from the clouds above posted a sign "Help Wanted."

It should be noted that although I am retired, nobody told me Pope Benedict made even one infallible statement or decision in his almost eight years of leading the Catholic Church.

(Rev.) R. Cote, Hamilton

* * * * *

I believe in freedom of expression, but the Feb. 12 cartoon of Pope Benedict was a despicable, outrageous, disrespectful rendering of a holy, learned man who heads the Catholic Church and has spoken and written to rulers and peoples everywhere calling for peace, justice and recognition of the dignity of every human being.

N. Winslow, Beamsville

* * * * *

The cartoon portraying Pope Benedict in an unflattering way did a disservice both to the Pope and the many Catholics who respect his decision to step down. The decision was courageous and reflects the Pope's clear understanding of himself and the needs of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict has championed the Christian principle of forgiving, and he would no doubt feel compelled to forgive the editorial cartoonist and the editorial board. The Pope and The Spectator's readers deserves better.

M. Ronney, Hamilton

* * * * *

From a clergyman to the Spectator Publisher...

The Cartoon in Tuesday's Spectator portraying Pope Benedict in an unflattering way was in my opinion, unfair and disrespectful to a Pope who has served his Church and the world well. I cannot understand what the Spectator thought they would achieve by printing that cartoon. Pope Benedict deserves better. My first reaction was to say "enough is enough"...time to cancel my subscription to the Spectator, and to encourage many others to do the same.

Why Sir did you and your colleagues permit this cartoon to appear?

Michael Ronney, Hamilton

In response, from Spectator Editor-in-Chief:

First, thank you for letting us know your thoughts on this cartoon. To be sure, it was not to everyone's liking, and we apologize for upsetting your sensibilities. The cartoon was meant to be playful and humorous, but I accept that you (and others) did not find it funny. Personally, I saw the cartoon not as disrespectful, but as humanizing the Pope, in a way that many of our readers can relate to. Like most newspapers, we give editorial cartoonists wide latitude to comment on news events.

Thank you again for letting us know your thoughts. We appreciate it.

Paul Berton

* * * * *

PAUL BERTON: Satire and Pope a volatile mix

If you ask some Catholics, The Spectator has always had a bias against their religion.

Apparently, we demonstrate this regularly in our coverage of everything from high school sports to homosexuality to condom use.

The last straw for some came this week with an editorial cartoon by The Spectator's Graeme MacKay marking the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

It may have been the biggest news of the week, and so was predictably the focus of many editorial cartoons around the world.

Some readers I spoke with on the phone and corresponded with this week were less than impressed with The Spectator's offering, to say the least.

MacKay's cartoon, which you can view at, imagined the Pope joining one of those ubiquitous coffee klatches where retirees gather at a diner to catch up, reminisce, discuss various ailments and gently poke fun at each other.

I have attended many such gatherings (as an observer or guest" and probably soon as a regular participant) and always find them heartwarming and fun in a mischievous way.

Indeed, I found the cartoon, in which the gang dubs their newest member "Mr. Infallible," heartwarming, and as I said to outraged readers, I thought it humanized the Pope.

Admittedly, I am not Catholic, and some with whom I spoke did not agree.

Instead, they used words such as "disgusting," "unfair," "unflattering" "mocking," "denigrating," "disrespectful," "mean-spirited" "derogatory," "unacceptable," "unprovoked," "hate speech" "Catholic-bashing," "petty," "small-minded" ...

It was not our intention to offend, but some wondered if we would have poked fun at other religious leaders in a similar way.

We asked ourselves that very question. The problem is, there isn't exactly an equivalent of the Pope in other religions.

I suspect the Dalai Lama might have found the cartoon both funny and humanizing if he was featured, though I can't say how Tibetan Buddhists would have reacted.

It's not often a pope retires, but editors would have been comfortable if a cartoon had poked similar fun at the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It's true, for all kinds of complex reasons, we do not depict Mohammed in cartoons. Nor, says cartoonist MacKay, would he have made fun of Jesus Christ.

That said, MacKay has had at least one of his pope cartoons in the past rejected by The Spectator, while others invariably cause reaction. And for the record, in past cartoons he has featured also the Dalai Lama, Islamic clerics, Muslims, Hindu gods and at least one Anglican archbishop, not always in a flattering way.

Meanwhile, there were many other cartoons this week marking the Pope's unprecedented decision to resign.

Some were polite, but made no comment; they were merely illustrations marking a news event. That is not the point of an editorial cartoon.

Others were more critical indeed, though I won't go into any details.

Meanwhile, this particular Pope has been subject to what can only be described as vicious attacks from cartoonists around the world over the years. Ironically, many of the most vicious come from cartoonists working for publications in predominantly Catholic countries.

I shudder to think what the editors faced following their publication there.

Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of The Hamilton Spectator and You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or

Posted at 11:28 am by Graeme_MacKay

Thursday, January 31, 2013
Of Masks and Medals

Letter to the Editor:

Hope i never become famous so this cartoonist never has to do my caricature.

Dougeroo, Jan 29 2013, Comment left at

* * * * * * *

With regard to the Jan. 29 editorial cartoon, how disrespectful that The Spectator has chosen to honour our new premier with a caricature that perpetuates the stereotype that all lesbians dress like men. Not only is this cartoon representative of outdated, homophobic thinking, it is quite inaccurate in its portrayal of Kathleen Wynne. She has yet to be seen wearing a tie. To the contrary, she wears stylish, professional business attire that is commonly worn by most women. Your paper and cartoonist need to show a lot more respect and consideration for the people you portray and the community that is your audience.

L. Campbell, Dundas

* * * * * * *

Meet the "NEW" premier kinda says it all- more of the same- nothing NEW about WYNNE. And yes, it appears to be a mask- you can see the back of Dalton's head and the straps of the mask- nothing to do with being a gay woman dressing like a man- GET OVER IT!!

cornfedhutch, Jan 31 2013, Comment left at

* * * * * * *

I believe if you look closely, you will seee that it is NOT WYnne portrayed in that cartoon, but rather a man (Dalton I presume) wearing a Wynne mask. With the words in the caption and the cartoon, it leads me to believe that it will be more of the same. Nothing to do with lesbianism, or homophobia! OPEN YOUR EYES!!

egghead2614, Jan 31 2013, Comment left at

* * * * * * *

you completely missed it. it was about her policies being the same as lying dalton, nothing to do with clothes. theres no shame in standing up for your orientation, but please, put your thinking cap on 1st.

terminator, Jan 31 2013, Comment left at

* * * * * * *

Wow, talk about seeing things differently. A letter writer saw lesbian bashing in the Jan. 29 editorial cartoon. I saw Kathleen Wynne's face on Dalton McGuinty's body. To me this meant new face but nothing has changed.

If you want to make a statement, make sure it has meaning. Why do some people always have to read between the lines? Sometimes what you see is what you see.

Carolyn Beckett, Hamilton

* * * * * * *

To the letter writer who complained about the Jan. 29 cartoon, get with it lady. Take time and study the cartoon. That is Dalton McGuinty behind the mask of the Honourable Premier Kathleen Wynne. Enough said.

Glenn Simpson, Hamilton

* * * * * * *

Wynne disrespected in cartoon (Letters, Jan. 31)

As I usually do, I read my Hamilton Spectator and I came across the letter relating to the editorial cartoon of Jan. 29. Naturally I went to my back issue of The Spec to see what I had missed and what had upset the letter writer so much.

I have to tell you that I didn't miss a thing. But, I think the letter writer did. The cartoon had nothing to do with Kathleen Wynne, her sexuality or her wearing of a tie or any homophobic thinking.

If the letter writer had looked closely she might have noticed that the cartoon was actually of Dalton McGuinty wearing a Wynne mask indicating that it will be " oh my God, let's hope not " a continuation of McGuinty's corrupt, inept government. That Wynne's statement of carrying on McGuinty's legacy is a warning to all of us to watch her lips. If they're moving, look out; you know what that means.

As far as respect goes, if you're an elected official, you seem to be fair game for cartoons. It goes with the territory. I think the letter writer was trying to read something into the cartoon that wasn't there. Please keep up the good work. I love the cartoons. Ted Weir, Beamsville

* * * * * * *

I'd wondered as well, if The Spec's Jan. 29 cartoon was trying to take a shot at Kathleen Wynne being a lesbian, but it didn't take long to realize it wasn't. When one looks closer at the way 'Wynne' is drawn, they can see that it is in fact the cartoon of Dalton McGuinty, wearing a mask of Wynne's face. In other words, the joke The Spec was trying to make is that Wynne is basically McGuinty with a new face.

Stephen Bryce, Stoney Creek

Letter to the Editor:


Normally I simply ignore your puerile offerings but today I'll tell you what I think. Not only are you a leftist hack, but you have no talent. You are never funny nor clever in your attempt at satire. Your drawings are pathetically inept and devoid of artistic skill; a waste of editorial space. You should thank your lucky stars that people like Gary McHale are out there putting everything on the line to preserve democracy and protect your cowardly backside.

Most sincerely,

David Strutt, Cartoonist

* * * * * * *

I recognize that cartoonist Graeme Mackay's job appears to be to sit safely in his office/home and be cynical of the doers in society. Hey, it is the very freedoms that we have worked so hard for in the past seven years that ensures Mackay can continue making a living. As SunTV has recently found out, the policing policies in Caledonia can quickly be used in Toronto to target reporters who are peacefully doing their jobs instead of dealing with angry protesters.

Imagine a day when Mackay's cartoons caused certain groups to be upset and as a result the police would target Mackay in order to keep the peace throughout the area. Would Mackay be so quick to belittle the hard work of those who fight to ensure all Canadians have the same rights and freedoms?

If fact, MacKay's cartoon is just another reason why so few have the courage to step forward and take a stand to ensure equality within our country. Often throughout history, those who enjoy the benefits of freedom rarely understand the cost nor appreciate those who take up the struggle. We continue to fight for Mackay's right to publish cartoons that belittle our efforts " whether or not he finds the cause worthy.

Gary McHale, Executive Director of CANACE, Binbrook

* * * * * * *

I am a fan of editorial cartooning but I had to wince when I saw your Jan. 31 cartoon depicting Queen's Jubilee medals being tossed willy-nilly to clowns and comic animals. Most of your readers will see this as a reference to the news that Caledonia activist Gary McHale has been awarded the medal. The list of puerile insults and indignities this magnificent man has stoically endured over many years beggars belief. If it was your cartoonist's intention to add to this list he has succeeded.

Stuart Laughton, Burlington

* * * * * * *

I have always admired political cartoons for the way they can so cleverly express an opinion. But that is all they are - an opinion and as such are often wrong. Your cartoon in the Hamilton Spectator of January 31 about the Queen's Jubilee Medal being awarded to Gary McHale may have cleverly expressed your opinion but I assure you, you could not have been more mistaken.

From my perspective, up until a year and a half ago, Gary McHale was just some poor guy who kept getting arrested in Caledonia while protesting something that was none of his business. I had no reason to believe otherwise because that is what The Spectator stories said. Besides, I have always trusted the police to do what is right and I generally sympathized with the natives who only wanted to settle grievances even though I abhorred their violent actions at the Douglas Creek Estates. In any case my interests lay elsewhere, in stories related to the Middle East and to radical Islam and I had no time to take more of an interest in Caledonia

But then I learned that Islamist groups were very much part of what was going on in Caledonia. They were agitators who took part in the native protests and even flew Palestinian flags over the violently seized DCE. The unionists, the Marxists and the anarchists were there too, stirring up the already volatile group of natives who believed that their grievances gave them the right to behave criminally. Yet the police never arrested any of the non-native agitators, only Gary McHale. My interest in Caledonia changed.

For the past year and a half Mr. Mackay, I have gotten to know Gary McHale and many of the others who support him. I have attended several of his rallies at the DCE and to this day I shake my head in disbelief at what I have witnessed. This was not in the former Soviet Union. Nor was it in some despotic Middle Eastern country. This was in Canada.

Even if I was of the opinion that natives who broke the law should not be arrested (which I am not), why were the Islamists, anarchists and Marxists who reject our democratic values and who were behaving provocatively not arrested for breach of the peace? On the contrary, at each rally only Gary McHale and his supporters were summarily handcuffed, thrown into police wagons like dangerous criminals and subjected to humiliating periods in custody.

Gary McHale has never once expressed any opposition to native claims and while he opposes the violence that occurred at DCE, he has never disparaged natives, their culture or their rights. Yet I have witnessed anarchists and Marxists yelling vulgar insults at him and calling him a racist when nothing could be further from the truth. I assure you, if Gary McHale had expressed racist sentiments, I would not be writing this letter.

Do you understand, Mr. Mackay, exactly what has happened in Caledonia? Have you been to even a single demonstration to witness the biased and discriminatory actions of the police? Do you even remotely appreciate that what Gary McHale is protesting is the absence of the rule of law? Does it bother you, even a little, that anti-democracy groups have succeeded in undermining our political and legal institutions and have thus managed to chip away at our freedoms?

Gary McHale does. That is what he has been fighting. That is why he deserves a medal.

It is a shame that because of your bias against Mr. McHale, you managed in one brief, self-righteous moment to mock every other recipient of the Queen's Jubilee Medal, past and present. You got it wrong, Mr. Mackay, because the real circus is in Caledonia where anarchists wear animal costumes and t-shirts emblazoned with expressions like "Fuck law and order"; where natives and their supporters are allowed to stand around holding weapons while Gary McHale is handcuffed and arrested for walking on a public road; where members of unions are permitted to behave disrespectfully and disruptively in courtrooms and receive no reprimand; where the police have wasted millions in taxpayer dollars while not doing what they have sworn to do - uphold the law; where the politicians have allowed this travesty to occur and where the liberal media helps pave the way for others like it.

Now that you know, perhaps you can draw a really, really clever cartoon.

S. Scheffer, Burlington

* * * * * * *

My Response to the above letter...

Hi, Steven

I appreciate your feedback.

Timing aside, what leads you to think Gary McHale is the subject of the cartoon? Did you actually see Mr. McHale depicted in the cartoon? None of the characters bear any resemblance. Do you think Gary McHale is the only person who has stirred up any controversy following nomination to a Queen's Jubilee Medal?

There is nothing in that cartoon to indicate my position on the situation in Caledonia. To understand my evolving observation on the situation there for the past 6+ years is a simple google search away if you really care to find the answer to some of the questions you ask. I could ask you, the same question as to whether you understand exactly what has happened in Caledonia, but I won't, because in my opinion there is no right answer.

I think you know what I'm stating in the cartoon, but are instead using it as a convenient sounding board to advance an argument that everyone realizes is present and will only lead to more bloodied noses, blocked roads, and tax dollars spent on increased policing.

So for the record, the cartoon you're writing about is a simple commentary on the farce that has beset a noble idea to recognize Canadians who have made significant contributions to this country. The majority are well deserved people who've earned their medals quietly and respectfully, while others have simply received them for having a title, or holding a certain office, or because they're a friend of someone charged with giving out those awards. The final category that has made a farce of the medal are individuals who, while possessing tremendous merit in the eyes of their supporters, are so widely divisive it makes the award very questionable. These factors, not my cartoon, have brought mockery to this medal.


Graeme MacKay Editorial Cartoonist The Hamilton Spectator Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Posted at 04:19 pm by Graeme_MacKay

Thursday, October 04, 2012
Some Tyrant Love

Letter to the Editor:

Cartoonist Graeme MacKay missed the mark with his caricature of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The biggest joke of the opening session of UN General Assembly was the "red-line" speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the Wile E. Coyote-style cartoon of a grenade with a wick. The Israeli leader, whose country has a nuclear arsenal and who hasn"t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is accusing the Iranian leader, who has signed the NNPT and declares he has no intention of making a bomb, of being a threat to the world.

As for the words "hate, hate, hate" coming out of Ahmadinejad's mouth, The Spectator has a duty to its readers to provide accurate translations from the original Farsi of the statements made by the Iranian leader, rather than self-serving, twisted simulations manufactured in the US and Israel. Demonstrations will take place across Canada, the U.S. and the UK on Oct. 6 because ordinary people worry we are being led down the warpath against Iran based on the same falsehoods which led to war in Iraq.

D. Rennie
Stoney Creek
Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War

Posted at 05:22 pm by Graeme_MacKay

Tuesday, June 05, 2012
Barf bag, please

Letter to the Editor:

As a subscriber to The Hamilton Spectator, I am thoroughly shocked at the lack of sensitivity regarding your choice of editorial cartoon for June 5. The situation is bad enough without adding to the tragedy. I would excuse a newsstand tabloid for sensationalizing a tragic story but, not the Spec. Let's keep black humour to a minimum and off the editorial page. Stick to making fun of our political system, where there is a lifetime of entertainment value.

Mr. R. McEwen, Port Dover

* * * * * *

At this week, we posted a video made by a Dutch artist who stuffed his dead cat and turned it into a toy helicopter. With each paw adorned with a mini-rotor, the thing actually flies.

What a world.

At our daily news meeting here at The Spectator, some editors suggested we point our print readers to the online video by mentioning it on the front page, but others thought it simply in bad taste.

Dead pets are a dicey business for most editors (the same way living ones are always a surefire hit) and we are wary of things that would unnecessarily offend the sensibilities of our readers.

But what is bad taste? And is it even news?

In the end, we decided against pointing to the video, but I didn't receive any complaints about our decision to post it online. In fact, news organizations around the world also thought this "art" was newsworthy.

I did, however, receive many calls and emails from readers about another piece of art that appeared in the paper this week: an editorial cartoon by The Spectator's Graeme MacKay.

It depicted a man reading a newspaper that was dripping with blood, and the caption: "What's black and white and red all over?"

Many readers called and wrote to express their dismay, to say the least. A published letter by Robert McEwen summed it up: "I am thoroughly shocked at the lack of sensitivity regarding your choice of editorial cartoon for June 5. The situation is bad enough without adding to the tragedy."

Some in the blogosphere reacted to this with "what's-the-big-deal?" comments, but I heard from enough people to know that it was indeed a big deal, for them at least.

Editorial cartoonists are expected to be funny, and often they are, but they do much more than that — they comment on the miseries as much as the inanities of life. And they are expected to push the envelope. All good cartoonists do.

Some of the cartoons I've found the funniest in my career as a newspaper editor are the very ones readers have been distinctly "not amused" by.

As for this one, I'm not sure. Obviously, I was not amused by it, but I wasn't offended either. Was it necessary? There is no good answer. It was, after all, a gruesome week for news, and reality certainly was more shocking than the cartoon.

I can't say whether we needed to be reminded of that or not.

MacKay himself responded to the controversy this way: "No subject should be off the table" for a cartoon, he said, "but there was a definite lack of them" when he was looking for one last week.

In the end, he chose the subject about which most people were talking.

It's a challenge, to be sure, for editors and cartoonists alike. We try as best we can to be relevant and incisive and funny (if possible) without being too offensive. We don't always accomplish it all.

And we try to learn from our readers.

Ultimately, everything is indeed news. As for the question of what is bad taste or good? I'm afraid that will always remain a matter of individual opinion.

Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of The Hamilton Spectator and You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or

Posted at 11:16 am by Graeme_MacKay

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