The Globe and Mail defended an editorial cartoon on the March 24 Germanwings plane crash in the Alps.
The cartoon by Brian Gable showed a man driving a car off the road while typing on what appeared to be a phone or tablet. The cartoon stated: “#Germanwings crash: Commercial air travel! It’s a dangerous world out there…”
Readers complained the cartoon was “demeaning,” insensitive, and tasteless, public editor Sylvia Stead reported.
However, Stead argued the cartoon served a valuable purpose. “I viewed it personally as a strong social commentary that even while the world mourns those who died on the mountain, humans continue with careless and extremely dangerous abandon in their own lives,” Stead wrote. “I saw it as a moment to stop and think about our own actions.”
She added that cartoons “aren’t all meant to be amusing, and at times, as with this particular cartoon, they are serious and biting social commentary.”
Stead also pointed to Gable’s own comments on the scope of cartoons in a recent column for the Globe and Mail and to her own response to complaints.
“The cartoon wasn’t meant in any way to ‘laugh’ at the Germanwings tragedy but in an oblique way to focus back on how ‘we’ are more often responsible for tragedies than we might naturally care to admit,” Gable told Stead.
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He also wrote March 27 in a column that “Cartoons can leap communication barriers to deliver powerful message.”
Most of the 17 comments on Stead’s column about Gable’s cartoon agreed.
“Good Golly Gee” wrote: “We are all horrified, and rightly should be, by the Germanwings tragedy. The point that people are missing is that every day hundreds of lives are cut short for equally senseless reasons. 6,000 teens die a year in the US. That’s about 115 a week, just shy of a Germanwings crash every week. The cartoon was trying to put this into perspective for the readers.”
“Thorald” commented: “I often think that Brian Gable’s work is thought provoking. This particular cartoon is an accurate commentary on the ignorance of people with regard to what is occurring around them. As such, Gable made his point clearly and did not cross any line.”
On the other hand, some readers disagreed.
“The Anchor” wrote: “To be sure, the cartoon in question was in poor taste. It was insensitive to those impacted by the Germanwings tragedy, all of whom I am sure follow the Globe and its editorial cartoons religiously. Those who were insulted by the carton need to get over themselves. Instead of focusing on how hurt they are, they should focus on the message of the cartoon: The senseless and yet totally avoidable tragedy of driving fatalities due to driver inattention. ”
“Duali” commented: “Disingenuous explanation. This cartoon was disrespectful to the 149 people who lost their lives. There’s a time and place for everything, and this was neither the time nor the place for the purported intent of this cartoon.”