The cartoon controversy

On Monday the Cayman Compass published on this page a political cartoon that has sparked an unexpected controversy.

Titled “Impossible,” the cartoon depicted a boy wearing a turned-backward baseball cap and smoking a cigarette, and many of our readers interpreted this image as being an unwarranted attack on all Caymanian youth.

That certainly was not the intention, but we do understand and appreciate that perception.

We viewed the image as a representation of a far-smaller subset of young Caymanians – those who exit our schools inadequately prepared educationally or attitudinally to secure gainful and productive employment in our community.

Having said that, we believe the negative reaction to this cartoon comes not so much from the subject matter – every country, not just Cayman, is struggling with these same youth issues – but from the appearance that we were stereotyping all of our young people in an exaggerated, unfair and negative way.

Again, if intent counts, that was not ours.

The editor of the Compass, David R. Legge, was asked by another media outlet if he thought the cartoon was funny.

That sounded like a “trick” (or a “trap”) question, but in any case it was the wrong question. Not every political cartoon needs to be funny. Some are poignant, some even solemn, but all, when executed skillfully, can add something of value to understanding a complex issue, almost at a glance. Great cartoonists have the ability to do this consistently, and we believe ours – George Nowak (aka “Barefoot Man”) – is among the best.

And yes, often times the best political cartoons are provocative – even offensive to some readers. Of course, our readers will recall a recent radical example of this. A Paris satirical newspaper called Charlie Hebdo published over an extended period multiple cartoons that lampooned the appearance of the Prophet Muhammad. On Jan. 11, 2015, terrorists raided their editorial offices, slaughtering 11 cartoonists, editors and others.

The next month, someone tried to shoot Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks and others on a panel with him in Copenhagen.

(Don’t get any ideas, dear readers.)

In the course of a year, the Compass publishes thousands of articles, hundreds of editorials, and well over 100 political cartoons – almost all produced under deadline conditions. No excuses here, but sometimes we’re more perfect than we are at others.

When we fall short, or are perceived to fall short, we are sensitive to our critics and always open to voices and opinions other than our own.

That being said, we are not in the business of talking down or being sycophantic to our audience. Our editorial tone is not one of condescension – it is the opposite.

We assume that our readers are intelligent, open-minded, involved and tolerant (all hallmarks of an educated mind). No subject is “ring-fenced” or off-limits in our pages. As readers (and no doubt politicians) are aware, we examine serious subjects seriously, taking unequivocal positions on such issues as the landfill, conservation, good governance, public schools, unemployment and other matters of importance.

As the community newspaper, the Compass, now in its 50th year, is integrally woven into the fabric of these islands. We are proud of the fact that more than 70 percent of our employees are Caymanian and as a company we are one of the largest contributors to, and supporters of, all things Caymanian. We annually allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars to local organizations in support of their worthwhile causes.

As journalists we strive to be fearless, never foolish, and certainly not offensive. All good editors and reporters must also be good listeners. In this case, we hear what you, many of our valued readers, are saying.


  1. This is similar to the Charlie Hebdo story, in that you don’t have the cartoon displayed here online, like many news outlets were scared to put the Hebdo cartoons on their websites.


  2. Oh, please! No one can offend you unless you choose to be offended. Offense only exists in one’s mind, it is not real. Choose not to be offended. Case closed.

  3. Well I followed the Hebdo story closely, I was in France when it happened, and so now I am trying hard to find any equivalence.
    No, try as I might I cant quite find it! I suppose both were published on paper but not online, but no Jenny, I dont think there is a Je suis story here!
    Je suis Arthur!

  4. I don’t get it. Are people really closed minded to start controversy over nothing?

    People really need to learn to take cartoons with a grain of salt, instead of causing controversy that is really unwarranted, they need to stop, think carefully on what the cartoon is really saying, and then openly discuss the matter at hand, yes, I agree that while it does seem like its a very provocative cartoon, in my eyes I can see that there is some truth to that cartoon.

    So instead of causing unneeded controversy, of bashing a news paper over a simple cartoon. Why not use the cartoon to start up a constructive debate to discuss the real issues instead?

    I see nothing wrong with that cartoon, In my eyes I think it exposes the Real Truth at hand.

    And the truth hurts doesn’t it?

  5. Your explanation is cogent and clear, and sufficiently apologetic in indicating understanding that there could have been misinterpretation of the editorial intent, for surely it is unfortunate that there are some teenagers who need to straighten out. Joe Vesely

  6. You shoudl be ashamed of yourself, the local people are hurting at all levels yet you print a cartoon that continues to insult them and keep the wound open. #disgraceful #lackoftaste

  7. I think that people mostly get offended by things that put the truth in their face especially when the truth hurts and it’s not the truth they want to hear. There’s youngster that fit the role of what depicted in these types of cartoons all over the world not just Cayman, I see them everyday. If it doesn’t reflect on your lifestyle I wouldn’t take it personally, if it does reflect your lifestyle you have bigger issues to worry about then a controversial Cartoon.

  8. I have been told by friends that there are young ladies in high school today who think it is prestigious to become pregnant, at the age of 15 or 16, by the most popular boy in class.

    One popular boy could be the father of several babies. All to young ladies in the same class.

    There is no long term commitment involved. And no expectation that the young man in question will ever be responsible for this child.

    Of course this is not every young lady by a long way.

    But how do you deal with this attitude?

  9. I didn’t see anything in the cartoon to suggest it was specifically aimed at Caymanian children. It seemed to be making a point about some young people generally.

    Certainly the attitude portrayed in the cartoon was one I have seen all over the world.

  10. While Margaret Thatcher was often the butt of many satirical sketches for the popular weekly puppet show ‘spitting image’, it was said she appreciated the show and was actually more concerned when she didn’t get featured – she knew her policies were likely to ruffle feathers and criticism was to be expected, so actually it’s absence was a cause for misgiving. Policies not robust enough to take a little public roasting should probably never be implemented in the first place.

    Good satire should indeed push the reader a little out of their comfort zone, so the problem is not that some were offended by this cartoon, but actually that not enough were upset by previous ones!

    Keep up the good work.

  11. looking at the Agrees and Disagrees on my comment below I have to think either:

    9 people think it is just fine for 15 / 16 year girls to deliberately get pregnant by a cute guy.
    9 people didn’t understand that this was NOT a comment directed at Cayman youth as a whole but at a very small proportion of them.

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