Orbital Matters

Saturn Smith
Editor’s Pick
MARCH 13, 2012 12:18AM

Doonesbury strip pulled to avoid confusing Georgia readers

Rate: 23 Flag
In case your newspaper isn't running Doonesbury this week, here it is. Just as interesting is the moderated discussion being posted under "Blowback" at the Doonesbury site, which ranges from touching stories about personal encounters to promises to pray for the artist's pro-murder soul.

Agreeing or disagreeing is never a good reason to censor the idea. Neither is pulling it from your paper because you're afraid that your readers might confuse the strip for commentary on their own state's news instead of knowing that it's about Texas.

So let's break this down. First, Jim Thompson, the Editorial Page editor for the Athens Banner-Herald, wrote Sunday in the "Editor's Corner" that he wouldn't be running the Doonesbury strip about the Texas ultrasound requirement because it would confuse his Georgia readers. Quote:

Given that the Georgia General Assembly is considering an abortion bill — House Bill 954, sponsored by Rep. Doug McKillip, R-Athens, which would prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy — I made a unilateral decision not to publish the “Doonesbury” strips intended for publication this week. Quite simply, I thought there was a real possibility that readers might confuse the topic of this week’s “Doonesbury” with Georgia’s proposed abortion legislation, and I didn’t want to add any confusion to the ongoing concerns, pro and con, about House Bill 954.

Since then, his reasons have been picked up and roundly mocked by major news sites. Thompson wrote today that he was reconsidering his stance: "That decision has, though, been viewed by many readers as an insult to their intelligence. I certainly understand that viewpoint, and that’s why I’m taking a new look at the issue." He says there might be a change -- a restoration of new Doonesbury instead of Doonesbury reruns -- on Wednesday.

297px-Seal_of_Georgia.pngYes, that says Wisdom, Justice, Moderation.

Is it possible to confuse the Doonesbury strip from today with what's happening in Georgia? Eh, maybe, if all you read is the comics. If not, the debate over HB954 has been pretty big news in the Peach state for the last few weeks -- particularly since the bill passed the House two weeks ago. If it were to take effect, this law would make all abortions illegal after 20 weeks unless the health of the mother or another unborn fetus were at risk. It specifically excludes psychological health, including suicidal impulses, from the reasons for termination. Doctors would also be required to report that they had proven gestational age to be at 20 weeks or below before performing any abortion services.

The bill has been hotly debated in this very Georgia newspaper, with one local doctor charging the bill could make caring obstetricians into criminals while another doctor chimed in to say neither male legislators nor uninvolved parties should be making the "agonizing" decisions best left between women and their physicians.

In fact, most of the debate about this bill centers around two points of argument: the bill's sponsor's contention of when a fetus can feel pain, and opponents' charges that the bill would force women to carry non-viable fetuses to term. Ultrasounds were't a spotlight star here.

So could you see the Doonesbury strip and, as a loyal and intelligent Georgian, become confused about what it means? Maybe! Maybe all abortion debates run together in your head. Truthfully, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. If running the Doonesbury strip got readers in Georgia to thinking and discussing further what limitations they're willing to accept -- and what governmental interference they're willing to endorse -- I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

Real learning often comes from confusion, after all, and wouldn't it be a blessing to see a little uncertainty interjected into a debate where, currently, certainty of righteousness is fueling a crusade for further restrictions nationwide.

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Whatever you do -- don't frighten or confuse the sheep.
Brilliant. Thanks for posting this. A clear case of overt censorship.
"he wouldn't be running the Doonesbury strip ... because it would confuse his Georgia readers"

Well, you gotta give him credit for knowing his audience
I will never understand why sensation of pain is the criterion for when it is right to take a life. I'm certain none of these pretentious assholes is a vegetarian, yet by the standards they apply to abortion ending the life of any animal is murder.
There really wouldn't be much confusion. Unlike the Georgia Legislature, Garry Trudeau uses three or more-syllable words.
I just read the strip in question and I highly doubt it was pulled because the Banner-Herald's readers are so easily baffled.
OMG...

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I'm kind of pissed that my local paper, The Tennessean, is not running three of the week's strips because of some language used in the strip. I guess they're trying to hold on to their readership of very religious old people.
They pulled it here in Fort Worth because they equated it with Limbaugh's "slut" comments. Neither one took "the high road" according to the column.
Another sad example of the First Amendment being winked at in the interest of the first and golden rule of business: maximize profit, and we're seeing this more and more as the news industry rolls over to corporate greed.
Just put the strip on the editorial page for the duration of the story arc. Problem solved, no censorship.
It is a battle of epic proportions. We need to shed as much light on it as we can. Thank you for this post. Get the government out of my womb.
One thing this scandal seems to have indicated is that in many cases these stories are reported at the local level and ignored at the national level until it is much bigger. Perry signed his bill months if not a year before Virginia. This has gone almost unnoticed about this and many other stories.

If more people were paying attention sooner then these insane policies might have been slowed down or stopped much sooner; instead they report them only at select locations and many of us don't know about it for months.
I'm one of the most liberal damned people around here. The San Diego Union Tribune is declining to run Doonesbury this week too. So what. It's not the first time that this has happened over the years to Doonesbury. There are times when this particular cartoon/comic has indeed crossed the line between cartoon and editorial cartoon. There have been times when some newspapers have moved Doonesbury to the op/ed page and some have done it permanently. It's a little like editorializing in a news article. We rarely if ever know when that kind of content gets cut or moved to the editorial page. I'm all in favor of the points that Gary Trudeau is trying to make (read my post last week "Cigarettes, Ultrasound and Deliberation).
Yes, it can be argued that Doonesbury on the comics page this week might reach a different audience and convince some people. But is that the purpose of a cartoon strip on a comics page? And if it were done would the paper feel an obligation to attempt to have balance?
So, I've got to disagree with your premise on Doonesbury but not your perspective on this issue which is playing out in multiple states.
Doug McKillup ran for his seat in the GA Assembly as a Democrat in Athens. As soon as he was elected, he switched to the GOP. Now he is responsible for this bill.

I ask you, do we get to vote for representations of our issues, or is the American vote a big effing joke? SO tired of all this crap.
"Wisdom. Justice. Moderation." That's rich! Thanks for a brilliant post!
Okay, Doonesbury is a political strip. At it's worst it is still legitimate opinion, so why censor it if so? Unless of course it contains opinion that defies the sensibilities and desires of the editorial staff and the advertisers who buy ad space in what is sadly a rapidly dying medium.
Having worked in Georgia for 3 years I'm wondering who would be confused as I never saw anyone at work read a newspaper during their break. But I did once see a newspaper left on a table.
To add to jubydoo's post, I'm pretty sure that most if not all of the victims of our drones strikes have felt pain, and I'm likewise pretty sure that none of these "pro-life" types lose any sleep over that petty little fact.
The San Diego Union Tribune is not running the strip either. Several years ago, the strip wa moved to the Opinion Section because it was overtly political....maybe they will move it back. Apparantly the comics section is only for news.
God forbid, people be made to THINK about something complex! R
Don't forget many Georgians believe their "comrade" from South Carolina, Monsieur Colbert, is actually a real conservative, so, they would be confused- hell, they are confused about everything except the role of their precious KKK.
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