When an editorial cartoonist takes on the National Rifle Association, NRA can also stand for “Negative Reaction Avalanche.”
Sure enough, Mike Thompson received many critical e-mails after drawing his cartoon last September. “The gun lobby is very well organized and very capable of responding en masse any time somebody questions the wisdom of unlimited access to guns,” he says.
Thompson, who did the cartoon after a man opened fire in a Detroit day-care center, recalls that the e-mails came from various parts of the country. “This is something cartoonists are encountering more and more since the advent of the Internet,” notes the artist, whose work is syndicated by Copley News Service. “Special-interest groups have become very savvy about this. Your work can be widely disseminated, so response can come from all over. Often, these reactions are orchestrated.”
Thinking about the cartoon several months later, Thompson has no regrets about drawing it. “It did what a good political cartoon is supposed to do: It touched a nerve,” he says. “In this case, I deflated one of the NRA’s principal arguments against gun control. Any time political cartoonists can turn someone’s argument on its head, they’re going to get a lot of reaction. But that’s part of my job ? getting people to think and opening up a dialogue with readers, and sometimes generating anger.”
Thompson adds: “I don’t believe readers necessarily want to agree with everything in a newspaper. Talk radio and cable TV [understand] this concept. While my own editors are great, many newspaper editors elsewhere shy away from anything hinting of controversy.”