Complaint about political cartoon in the Valley Record | Letters

Cartoonist also responds.

Editor’s note: The following letters refer to a political cartoon that ran in the June 7 edition of the Snoqualmie Valley Record. For context, the cartoon has been included at the bottom of this post. Here is a link to the original story that inspired the cartoon.

Cartoon complaint

I wanted to write to you in regard to your editorial cartoon in the opinion section from June 7, 2024, about Carnation City Manager Ana Cortez.

I want to let you know first off that I respect the public, citizen journalists, and legacy news outlets rights under the First Amendment to criticize. I recognize the robust freedom to criticize those of us who are elected officials and those in leadership positions in city government. Sometimes that criticism is harsh or even personally offensive to those holding those positions. Given the power of government in our lives, criticism and satire are important tools for citizens to be heard.

I personally believe that the cartoon you posted is another matter entirely. Posting a target on the back of a government or elected officials is a very dangerous thing to do. I’m having a hard time understanding how something like this could make it through your editorial review process without anyone stopping and thinking about the implicit message this conveys. There are a thousand different ways you could criticize the Carnation City Council or its city manager. You could post a cartoon or editorial harshly criticizing us. But what I believe you should not do is publish cartoons or editorials that carry with them an implied threat of violence.

I have seen our local Teamsters representative show up at several city council meetings respectfully asking for the city council to terminate or not renew the contract of the city manager. I’ve seen him offer pointed criticism on social media and elsewhere which is absolutely his right and his duty as the Union Representative. At no point have I seen them resort to anything like what’s in the cartoon.

I’ve been in the Seattle area for 30 years now. I don’t ever recall anything like this being directed at an employee or elected official in any city, county, or at the state level. I’ve never seen anything like it. When I was sent a picture of it, I actually had to get a copy of the full page myself because I couldn’t believe that any media outlet would publish this. I would honestly hope in the future that you feel free to continue to criticize and report on local issues like those in Carnation and the rest of the Snoqualmie Valley. But I would hope you would exercise better judgment in regard to the message this conveys.

Ryan Burrell, Carnation City Council, Position 4

Response from cartoonist

I am very sad that one of my cartoons has prompted such an angry response, directed at the Valley Record. That certainly wasn’t my intention.

In fact, my cartoon was not designed to be critical of City Manager Ana Cortez in any way. It was a response to the headline and story on the front page of the May 31 edition: “Union calls for resignation of Carnation city manager.”

I thought (and still think) that the cartoon says that, by calling for her resignation for “union-busting tactics,” the Teamsters put a target on the mayor’s back. Hence the word balloon in which Cortez says, “It’s a gift from the Teamster’s Union.”

Painting a target on someone’s back is colloquial, and hasn’t historically meant that it’s an invitation for gun violence or violence of any kind. From The Grammarist: “To have a target on one’s back means to be the focus of someone’s anger, to be singled out as someone to persecute, to be identified as someone’s main rival.”

It never occurred to me that someone would see a target in the cartoon and assume that it’s advocating for someone to physically harm the city manager. I am sorry some individuals interpreted it that way. Of course, I would never draw a cartoon that advocates for such a horrible thing.

So, once again I deeply regret the controversy and hurt feelings that followed the publication of my cartoon.

Frank Shiers, cartoonist

The cartoon below was published in the June 7, 2024, edition of the Snoqualmie Valley Record:

Cartoon by Frank Shiers

Cartoon by Frank Shiers