Editorial cartoonists, who are hired by news organizations to lacerate the political scene in images, rarely make the news outside of instances in which their publishers have proven to be too skittish to allow them to do the job for which they were hired in the first place. This weekend, it was Canadian syndicated cartoonist Michael DeAdder’s turn.
— Michael de Adder (@deAdder) June 26, 2019
Days after the above editorial cartoon, depicting a golfing President Donald Trump asking to “play through” over the bodies of drowned migrants Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, went viral, DeAdder has had his contract with Brunswick News, Inc. terminated. The publishing concern, based in Saint John, New Brunswick, owns and operates all of the province’s daily newspapers, including the Moncton Times & Transcript, The (Fredericton) Daily Gleaner, and the Saint John Telegraph-Journal.
The upshot is that DeAdder will no longer have his work published in the province he’s called home. At the same time, the decision to terminate his contract has all but ensured that the cartoon will now find a wider audience than it otherwise would have done on its own.
Brunswick News, Inc. is owned by J.K. Irving, who is best known as the billionaire son of Canadian industrial magnate K.C. Irving and, with two other family members, a co-owner of the “Irving Group” conglomerate, which has interests in any number of industries, including lumber, shipbuilding, oil shipping and refining, and construction.
His monopoly over New Brunswick’s daily newspapers has been cited as an example of the concerns that flow from media concentration. A 1999 overview of the 1970 Davey Committee and the 1981 Kent Commission, which both took up the issue of media monopolies at a time when anxieties over such business arrangements were in their nascent stages, cites Irving’s news holdings as a particular red flag. The Kent Commission proposed legislation that would “require the break-up of regional monopolies, such as that of the Irving family in New Brunswick, by prohibiting the ownership of two or more newspapers having 75% or more of the circulation, in one language, in a defined geographical area.”
Julia Le Duc’s photograph of Ramirez and his daughter — which was originally published in La Jornada before it got picked up by the Associated Press, spurring it into certain viral fame — has been a flashpoint for controversy in and of itself, spawning something of a robust debate over whether the dreadful depiction was fit to publish or whether it was exploitative. Given the breadth of reaction, for and against, it was reasonable to assume that a cartoon broadly depicting the same events might run afoul of newsroom standards, prompting a decision to not run the image.
But given that DeAdder was essentially dismissed over the matter, it is fair to argue that DeAdder was ill-served by the monopolistic aspect of New Brunswick’s daily news scene. In a statement posted to Facebook, Wes Tyrell, the president of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists, alleges as much:
Michael told me once that not only were the J.D. Irving owned New Brunswick newspapers challenging to work for, but there were a series of taboo subjects he could not touch. One of these taboo subjects was Donald Trump.
The Irvings have considerable corporate interests in the United States, but why would they care about cartoons potentially offending the American president?
It’s simple really, J.D. Irving, Limited is not only a privately owned conglomerate headquartered in New Brunswick, its also an international behemoth with global reach. Trade has been an issue since Trump took office, trade that affects the Irvings directly, not to mention a host of other issues. And the President himself is an unknown quantity who punishes those who appear to oppose him.
The trope of political figures golfing and showing disdain for issues has been seen before, but deAdder’s take hit a nerve. It went viral and social media stars like George Takei even shared it. For a brief period de Adder was the poster boy for the Anti-Trump movement. A good place to be if you’re a cartoonist, but a bad place to be if you work for a foreign oil company with business ties to the United States.
“A solid reason why an oil company has no business owning newspapers,” he adds.