Bill Stott avatarAn opinion piece by Bill Stott

Free will and cartooning: is this a no-brainer? Or will I realise hitherto unseen and earth-shattering truths whilst typing? A eureka moment like finally figuring out what the symbol on your car’s dashboard resembling a tap-dancing flukeworm represents.

In some countries, drawing cartoons, usually political ones, which laud the state and lampoon the running dogs of whatever the state doesn’t much like (this will inevitably involve Obama’s ears) is a pretty safe bet.

Veer towards graphic criticism of the home side though, and you’re in deep doo-doo. Persist in veering and big blokes appear in the night and break your hands. No free will there then.

Bill Stott cartoon
Cartoon © Bill Stott @

And the hand-breakers don’t just practice their painful ways within the borders of their own country either. They internationalise their state’s repression by blowing you up in the comfort of your own home (given half a chance) thousands of miles away because you disrespected their religion, which IS their state. This is a fairly effective way of severely curtailing the free will of say, a cartoonist in Berkhamstead who comes up with a goodie involving Mohammed and brainwashed bombers.

Of course, we in the developed, civilised world, when not busy invading places a long way away, of which we know little, or selling them arms so that the pro-USA side wins, luxuriate in free will – cartooning and otherwise.

It tends to be the political cartoonists who come to mind if we think about free will, and they do a great job, pushing it to the wire in some eyes, especially if those eyes belong to somebody with broken hands in Longwayawayistan.

Thing is, ours is an old country. Our government rolls with the blows, safe in the knowledge that having the doughty Steve Bell draw you as a shiny condom probably won’t force a general election. And yet that resilience, confidence and apparent belief in the freedom of the press – excepting naughty phone-hacking types – is probably not underpinned by a simple, ingrained sense of fair play.

No, it is maintained by a secret service – a very necessary part of our free world, we are told (often by the secret service), who spook about the place causing things to happen, like one of their own turning up inexplicably dead in a gym bag and now conveniently forgotten by the free press. I don’t recall seeing too many cartoons about that.

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