Chinese hackers went to considerable time and effort to hamstring the nation’s cartoonists. Really?
Good news America. The imminent demise of American influence on world culture has been postponed for at least a decade. Actually, let’s make that two and a half decades. It’s been just about that long since political cartoonists have had any juice in the public arena.
If you haven’t noticed, the past 25 years have been pretty rough on those in my chosen trade. There are fewer and fewer papers willing to pay for an in-house cartoonist. In fact there are fewer and fewer papers in general, and so cartoonists have been relegated to online syndicates like Artizans.com (blatant plug for my syndicate, Artizans.com).
With that in mind, it came as something of a shock when last month Cagle, a major online syndicate, was brought to a dead stop by Chinese hackers. Someone, or a group of someones, went to considerable time and effort to hamstring the nation’s cartoonists. Really? I understand their next move will be to interrupt our vital supply chain of hula hoops.
Not to disparage my art, but let’s be honest. Editorial cartoonists are not at the center of the information universe. It’s not that we shouldn’t be; it’s just that we’re not. So when a hostel foreign actor goes to the trouble to do us damage, well, it makes me feel warm and wanted.
Feelings of gratitude aside, the hacking of Cagle means China is actively disrupting the national supply of snarkieness. Could it be that they actually meant to do damage to the country by disrupting the flow of information so vital to a liberal democracy? Perhaps they thought the position of editorial cartoonists in the cultural hierarchy was somewhere north of where it actually is. Whatever they thought, they have obviously miscalculated the gravity of their actions. They have irritated a few cartoonists and a few editors and that’s about it.
The question here is, what was the end game? It’s been rumored that our power grid is vulnerable to hackers, as are elements of the banking and communication industries and the transportation system. So China chooses to keep the latest Trump cartoon off the newsstands. Yep, that should get our attention.
Remember a few years ago when North Korea hacked Sony? Now that one stung. It cost a major corporation a lot of money and embarrassment. It distracted us from our constant distraction and grabbed us like an overdose of Ritalin. Those guys from Pyongyang are plugged into American culture. They seem to know what really makes us tick. In targeting Sony they targeted one of our vital cultural organs. On the other hand, China went after our cultural adenoids. They don’t get it. They are not plugged into western civilization and are not ready to assume the role of cultural standard bearer.
So if you’re worried about China knocking us off our influence pedestal any time soon, I think you can breathe a little easier. For a while anyway. This recent act of cyber sabotage demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding. They are, after all, a closed society. They don’t fully appreciate the nuanced tones of an Ariana Grande song. They don’t understand the thoughtful examination of our shared human condition that is America’s Got Talent. And they certainly can’t grasp the subtle wit found in 280 characters.
It could be that they did this just because they could. Or maybe this was just a dry run and the next time the lights will go dark or your checking account will be wiped out. Maybe they will hack our next election and a bag of navel lint will be installed to the nation’s highest office. Or maybe this was a planned attack on America’s editorial cartoon supply. An attack to topple the pillars of the news industry, and meant to sow chaos and panic and send people screaming into the streets.
If that’s the case, I think we can all relax. Well, all except me and my fellow cartoonists. On the other hand, it is kind of nice to be thought of.