Letters to the Editor
Suffering service stations don’t deserve insult
On behalf of all the convenience stores and service stations that are going through the worst times they have experienced since 1974, we wish to express our utter disdain at your publishing the tasteless and crude political cartoon depicting a bicyclist riding by a service station while giving a middle-finger salute in your July 4 edition. If you had any idea what those small businesses are inappropriately experiencing already from consumer anger and upset, you might have thought twice about running it. Petroleum marketers are experiencing their worst margins since 1974. With demand down due to high prices and cars getting better miles per gallon, the competition on the street has never been more fierce.
If your publication is interested in lashing out at something for these unnecessary high prices, why not focus your anger at noncommercial speculators on Wall Street? Or on the disgustingly weak dollar? Those are the two single largest factors for gas prices being so high.
But, of course, that would have meant you had to do your homework and get to the truth of why prices are so high. Unfortunately, our neighborhood convenience stores and service stations are all too convenient for your ill-informed and careless slamming of these hard-working, small-business owners who are stuck in the same financial death spiral as the consumer. Shame on you for such an ignorant and uncaring attempt at political humor! One would think your standards would be higher.
RESPONSE FROM CARTOONIST ROB PUDIM:
As a cartoonist, I feel the best cartoon I can do is without words. Usually words are necessary because I have not found the perfect visual analogy to present my idea. When I do a cartoon, I do not think about much other than how I can get my idea across with the greatest economy. Being a bicycle and bus rider (9 gal. of gas for my car last month), I ride by gas stations a lot and that’s where I got my idea. I did not think about who owned the station, whether it was a company-owned or individual-owned operation. In a way I didn’t care because I was focused on the idea, not the realities. For example, I don’t care if someone will like what I draw. I know if what I do is apt, some people will not like it and others will and I am accustomed this. If I did only what people liked, I would be doing cartoons comparable to a soup everybody has no objection to eating. In other words, it would be plain water. I do not try to make everyone happy or satisfied, I try to tweak their interest and attention.
Back to the cartoon. I used a gas station because that is what people think of when they think of gas. They do not think of refineries or Big Oil corporate headquarters. I used a bike rider instead of a motor scooter because bikers do not use gasoline to get where they are going. I used the gesture because it is as strong a statement as I could think of to show defiance.
I could have done the cartoon with a guy in an electric car, his head out the window and sticking his tongue out at a refinery fence and tanks or at an office building labeled BIG OIL. It gets the idea across. Everything would have to be labeled. The car. The fence or tanks or building. It would have angered the petroleum executives maybe, maybe not. The cartoon would not have been as immediate, as eye-catching, or as strong as the one I did.
You might say part of what I do is irresponsible and unfair and you are right. You could say what I do is try to provoke people and I have bad taste and, again, you are right. Next time the cartoon I do might whack someone you would like to see whacked. I am not a journalist or a reporter giving the balanced news. I am an opinionated s.o.b. and my cartoons are my opinion and I sign my name to them. I am a sort of equal-opportunity insulter, if you will. I have few favorites or sacred cows.
I hope this explains what I did. Personally I don’t think what I did will affect your organization. Gas prices, oil company executive salaries, lousy drilling practices trashing the environment are doing that far more effectively than my cartoon ever would.
— Rob Pudim.
RESPONSE FROM EDITOR JODY STROGOFF:
Both Mark Larson and Rob Pudim make good points and that’s one reason we consider our newspaper a forum for the exchange of ideas. I am truly sorry that Mark was so offended by the cartoon; clearly it is not our intention to upset our readers. Likewise, we relish the fact that we live in an open society where people are free to express their views and opinions.