“Everybody Draw Mohammad” Cartoonist Goes into Hiding

detail of the controversial cartoon


Molly Norris no longer exists.

Her comics no longer appear in her local newspapers. She’s moved. Changed her name. Vanished from public view. The FBI advised her to do this, it is said. A pen, after all, can be a dangerous thing.

This spring, Norris, the former Seattle cartoonist, posted a defense of free speech on her website—a satirical poster advertising an “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day.” She’d meant it to be tongue in cheek, but, you know, the road to hell and all that. So Norris quickly backpedaled, but it was too late. She’d unwittingly smacked a hornet’s nest.

Her comic, reposted by editor Dan Savage (Rick Santorum’s nemesis) over at Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger, was spread far and wide by bloggers, myself included. It also became the basis for a Facebook page that attracted not only people who believe strongly in the First Amendment, but also those who wanted to ridicule Islam just for the hell of it. Yeah, you know the type.

By this time, Norris had taken down her posting, apologized profusely to Muslims and anyone who would listen, explained that she had nothing to do with the Facebook page, and repudiated any ties to “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day,” which was being touted by Reason, among others, as a real-life contest. Contest day came. People submitted their drawings, many of them hateful. And Al Qaeda reportedly put Norris on its hit list

Since then we have been treated to a surreal debate about a non-mosque that’s not at Ground Zero, followed by weeks of media attention for this sorry excuse for a Christian pastor—and a human being.

And so, in the end, Molly Norris had to check out.

From the Seattle Weekly:

Norris views the situation with her customary sense of the world’s complexity, and absurdity. When FBI agents, on a recent visit, instructed her to always keep watch for anyone following her, she responded, “Well, at least it’ll keep me from being so self-involved!” It was, she says, the first time the agents managed a smile. She likens the situation to cancer—it might basically be nothing, it might be urgent and serious, it might go away and never return, or it might pop up again when she least expects it.

I still believe people should have the right to say and draw whatever the hell they want to.

But, my god, the poor woman.

Follow Michael Mechanic on Twitter.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate