Channeling Outrage into Compelling Cartoons

Tom Toles, Washington Post. Photo by Nicholas McIntosh.

Tom Toles (BA '73) has issues—he's paid to. He's a political cartoonist, the Washington Post's one and only.

“I’m infuriated by many things, top among them is the way we've botched the climate challenge.”

Moral outrage is his currency. “I’m infuriated by many things,” he says. “Top among them is the way we've botched the climate challenge.”

Outrage goes both ways. One Post reader once wrote to Toles: “I happen to think Mr. Bush is a fine looking man and your portrait of him makes him look like some kind of little animal ... His ears are on his head in the same place as everyone else’s are.”

In 2014, the outrage at the heart of political cartooning spiraled out of control when Islamic radicals shot to death French journalists over cartoons perceived to be blasphemous. Nobody, Toles says, should be killed for expressing a view, but what happened in Paris raised troubling questions about what some newspapers choose to publish. Political cartooning has had its share of “bad actors spreading hate,” he says.

As his 1990 Pulitzer Prize attests, Toles isn’t only one of the good guys, he’s one of the very best. His cartoons might sting, but they have a heart. In Toles’s view, the world’s no teardown; it’s a fixer-upper, worth the trouble. But we must to be honest with ourselves and work as one to set things right.

This hardboiled but hopeful outlook comes from growing up in Western New York, where seeing how people help each other in a snowstorm, Toles one winter understood clearly why he loves his hometown. It really is the City of Good Neighbors.
-Excerpted from At Buffalo magazine.