The next day, Booth logged on to the LA Weekly website to show his wife the controversial cartoon that might endanger their family.
There it wasn’t.
In its place was a cartoon by another artist that posed no risk of provoking Islamic ire.
As Booth later learned, his Mohammed cartoon was pulled in a last-minute “stop the presses” order from the paper’s owner, Village Voice Media Group. “Sometime around midnight, the machines stopped and my creative director had to provide an alternative cartoon that was not so dangerous,” he says.
The experience confirmed Booth’s longheld views on the media, free speech and dissent. “My being censored didn’t surprise me entirely, nor did it alter my expectations from those who control the mass media of this country. I’ve had cartoons about Bush, the U.S. military, Israel and the Pope pulled, too.”
“Calling for violence against a perceived thought crime is grotesque, whether it be against the editor of a Danish newspaper or the population of a region of the world that American foreign policy is currently targeting for one reason or another.”
Booth’s relationship with LA Weekly soured after its owner was bought out in 2006 by New Times Media, owner of a string of alternative papers. According to Booth, the profit-hungry new owners (still operating as Village Voice Media) gutted the paper’s “sizable and competent staff” to the point where the current personnel “only slightly outnumber the Osmond brothers.”
Booth hung on, still contributing cartoons after moving back to the Philadelphia area in 2009. When he was finally axed in January 2010, Booth did not go gentle into the freelancer good night. In a scorching post on his website, Clowncrack.com, he sniffed that Mr. Fish “no longer fit in with the TMZ/your-ad-here/journalism-produced-cheaply-will-produce-cheap-journalism” look of the Village Voice Media chain.
Booth concluded his bridge-burning diatribe with the rhetorical question: “Where does a radically left-leaning political cartoonist go to piss off powerful people and to document the rage and contempt of liberal-minded loud-mouths and vengeful humanitarians?”
Apparently, he goes to Narberth.