OK – I often think that people are loosing perspective as soon as they smell the possibility of compensation by suing someone. It is one of the great ailments of today, together with our dependency on pharmaceuticals and fossil fuels – to name but a few.

The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation is considering a law suit against the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mike Peters for a Mother Goose & Grimm cartoon he made for the January 2nd edition of the Dayton Daily News in Ohio. Agreed, the cartoon is syndicated to about 800 newspapers worldwide, but still. The cartoon jokes that violence is so rampant in Columbia, maybe “there’s a little bit of Juan Valdez in every can” of the fresh Columbia coffee beans.

The suit will be filed Friday and “would not seek any less than $20 million,” according to a note on the federation’s Web site. It will also demand a retraction from any newspaper that published the Jan. 2 cartoon, including the Toronto Star, where I found out about this controversy.

The federation, which represents more than 560,000 coffee producers, said that by linking organized crime and coffee, the cartoon “attacks the national dignity and the reputation of coffee from Colombia.”

Columbia Coffee In Da House?

In the offending comic strip, a character says: “Y’know, there’s a big crime syndicate in Colombia. So when they say there’s a little bit of Juan Valdez in every can, maybe they’re not kidding.”

The joke plays off a former marketing slogan used by the federation. The federation’s website? www.JuanValdez.com… Mike Peters is not allowed to poke fun at Juan Valdez, and we should be taking an ad THAT THEY CREATED with both Juan Valdez and his donkey in tuxedos seriously?

Mike Peters’ Themed Comic Series

The writer often pokes fun at products and the marketing campaigns that promote them. Some things he doesn’t even have to make up, because they are strange – but true. He writes his comics as a weekly series, and this week the theme is based on the fact that the inventor of the Pringles (canned patatoe chips) can had his ashes buried in a Pringles container. (Or so the Associated Press article says – I wasn’t there to verify ;o)

You can see where it all started…

December 30, 2008 the comic reads:

So, If the guy who designed the Pringles can had his ashes buried in one of these… [cans]

The maybe the other old advertising mascots could be scattered in everything

Well, I highly doubt…

[popcorn popping in the microwave] Hang on, Orville. I’m coming!

(see the comic here: http://www.grimmy.com/images/MGG_Archive/MGG_2008/MGG1230.gif)

The January 1st comic pokes fun at Betty Croker (http://www.grimmy.com/images/MGG_Archive/MGG_2009/MGG0101.gif) and the January 3rd one is about “Mr. Pringles” (http://www.grimmy.com/images/MGG_Archive/MGG_2009/MGG0103.gif).

If this case leads to a conviction we can expect to see all stand up comics apply for Employment Benefits! In my view this comic is rather harmless, and its publication should be guaranteed under the Freedom of Speech principle.

Let’s hope it’ll all just blow over.

I’m going to grab another cup of Java…

Resources:

  • Article in the Toronto Star (with the cartoon): http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/563539
  • The Associated Press Article: https://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iYrX1OPnbpUpGvNbhO2oVj2n8_xQD95IFHR00
  • A collection of the cartoonist’s website http://www.grimmy.com/ with the offending cartoon here: http://www.grimmy.com/images/MGG_Archive/MGG_2009/MGG0102.gif (it’s the 02/01/2009 cartoon)
  • The Columbian Coffee Growers federation website: http://www.juanvaldez.com/