Cartoonist Nathan Pyle is pro-life, so if you’re not, don’t laugh at any of his cartoons, and seriously, do not share them. That’s the new rule according to social media mobs, and if you don’t like it, you probably shouldn’t tell anybody.
Pyle is the creator of the cartoon Strange Planet, and his Instagram has nearly 2 million followers. The cartoons feature cute little aliens finding futility in the basics of human life, but it took this Nylon article bashing his personal ethos about the sanctity of life for me to hear about the guy and follow his account, giving him approximately 2 million viewers and one.
“When looking at Pyle’s personal Instagram, though,” writes Casey Miller for Nylon, “it’s clear that we shouldn’t have been surprised that he has such conservative views. The first line in his bio is ‘I follow Jesus,’ which should clue you in about his religious leanings.” That Jesus is always steering people wrong, I guess. Sanctity of life, promotion of love and kindness, a vow of poverty, dedication to the downtrodden, tending to the needy—I mean, where will it end?
The other night a friend and I were heading downtown from midtown, a glorious walk in the wonderland of New York City, and she was telling me about a book she liked. She hesitated, unsure if she should continue. The book, it turns out, was written by a conservative. He wasn’t just a conservative, but a conservative who had given money to a PAC that used that money to advocate for conservative viewpoints. “I don’t care about that,” I said, because I don’t care about an author’s perspective, I only care if the work is good.
This kind of boycott, not of a company with bad practices or a poorly behaving country, but of an individual whose work is not enjoyed because the viewer disagrees with his personal political perspectives, is something relatively new. It’s like an individual blacklist, where a consumer of entertainments will only indulge in works by creators who espouse similar political views.
Pyle’s old tweets were dug up, and people found out that yes, he really is opposed to abortion. For people like Pyle, who have adoptees in their life, the concept of abortion can be a difficult one. Mothers who carry their babies to term then give them up after birth have done a great service for those of us who love people who were adopted, and landed like blessings in our lives. Many families would not be made were it not for these mothers who undertake what must be an excruciating but loving task.
Pyle got wind of this call for boycotts of his work, and he probably felt like his career was being threatened, because it was. That’s got to be a scary thing, because once the mob gets hold of you, there’s no telling where they’ll drop you. He responded with his own post on the matter.
“My wife Taylor and I have private beliefs as they pertain to our Christian faith. We also believe separation of church and state is crucial to our nation flourishing. Our votes go toward the Democratic Party. Additionally we are troubled by what the Republican Party has become and do not want to be associated with it,” Pyle posted on @nathanwpylestrangeplanet on April 9.
This semi-refusal to stand up for his views, and asking for people to understand that his views are private, definitely has the smack of fear about it. The mob could turn so easily on this cartoonist. He disavows the Republicans but not the pro-life view; he advocates for the Democrats, despite their pro-abortion view. Is it a capitulation? Are his views not that strong? Does he not know there are basically no national Democratic politicians who are pro-life? Does he merely want to keep his career intact?
Why did he feel the need to counter the article at all? His work is not political in nature, and his views are personal and apparently haven’t even affected his political choices. There was no need to combat Nylon’s attempted take-down. His best approach would have been to either ignore it, or make a cute little alien cartoon about it. Maybe something like “Alien 1: These humans don’t like it when you suggest they not kill their babies. Alien 2: They don’t even like it when you don’t suggest it.”
This “out the cartoonist” also seems like a gratuitous hot take about a guy who is publicly apolitical, and simply writes cartoons about cute little aliens. It’s not like Pyle was out there mucking it up in the fray with the rest of the outspoken on social media. He was making cartoons, believing in Jesus, voting Democratic, and holding quietly pro-life views. Why drag him into the Twittersphere? Can’t a guy just live his life?
The new personal boycott thing has got people scared. I’ve spoken with conservatives on the same private Facebook groups I am, and they never speak out or voice an opinion for fear they’ll be maligned and blocked en masse simply for their political views. Once the contrary views are exposed, the labels start flying, and perfectly reasonable people who disagree go from perfectly reasonable to being called bigoted simply for having, for example, Christian views.
Agreeing with the political views of an artist whose art you like doesn’t make the art better, especially since in most cases the work doesn’t even reference politics in any way. Do we think that by personally boycotting an artist, or siccing mobs on him, we’ll get that artist to change his views? Are we trying to punish him for holding perspectives we don’t agree with? Are we doing anything other than virtue signaling to other people who hold our views? Or letting people know that we’re so dedicated to our political perspective that we refuse to read cute little alien comics on Instagram?
These are only the rules if we capitulate to them. But we can also decide to like cute little alien comics, and just have a laugh. The guy is not out there killing abortion doctors, or nominating pro-life activist judges; he’s just a guy who writes comics. If you don’t like it, write your own comics.