(ISLAMABAD) A wave of protests erupted across the Middle East Wednesday over the publication by a Belgian newspaper of a Hi & Lois comic strip.
“Death to the Flagstons! Death to Mort Walker! Death to America!” shouted angry crowds in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere across the Muslim world. The chants were in response to the cartoon family and its creator, as well as the U.S., although the backlash erupted after Het Laatste Nieuws, a Dutch-language newspaper in Belgium, picked up the syndicated strip.
Other crowds shouted, “Kill Trixie!” (a reference to the comic’s toddler character) and “Hi and Lois aren’t funny! Neither is Beetle Bailey!”
On the street, many protesters voiced strong opinions about the 58-year-old strip, now written and drawn by Walker’s son and the son of co-creator Dik Browne. Azir Haddadin, 28, of Islamabad, told reporters on the scene, “We take to the streets because this must stop. This kind of humor is completely milquetoast and outdated. Who finds Hi & Lois funny? 90-year-old retirees in Florida waiting to die. Give us something else, a Far Side, a Calvin & Hobbes, even just a word jumble. No more Hi & Lois!“
Ahmed Akim, 34, of Kabul, was more circumspect. “It is not the age of the strip itself. Some older newspaper strips contain a certain subversive humor that we can all appreciate. The Wizard of Id for example. I myself can appreciate The Lockhorns. That is me and my wife, I tell you. But Hi & Lois? It is not funny. Nothing by Mort Walker or Dik Browne is funny. Only The Family Circus is worse. If a European newspaper ever prints that, you will all feel the wrath of Allah.”
In spite of the angry protests, Het Laatste Nieuws has vowed not to discontinue publication of the strip. “We have an agreement with King Features Syndicate, and more importantly we won’t be intimidated into censorship,” editor Luc Van Der Kelen proclaimed. “I don’t really see the problem here. It’s an adorable, middle-class American family, with a slovenly teen, excitable twins, and a darling baby who’s probably the funniest of them all. I chuckle at it every morning. Besides, why in the hell do people in Yemen give two flying fucks about a funny page in a Belgian newspaper?”
In a statement from the White House, President Obama today condemned the violent protests, the newspaper, the comic strip, its creators, and the art form in general. Republican nominee Mitt Romney, meanwhile, told reporters “America needs to return to the days of Hi & Lois,” though nobody was sure what he meant.