How the anti-fascist magazine SEARCHLIGHT viewed
the background to the creation of THE STORMER comic in May 1981, four months before my trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court in
East London in September. I was convicted of "aiding and abetting, counselling and procuring the publication of material
likely to incite racial hatred" and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
Link to The Art of Controversy review
From the press
was a controversial one-shot comic published in the early eighties. Copies of it were left outside school gates in batches
of fifty. Amongst its strips was "Sambo! The Chocolate-Coloured Coon", which ended with the title character being burnt by his classmates, who wore Ku Klux Klan uniforms.
A complaint was made by the Board of Deputies of British Jews to the Director of Public Prosecutions
in 1979. The cartoonist was summoned to Old Street Magistrates court 18 months later, to be referred to Snaresbrook Crown
Court in East London for trial.
commentator Martin Barker wrote that The Stormer "took delight in portraying a bomb being thrown in the faces of black
people", but questioned its worth as propaganda on the grounds that only people who were already racist would find it
appealing. Times journalist Paul Hoggart described The Stormer as a "sick" variation of more mainstream educational
comics: "Green Cross Man instils road prudence, birth-control advice for teenage girls is given in picture-strip stories,
and at the sick end of the scale, a racist organization recently circulated a comic called Stormer about burning a black boy."
The comic's artist, Robert Edwards,
was in September 1981 put in prison for his work. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for "aiding and abetting,
counselling and procuring the publication of material likely to incite racial hatred". Years later he stated that "I
have renounced the racist profession. I am not a fascist, not a racist, I did that years ago"."
The following is my version of events and the people involved, most of whom are now dead. I
pleaded not guilty for some very good reasons as will be revealed. Aiding and abetting, counselling and procuring being the
most contentious points. "Likely" to incite racial hatred is another anomaly in this ill-conceived law as no evidence
is required to convict.
All that is required is a complaint and the main complaint came from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Some people might ask why is Edwards going on about an incident that goes back 35 years and for which
he served a 12 month sentence. Surely it is all now water under the bridge and so forth. Who cares, you might ask? I feel
that it is now the time to raise it again after
the Charlie Hebdo publicity a few years ago when the cry then was that we must have freedom of expression in the West and
that cartoonists, in particular, are a special group of people who need to be protected. Indeed, they went further to claim
that we have this freedom of expression while other parts of the world do not. That satire is a peculiar Western thing which,
if it offends anyone, then too bad ... because it is part of Western (European) tradition. The magazine Charlie Hebdo is notorious
for offending most sections of society through the medium of caricature and has this impunity. Added to this, an immunity
from criticism, you could say.
In the late 1970s, I embarked on a project designed to shock and possibly show how far you can
go using the medium of the cartoon in the worst possible taste. Many cartoonists in the past have indulged themselves
this way, notably the American 'underground' cartoonist Robert Crumb with his When the Blacks Took Over the US and a
similar strip exaggerating Jewish power in the United States. He was later commissioned to provide the artwork for an illustrated
version of the Bible. But, then, the United States jealously guards its Constitution and the bit about freedom of expression.
We have no such protection in Britain.
to be continued