This cartoon and related story appeared in the May 14, 2019 paper edition of USA Today. Most all of my auctioneer friends around the country who commented about it found the comic offensive to our occupation and industry.
My good friend Jason Smith wrote about this comic here: https://blog.dreamdirt.com/farmland-auctions/auctioneering-if-it-was-easy-everybody-would-be-doing-it — an excellent read.
However, in researching stereotypes being used in comics, I found this The Ohio State University article: https://hti.osu.edu/opper/stereotypes. In it you can note that, “Stereotyping is part of the history of American humor.”
So let’s start with this — it’s a comic — in the editorial section of the newspaper – and nothing more and nothing less. The comic wants the reader to easily grasp his point of the article, which this comic does quite well. Further, I see this comic presenting far more an opportunity than a problem.
As the aforementioned university paper notes, “… stereotypes symbolize groups of people or complex ideas that are quickly and easily interpreted by readers. Cartoonists use stereotypes as part of a visual shorthand to communicate complicated ideas quickly and effectively.”
Are there any auctioneers out there these days in bib overalls …? Actually, while certainly the exception, there are indeed. In fact, countless occupations are lampooned in less than generally accurate depictions in comics every day — lawyers, judges, politicians, real estate agents, car salesman, teachers, doctors, nurses, etc.; it’s almost a badge of honor to be parodied rather than not.
Do auctioneers ever “make (satirical) generalizations” about sellers, bidders and buyers? For that matter, we even sometimes talk disparagingly about each other. So, in other words we can dish it out but don’t you in the media dare make fun of us or our industry?
I saw this comic, but only after it was posted on Facebook. Possibly more people saw it from social media posts than in the actual newspaper? The paper’s circulation today is (only) 1,817,446 and even less probably saw this particular article.
Reaction from a few customers and clients who know us and saw the comic? They pointed it out, but didn’t appear to think any less of me nor the auction industry. I strongly suspect that was the overall public’s reaction as well, including most commenting about the article rather than the graphic.
As Jason also notes with his article (and John Schultz noted otherwise,) this presents an opportunity for auctioneers to respond and paint a more accurate picture of auctioneers and the industry, while I would submit we should all keep in mind Mike Thompson‘s intention was to be humorous … satirical … and get attention, which he certainly did.
Lastly, let’s not forget that pesky First Amendment is not reserved exclusively for the press … but let’s not use our right of free speech to suggest suppression of others.
Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.