A non sequitur, according to Merriam-Webster, is "a statement (such as a response) that does not follow logically from or is not clearly related to anything previously said."
"Non Sequitur" is a comic that, until Thursday, ran in The Billings Gazette.
And non sequitur is exactly what happened in last Sunday's edition of the comics.
That's when "Non Sequitur" cartoonist Wiley Miller scribbled in small, nearly unreadable handwriting, "Go (expletive) yourself, Trump."
Except it was readable. And some of our eagle-eyed readers caught the only legible scribble in what had been the artist's attempt to imagine Leonardo's most famous artwork with bears instead of humans.
While I have no idea what makes "Vitruvian Bear" pass for comics, I do know something about commentary and opinions.
And using profanity to suggest the president do the anatomically impossible is not the stuff of opinion. It's coarse and vulgar and it has no place in our paper. Telling a leader — any leader — to go (blank) yourself is simply not worth the ink and paper it's printed on. That can be found in 10 seconds on Facebook.
To that end, we've dropped the longtime comic and will replace it with "Rubes" a strip that has a quirky sense of humor without the hidden profanity. That change should happen next week. Until then, we're running the strip "Macanudo."
Miller's last comic offerings for The Gazette will appear on Feb. 17 and Feb. 24 — a quirk of production (our comics are printed several weeks ahead and we didn't think his more benign drawings warranted killing more trees).
Beginning daily, though, "Rubes" will take its place.
It's important to know why we're dropping the comic strip.
We're not dropping the strip because Miller dislikes Trump. If the most recent approval ratings are any indication, disliking Trump is not novel. Finding someone who drops an F-bomb and Trump in the same sentence seems to be what Twitter was created for.
I appreciate strong opinions and feisty dialogue. Miller's sophomoric attempt at criticism added nothing.
Instead, he smugly subverted a system of trust, gave an excuse that was hardly plausible and then expected editors across the country to take the heat for his little publicity prank.
Originally, he sent his mea culpa through the syndication service, saying an unintentional early, not-for-print version slipped through the editing cracks.
"It wasn’t until later when sharp-eyed readers pointed it out that I remembered doing it, as the cartoon was done about eight weeks ago. I now remember that I was particularly aggravated that day about something the president had done or said, and so I lashed out in a rather sophomoric manner as instant therapy," Miller explained. "It was NOT intended for public consumption, and I meant to white it out before submitting it, but forgot to."
But his Twitter tells a different story.
On Sunday, the day the comic published, Miller tweeted, "Some of my sharp-eyed readers have spotted a little Easter egg from Leonardo Bear-Vinci. Can you find it?"
The accident looks not so accidental.
And it should be pointed out that two of his three most recent Tweets refer to Trump as both a "gaslight projectionist" and "President F--kwit."
Ironically, his top Tweet proclaimed: "Twitter is like alcohol. It'll eventually expose who you really are."
And so it's pretty clear that who Miller really is, with or without alcohol, is someone who disdained Trump and decided to use his platform to promote his views.
Our relationship with anyone who creates content (a reporter, an editor, a freelancer or even a syndicated columnist) is a matter of trust. It's a trust that the content, even if it's edgy, will be something more than vulgar. Miller violated that trust, and it's disappointing that his own syndicate company, which bears some of the responsibility for failing to catch the prank, did not do more to distance itself.
We wouldn't have tolerated this behavior from a staff member who slipped something in the paper. They would have surely been terminated immediately. The same goes for Miller.
This is not about edgy political commentary. We enlist many people who tend to angry up the blood of our readers and get the commenters, bloggers and letter-writers opining. Moreover, two of our most hated comic strips, "Mallard Fillmore" and "Doonesbury" are also our most loved. Yet, somehow when those strips offer commentary, they do so using stinging sarcasm, irony or wit. Miller's attempt — in a comic panel that could have easily been confused for a kids coloring page — was just crass.
Miller's little hissy-fit or prank (depending on which of his versions you choose to believe) unfortunately gave those who want to believe the media is hopelessly bent on destroying Trump ample ammunition. Yet, we remind those folks we're taking the most extreme measure possible.
Let me suggest that our approach to Miller is taken directly from Trump: Mr. Miller, you're fired.