This Is Why It’s Time For Political Cartoons To Go

 

Here (and above) is a sample of the bumper crop of political cartoons inspired by the Donald Trump, Jr. aborted meeting to acquire damaging information on Hillary that never materialized.

They are all, to various degrees, unfair, misleading, or simply untrue. Why is this acceptable? If presenting a false representation of the truth is required to make a joke, and the intended audience accepts what is false as fact, how is that justifiable?

The cartoon above, one of the most unethical, is typical of the work of Tom Toles, the Washington Post’s relentlessly biased cartoonist.

The others are presented below, in approximate order of unfairness and dishonesty.

They collectively state that there has been treason, a crime, corruption, collusion and conspiracy, and that there is actual, as opposed to speculated, “news” that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to interfere with the election. This is old fashioned yellow journalism-style political cartooning, throwing red meat to members of the public who want to believe that the President of the United States is a traitor so they can undo the election. That isn’t funny. That’s disgusting.

As I wrote in 2012, focusing on another dishonest and partisan Toles cartoon:

” Political cartooning peaked as a form of commentary about half a century ago, and has been declining ever since. Now it is dominated by hateful, unfunny and witless culture warriors who have as much in common with Jules Feiffer and Bill Mauldin as Mario Mendoza had in common with Hank Aaron. Are there exceptions? There are always exceptions. Pat Oliphant, Exhibit A, is brilliant, nuanced and clever; he’s also 77 years old, the last of the greats. If there are Oliphants out there, legitimate commentators who can make fair and honest observations with humor and a pen, great: what a wonderful alternative to the typical pundit rants. Put them on the editorial pages. The standard, however, should be content, not form. Political cartoons were once an efficient means of aiming a thousand words at non-readers and members of the public without the skills or education to grasp complex issues. They have become a vehicle for the unqualified and trivial-minded to acquire a platform they don’t deserve, to the detriment of the public and journalism.”

Now the evidence: Continue reading

UPDATE: Hillary’s Ongoing Corruption Of Democrats, Progressives, and The News Media, Featuring MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell And Washington Post Editorial Cartoonist Tom Toles

First, Toles. This cartoon ran on Sunday:

Toles

Isn’t that nice? The whole e-mail episode, investigated by the FBI, raising issues of mishandling of classified information (which is a crime), destruction of evidence (which can be a crime, but is always unethical and suspicious) and competence (Hillary says the security implications of making sensitive communications on a private server never occurred to her!), and which Clinton continues to stonewall and lie about, is just an invention of the news media!

Poor Hillary! Look how frustrated she is! How can sending out paid spinners and liars to muddy the water and confuse the issues be a cover-up? How can destroying e-mails before they can be reviewed be a cover-up? How can the State Department employee that she paid to moonlight as her private e-mail tech taking the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying to Congress be part of a cover-up? How can an obvious cover-up be a cover-up?

This isn’t an ‘editorial cartoon.’ This is Spinning for Hillary, and for the Post to give it center page dominance on its editorial page is endorsing deception and partisan propaganda. Toles has always been a simplistic progressive hack; his cartoons make his predecessor Herb Block look even-handed. This goes beyond hackery, though, to misleading the public.  Or do you believe this is his real opinion? If so, he is too naive and dim-witted to have an editorial voice.

Andrea Mitchell’s Hillary enabling is of a different sort: rank cowardice. Continue reading

Jack Ohman’s Cartoon and Desperate Obama Defense Derangement

Ebola cartoon

This cartoon, which should cause editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman to hang his head in shame, has made me realize that there is an odd and pervasive parallel today with the familiar Clinton Derangement Syndrome and Bush Derangement Syndrome of yore, which caused the mouth-foaming political opponents of these polarizing Presidents to make ridiculous claims undermining the many more legitimate criticisms available to them. In the case of Barack Obama, it is Desperate Obama Defense Derangement (DODD) that we are seeing. So horrible is the prospect of having to admit that this President is an unequivocal, incompetent flop by almost every measure imaginable that disappointed, panicked partisans in the media, the President’s party and bitterly disappointed hope-and-changers are resorting to obvious rationalizations, absurd analogies and insane arguments to avoid facing the miserable, depressing truth.

This cartoon can stand as a graphic symbol of the malady. In order to preemptively duck accountability when yet another government agency, in this case the CDC, proves inept and another national policy–the measures designed to keep Ebola out of the U.S— proves ill-thought out and poorly managed like so many other agencies and national policies under this administration’s stewardship, DODD sufferers like Ohman and the sad Democrats posting it on Facebook are making the argument that Ebola is no big deal.

You know, like AIDS was no big deal. When the Reagan administration was being justly criticized for its tardy and in inadequate response to AIDS, I don’t recall any cartoonists listing the stats for all of the other causes of death to ridicule gays, humanitarians and sane people who were saying that this was a national crisis. But then, there aren’t very many conservative cartoonists, for which, in that instance, at least, we can be grateful.

Look at Ohman’s cartoon, and try to translate it into a coherent statement that makes any sense at all: Continue reading

Cartoon Ethics: The New York Times “Eliminationist” Joke

The New York Times is taking fire from diverse commentators on the Right for publishing a political satire cartoon that includes this panel:

KillingPeopleWhoDisagreeIsFunny

It is part of a larger cartoon japing at the supposed aftermath of a harsh winter:

see-something-say-slide-F2R2-jumbo

Among the ethics complaints against the drawing:

  • “Aside from its patently offensive notion that those holding different political views don’t deserve to live, the panel in question also lacks a key element in political cartoons that aim to be tongue in cheek — it isn’t funny. Imagine the outrage at the Times if Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, et al., suggested that liberals should die for not agreeing with them. Yes, things would get nasty in a hurry. Has it really been that long since the Tucson massacre and the left’s demand for more civility, at least from conservatives?”Newsbusters
  • “Global warming has made much of the country so cold that the Times is instructing its readers to use giant icicles to bludgeon the non-believers to death.”Ed Driscoll
  • “NY Times Suggests Killing “Climate Change Deniers”Weasel Zippers
  • “So, as WUWT readers well know, I have a different opinion about global warming.Do you think the New York Times  should endorse stabbing me (and others with similar opinions) through the heart like a vampire because I hold that opinion?”Anthony Watts Continue reading

Cartoon Ethics: The Washington Post’s Stupid Elephant Trick

Trainwreck Cartoon

The above cartoon, by reliably liberal op-ed cartoonist Mike Luckovich, who draws cartoons for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was run in the Washington Post this Saturday. It immediately reminded me of why, in a previous post, I suggested that the simple-minded, factually misleading art of editorial cartoonists needed to be retired. I wrote:

“Cartoons, by their very nature, deal in caricature, exaggeration and extremes for metaphorical and humorous effect. The practical effect of this, however, is that the opinions expressed through cartoons are also “supported” in a manner that would be outrageous in a written opinion piece. I know: you can’t hold a cartoon to the same standard as an op-ed. Fine—then don’t put it on the editorial pages.”

This, if anything, was worse than the Tom Toles cartoon that provoked that commentary. This Democratic talking point—more like ducking point–got graphic representation the day following another wave of bad news about the dysfunctional Affordable Care Act and how thoroughly it has been botched by the Administration. Right before Christmas, the Post’s front page carried an infuriating story about how, after waiting two years before considering how to set up the Obamacare website, the Administration chose a company that even cursory due diligence would have revealed as untrustworthy and incompetent:

“Not considered in the 2011 selection process was the history of numerous executives at CGI Federal, who had come from another company that had mishandled at least 20 other government ­information technology projects more than a decade ago. But federal officials were not required to examine that long-term track record, which included a highly publicized failure to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers.”

Republicans caused that trainwreck? The same day the cartoon ran, this was in the news:

The Iowa Department of Human Services says problems with the federal healthcare website has led to a delay in processing policyholder information and is asking 16,000 Iowans to reapply for Obamacare using the state website or call center.”

And did Republicans force the President to lie repeatedly about how the law wouldn’t take away anyone’s current plan or doctor? Indeed, they warned that what happened would happen, and were attacked and ridiculed while the media bolstered the President’s disinformation campaign. That, as much as the website, has made the public perceive Obamacare as a trainwreck. The mean old GOP elephant is to blame for that? As I noted in the earlier post, an editorial cartoon shouldn’t be permitted to spread falsehood and misunderstanding, and a respectable newspaper shouldn’t actively engage in the blame-shifting and denial process, which is the full-time occupation of Affordable Care Act defenders these days.

Then I searched for the cartoon on line, to determine who drew it (his signature was illegible in the size published), and for the first time, was able to read the date. The cartoon was drawn on July 29, 2013! This was after the “trainwreck” label was being wielded by Republicans because Democratic Senator Max Baucus used that term to describe his—as it turned out, accurate—assessment of how the Administration’s public information campaign was going, not the law itself. Yes, the Republicans were working to impede the progress of the ACA then, because they were convinced the law would lead to disaster. Still, Luckovich’s cartoon, while partisan, was hardly unfair or misleading—in July.

Now, however, it assumed a different meaning. The date wasn’t noted by the Post: I thought it was a new cartoon, which means I thought Luckovich was engaging in MSMNC-style historical air-brushing. The cartoonist wasn’t, however.

Was the Post? Was it deliberately using Luckovich’s dated cartoon to bolster its desperate Obama-defending readership with the baseless accusation that the GOP was really behind the law’s current travails? Or was it just being careless, reckless, inattentive and unprofessional–you know, like most of the news media. most of the time?

I don’t know. I do know that the Post owes its readers and Luckovich an apology, the former for treating them like idiots, and the latter for making him look like one.

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Sources: Opposing Views, Washington Post

Ethics Hero: Cartoonist Ted Rall

cartoon_plagiarism_444045

It is always courageous and exemplary when someone calls out his own profession for deficient ethical standards, and this is what political cartoonist Ted Rall has done on his blog. The topic: plagiarism in editorial cartoons, which is bad enough. Rall, however, makes strong case that the unethical practice flourishes because syndicates, editors, publications, honors committees and the professional associations tolerate it, and journalists don’t seem to care. He also blows the whistle on the practice known as self-plagiarism, where a cartoonist recycles his previous work as new. Rall writes, Continue reading

Comment of the Day: Time To Retire Editorial Cartoons—With Gratitude

Cartoonist and frequent combatant on Ethics Alarms Barry Deutsch did not disappoint—I was counting on a strong reply from him—in commenting on my post about political cartoonists. And I think he has me convinced. I think what I should have suggested, rather than advocating sending newspaper political cartoonists to the trash bin of history (soon to be followed by newspapers themselves), is that editors exercise some discretion over when an editorial cartoon, even by a respected cartoonist, just doesn’t meet editorial standards.

Here is Barry’s persuasive and educational Comment of the Day on the post Time To Retire Editorial Cartoons—With Gratitude:

“Oh, how could I possibly resist this thread?

“1) At his best, Tom Toles is a wonderful cartoonist, elegant and with an incredibly distinctive style. But he hasn’t been at his best for years. The particular cartoon you’re talking about — which can be seen here, if anyone’s curious — is an embarrassment.

“The problem with that Toles cartoon isn’t that it takes a side, or that it paints with a broad brush; many good cartoons do both those things. The problem is, it’s painfully stupid.

“2) There are good political cartoonists doing interesting work, but they’re mostly not found in mainstream newspapers.

“3) Even the best political cartoonists tend to produce more mediocre than great cartoons.

“4) It’s a very, very rare reader who can recognize the artistic merit of a political cartoon that they strongly disagree with politically.

“5) The economic base has fallen out from under political cartooning; every year, fewer and fewer newspapers support a staff cartoonist, and those that remain are seeing their incomes and outlets shrinking. And no one’s yet found a business model for political cartooning to thrive on the web.

“As a result, the most talented new cartoonists usually aren’t going into political cartooning, because they want to be able to eat and pay rent.

“6) Some of the most interesting political cartoonists have gone so far away from traditional political cartooning that no one even recognizes what they’re doing as political cartooning. See, for instance, Joe Sacco, who does journalism in comics form; his second book on Palestine, “Footnotes In Gaza,” is one of the best books about life in Gaza anyone’s done, in prose or comics.

Time To Retire Editorial Cartoons, With Gratitude

The nuanced subtlety of Pulitzer Prize winning Herb Block. Translation: "Nixon's a crook." Brilliant!!!

All right, hear me out. I love cartoons. I used to aspire to being a cartoonist. I have good friends who are cartoonists, and I know there are cartoonists who are strong contributors to Ethics Alarms. But for many years it has appeared to me that editorial cartoons have become an increasingly archaic form of commentary, one that misinforms the public and contributes to the venom and lack of nuance in public discourse.

Cartoons, by their very nature, deal in caricature, exaggeration and extremes for metaphorical and humorous effect. The practical effect of this, however, is that the opinions expressed through cartoons are also “supported” in a manner that would be outrageous in a written opinion piece. I know: you can’t hold a cartoon to the same standard as an op-ed. Fine—then don’t put it on the editorial pages. Continue reading