CSotD: Freedom, if you can keep it

Ann Telnaes salutes Press Freedom Day.

And so do I:

A lady asked Franklin: “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin replied: “A Republic, if you can keep it.” — Dr. James McHenry (for whom the fort was named)

And a favorite quote from Jefferson:

The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them. — Letter to Edward Carrington

We sit on the brink of a sort of monarchy today, or at least a precipice upon which people are being told to distrust what they read in the press and believe only what they are told by the leaders of the moment.

Jefferson and Franklin lived in a world in which partisan newspapers published deeply varying versions of the truth, which continued to a degree until the 20th Century when contending papers began to merge and had to stop insulting potential readers.

I had to explain this to kids when I first began doing presentations on editorial cartooning, so they would understand the atmosphere in which Thomas Nast attacked Tweed (a Democrat) specifically and Irish Catholics generally.

But by the mid-90s, I only had to say, “like MSNBC and Fox” and they’d get it.

Which complicates, but does not change, Jefferson’s point that people need to get information about their government in order to make intelligent, responsible choices.

He spoke specifically of literacy, but he founded a university and I think it’s reasonable to assume he wanted people to be able to process, not simply “read,” the information they were given.

With the advent of broadcasting more than a century ago, we no longer rely on simple literacy, because even the illiterate can flip on the radio or TV.

We need, now, the more sophisticated attribute of “media literacy.”

Which adds Franklin’s caution to Jefferson’s call for press freedom:

“… if you can keep it.”


Juxtaposition of the Day #1

(Nick Anderson)

(Steve Sack)


This is a level of corruption that a free press could help uncover, if half the press were not using their freedom to support that corrupt effort, but I suppose that’s the price you pay.

McConnell’s reluctance to assist local governments, and his expressed willingness to see them declare bankruptcy, seems bizarrely at odds with the “states rights” stance his fanbase declares when civil rights and women’s medical autonomy are on the table.

If it comes to pass that their own police and fire departments fall into disrepair, it’s likely the yahoo mob will (A) blame their local government and (B) reject the solution of paying sufficient taxes to square things.

However, the corrupt distribution of small-business funds to major corporations seems hard to misinterpret, and as favorite shops close their doors, I’d expect the reason to leak out.

Meanwhile, I admire Sack’s cartoon because it’s a fact that, when cowbirds and cuckoos lay their eggs in other nests, the larger babies not only hog all the food but push the smaller babies — perhaps even before they have hatched — out of the nest to their deaths.

The term is “brood parasite” and they do fool parent birds into feeding the wrong babies.

I wonder how long our own crew of brood parasites will continue to fool their feeders.

And I wonder to what extent the press will either alert the people, or fail to do so.


Juxtaposition of the Day #2

(Chris Britt)

(Pia Guerra)

“Work sets you free,” they said, and if you don’t know who “they” were, you’re not part of the solution.

Dear Leader is sending workers back into the meat processing plants, and l like both of these takes on the topic.

They bring to mind the phrase “depraved indifference,” known to all fans of “Law & Order.” (And summed up well in that link.)

Britt depicts it in a straightforward, deliberately planned one-for-one equivalency, closer to the earlier “Arbeit macht frei” reference, while Guerra shows it in a more frighteningly normalized sense, as Trump, with vacuous indifference, chows down on the reward for his depraved, inhumane policy.

Note, BTW, that the workers can’t simply decline to go back into the slaughterhouses unless they are willing to give up their paychecks; even the emergency unemployment coverage requires that you accept offers of work.

Whether that risks your life or not.

This is the point at which the miners and steelworkers walked out and formed strong, militant unions.

But it should be remembered that the reason classic strikes constituted a national crisis was because other unions, other workers and average people honored the picket lines.

It was a long time ago. You’d have to ask your grandparents, because your parents weren’t born then.

And I doubt anyone’s still alive who remembers the Ludlow Massacre.


Can’t we talk about something a little more pleasant?

Let’s turn to today’s Bizarro for a bit of lockdown laughter.

I remain puzzled by people who complain about not being able to get haircuts during the lockdown. Who’s gonna see you?

But I’ll admit I only get four or five a year, and, if I get one before an event, I try to do it two or three weeks in advance so I don’t look fresh-plucked.

However, being locked down does not include having your water cut off, so spare me complaints about shaving and bathing.

That’s on you, ya damn slob.


In lieu of music:

Kal Kallaugher offers an intelligent conversation with National Cartoonists Society President and Covid-19 survivor Jason Chatfield.

If you look back through history, you can read all the articles about what people were writing about was happening, but when you look at the cartoons, you see what people thought about what was happening, which is a totally different form of reporting. — Jason Chatfield

3 thoughts on “CSotD: Freedom, if you can keep it

  1. SMUG-MAN here, because I bought a hair trimmer set about 35 years ago and recently started using it. It does things I couldn’t do with the usual scissors. Perfect time to learn to use it, since even when I walk out, I’m wearing a ball cap and face mask.


  2. I’ve been cutting my own hair for years. Since I’m not very good at it, my hairstyle goes from “Hippie” to “Redneck” and then slowly back to “Hippie” again. Being retired makes me one of the lucky ones. Covid-19 hasn’t changed my life that much, which is a sad commentary on the boring nature of my life I guess. Grocery stores, drug stores and hardware stores were the only places I went to before the virus. I guess it’s the idea of not going to other places that really bothers me. Tell someone they can’t do something and they want to do it more.

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