CSotD: Government without newspapers


A lot of cartoonists are posting their original 9/11 cartoons this week. Here’s what I was doing then.

It was the start of the school year, which put a real burden on teachers, since they didn’t really know their kids yet and suddenly had to guide them through this horrific event. Fortunately, in a macabre way, the Columbine shootings a year and a half earlier had motivated schools to put together disaster teams to handle traumatic events, and they functioned well.

Meanwhile, we were just introducing a weekly educational feature at the paper, in which a little cartoon dog highlighted news from around the world, and, as it happened, the one scheduled for the next morning was about an American aide worker arrested by the Taliban for proselytizing. Although the Afghanistan connection wasn’t yet established, I didn’t have to be a genius to pull it and quickly put together a substitute.

Then, also guessing what would be coming, I assembled this full-page version of Nellie’s feature for the next week’s installment, to counter the inevitable Islamophobic pushback.

This is a slightly altered version I offered free to papers around the country; about a dozen took me up on it.

It involved some digging in the CIA World Factbook and elsewhere, but also some fast back-and-forth with my artist, Marina Tay, in Malaysia, to come up with a “shocked” Nellie in place of her usual merry self, promoting this central message:

You never know what good any of this does, but I thought it stood out among the flood of weeping Statues of Liberty that hit every editorial page that week, and I did see a few copies posted in schools over the next year.

But, no, I was already too late to stop the Islamophobia from happening …

… which leads to this

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Matt Wuerker)


(Joel Pett)

I’ve read some of the books in that flood Matt Wuerker cites, but they’ve all begun to seem the same, perhaps because they are very much the same. Much as I enjoy hearing yet another witness testify, I’m already convinced and thus unwilling to spend $25 to learn what I already know.

Which is the problem here, as it was with my attempt to keep kids from falling into hatred: The people who want to know the truth will seek it out and find it, while the ones who do not will not.

And I say that as someone who genuinely has led a horse to the trough, only to have him just stand there looking around.

To explain things less metaphorically, let’s quote William Magear “Boss” Tweed:

I don’t care a straw for your newspaper articles; my constituents don’t know how to read, but they can’t help seeing them damned pictures.

It’s a quote that political cartoonists love to cite, in the various fractured forms that have come down to us, but that brings us to Joel Pett’s cartoon, because Tweed was right at the time, and then he was wrong for awhile, but now he’s right again.

Tweed’s Deplorables couldn’t read, but then universal education came along and they could, but now they don’t have to anymore.

Meanwhile, there are enough pictures around that they don’t have to see any that they don’t want to see.

When the Internet first fired up, I thought it was great, because, while a left-handed flute player probably couldn’t find a lot of others like him in his own town, he could go up on the Internet and create an entire community of left-handed players of flutes and piccolos and fifes and who knows what else?

However, as Pett points out, it also allowed paranoid, delusional lunatics to find each other, such that what was once the lonely loudmouth at the end of the bar, the fool everyone in town chuckled over, has morphed into a political force that can keep the Tweeds and Trumps in power.

Here’s another familiar quote, this one from Jefferson:

The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. 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. 

While we’ve contrived to let information penetrate the whole mass of the people, we’ve given misinformation just as much freedom to flow, and it has swept over us, leaving us like the little birds of the barnyard, hopping around on the manure pile pecking out tiny bits of grain from the growing mountain of horseshit.


With, Ed Hall promises, more to come if that’s what we choose to have.

Honestly, I don’t know how educational programs or political cartoonists or anyone else can penetrate the twin instincts of ignorance and tribalism that seem part of our makeup.


Thursday night, the NFL season kicked off, after weeks of discussion of race and government on the NFL Network and among the teams. The Texans and Chiefs met at midfield before the first game of the season and linked arms as the announcer asked for a moment of silence in observance of equality and racial justice.

And the crowd booed.

Apparently, they’d paid to hear banjo-playing and see some tap-dancing, not to get some uppity lecture.


It’s not just hatred. It’s hatred spurred by ignorance and gullibility. The Sheriff’s office in Douglas County, Oregon, has taken to social media to plead with people to stop clogging up their 911 lines with calls about antifa. Nor are they the only office up there that has to deal with this delusional idiocy.


We are experiencing what Jefferson feared: Government without newspapers. And, as Tom Toles suggests, it’s no accident.

Well, wotthehell anyway.

Doing something may accomplish little, but doing nothing is collaboration.


4 thoughts on “CSotD: Government without newspapers

  1. What many people don’t understand is that Islamic terrorists are not really Muslims. They are Fascists, just as the Religious Right in this country are. Fascists in China? You guessed it; they’re “devout Buddhists.” Fascism uses whatever religion is predominant, wherever they are, as its justification. It’s not religion, it’s politics.

  2. Traveling around (and around) the world, I observed that people are 95% the same. They just want to be left alone to mind their own business. Put in their 8 hours or 15 hours and go home and play with the kids. No bombings, no wildfires. Terrorists, rioters and a few CEO’s and politicians are nothing but criminals.

  3. In that book tsunami I don’t see YUGE, #SAD! or #LEWSER!

    Not to mention The Unquotable Trump by R. Sikoryak, whom you’ve featured here before.

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