CSotD: Tomorrow’s News Today

(Pia Guerra – The Nib)

(Benjamin Slyngstad)

I’m starting with a Juxtaposition because I don’t want to single out a particular cartoonist and there have been more than one who have, apparently, jumped to conclusions regarding the Nashville bomber.

Or, at the best, commented on those conclusions, which are being leapt to full-force on social media.

First of all, it’s perfectly reasonable to suspect that the bombing was an act of terror. That needs to be on the list, and high on the list, of potential explanations.

However, the debate is not between those who insist it is terrorism and those who insist it is not.

Rather, there is a group insisting that it absolutely is terrorism, and another group saying, “Let’s wait until we have some evidence.”

That latter group, certainly, includes people who will bend over backwards to deny terrorism, and they are appropriate targets for Guerra and Slyngstad’s cartoons.

But the former group also includes diehards who insist that the only valid evidence is that which supports their assumptions. Their prejudices will be likely reinforced by the cartoons.

Being completely sure — either way — is a coin flip, not an insight.

For cartoonists, that means that, if you think your work matters, you need to factor in its likely impact.

And then proceed.


“Jumping to Conclusions” was funny in Office Space, but, even there, Smykowski’s idea was mocked.

Still, we live in an age of terrorism, and not just in Third World backwaters.

Having spent a fair amount of time around emigres from Belfast and Derry, my response to the Oklahoma City bombings was that America was going to have to deal with a reality the rest of the world was already experiencing.

That was 35 years ago; We’ve since raised an entire generation for whom domestic terrorism is part of the landscape.

Then again, they were adults three years ago when a gunman killed 60 and wounded 411 in Las Vegas, a mass shooting which — despite the rumors it launched — was never tied to anything political. It was scary as hell, but it wasn’t terrorism.

As of 9 am EST, there’s no evidence of political motivation or, apparently, of any motivation. I say “apparently” because the woman in California to whom the bomber quitclaimed two homes is cooperating with the FBI and not speaking to the press.

But neighbors and former acquaintances have very little to say about him, except that he was reasonably friendly, good to his dogs and kept to himself. There has been no report of a suicide note, a political manifesto or random political statements, extreme or otherwise.

The feds have asked if he exhibited paranoid theories about 5g technology, but that’s a question, not a theory.

And it’s an obvious question, given that the bomb was placed outside an AT&T building, just as, if it had been outside a police station, they’d ask about BLM, while if it had been at a synagogue, they’d be asking about white supremacy.

The fact that his father had worked for Bell South means they’ll have to explore a personal connection as well.

To which I would add that, when I was in talk radio, booking a guest from the local phone company guaranteed that we’d light up the board with calls. It’s not hard to find people who hate the phone company.

I would also add that my friends from Ulster often said they were more comfortable in Belfast or Derry than in Detroit or Chicago, because the violence back there was political and thus somewhat predictable.

“There’s no danger a’tal,” one fellow told me, “So long as you know where you’re going and get there afore dark.”

Words of comfort in a modern world.


Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum


Speaking of letting your politics outpace the available facts, there have been many cartoons about politicians pushing to the front of the line to get vaccines, ahead of the elderly and of health workers. Here’s one from A.F. Branco (Creators)

But those coming from the left  — like this Ann Telnaes (WashPost) piece — have targeted politicians who have either been on record as calling the pandemic a fraud or who are known for refusing to wear masks and for attending mass events with no protection. Or both.

As has been discussed here previously, public figures have had to decide whether to get the vaccine in order to confirm their confidence in its value and safety, or to stand back and set an example of public awareness by letting those more at risk go first.

AOC chose the former, but she is very much on record as having warned against the pandemic and of having both advocated and modeled safe procedures throughout.

Which makes her a strange example, given the number of congressional Covid deniers who add hypocrisy to their decision-making, though, of course, Branco has the right to criticize whoever he wants.

There’s less wiggle room for Tom Stiglich (Creators), who specifically declares that it is a lie to say there is no evidence of voter fraud.

He may be playing with the concept of “credible evidence” versus “rumored evidence,” but he might want to re-read the decision in Sullivan v NYTimes, in which the Supreme Court ruled that public figures, while subject to bitter criticism under the First Amendment, could sue over false accusations in which the accuser acted out of malice, knowing that their statements were demonstrably false.

Watching the lawsuits being launched by Dominion Voting Systems over false accusations of voter fraud are reminiscent of when Carol Burnett sued the National Enquirer over a false story about her.

The Enquirer managed to squeeze out a Pyrrhic victory on appeal, but not only settled with Burnett out of court but became considerably more cautious in future about publishing groundless accusations to thrill the Deplorables.

Burnett’s actions motivated other celebrities to stand up to the tabloids and hold them accountable for their exploitive fiction. The supermarket lines have never been the same.

Which leaves us here: You can jump to all the conclusions you want, but if you start naming names, you’d better have some evidence.

Lawsuits aside, Scousers never buy the Sun.



4 thoughts on “CSotD: Tomorrow’s News Today

  1. It’s perhaps worth pointing out that “terrorist” and “white domestic terrorist” refer to what a person does while “troubled soul” and “misunderstood lone wolf who was upset at the government” refer to what lies behind what he does.

    We need to remember that the two sets of descriptions are not mutually exclusive and show some care in when and where and how we use them.

    And, yes, I am quite sure that some terrorists are terrorists simply because they are purely evil. Nor do I ignore the vast difference in the seriousness of the actions shown in the first cartoon.

  2. I thought about discussing the issue of suicide bombers and troubled souls, but felt it would distract from the main point of differentiating between political and apolitical acts. Plus I have a self-imposed limit of 1,000 words.

    There may be perfectly sane political extremists who go into situations that seem likely to end in death, but when it’s a sure thing, I have to question the balance of the person chosen.

    Which leads to the question of whether suicide bombers are chosen for the ardour or because they’re known to be unbalanced — that is, does the leadership actively choose people they believe to be nuts, or is that simply who volunteers?

    At which point we come to the Manson family and the issue of full-blown crazy versus temporarily led off the path.

    I think you can see why I didn’t try to address it this morning.

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