CSotD: Sound and fury signifying something

Peter Brookes (Times UK) invokes James Gillray’s classic 1805 cartoon to show the controversy between the UK and France over vaccine allotment.


Oddly enough, DD Degg ran the original yesterday, in a posting that is not long but is quite deep and that you really should go check out. However, here it is again, the background being that Great Britain’s Pitt the Younger and Napoleon were attempting some sort of peaceful division of the world.

(Spoiler Alert: It didn’t work out.)

We often see classics like Franklin’s “Unite or Die” or David Low’s “Rendezvous” renewed for contemporary commentary, but there are artistic and political rules for re-using such classics, to which you could also add the Adam-and-God section of the Sistine Chapel, Rodan’s “The Thinker” and on and on.

Or at least there oughta be.

What makes Brookes’ piece work, and what almost never works with Adam-and-God takeoffs, is that, first of all, while he doesn’t attempt to completely reproduce the original, he’s got the chops that he probably could, and so he does it in his own style but so close to Gillray as to be an homage rather than an attempted theft.

Obviously, too, the fact that the controversy is between Britain and France makes it work, to which we can add the element of farce implied in his comparing Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron to Pitt and Bonaparte.

And, yes, Boris has the Astrazeneca vaccine stashed behind his back and Macron is tres énervé, likely because a French company was involved in developing the vaccine and it’s all very complex and of course involves Brexit and if you want the details, start here.

Which is to say that Brookes found a perfect parallel with just the right degree of absurdity and then pulled it off well. It’s not quite Robin Hood splitting the arrow, but it’s damned fine work.


Now let’s ease our way back to the US with this Kal Kallaugher Counterpoint piece.

He’s not the first to note the difference in GOP reaction between four dead in Benghazi and five dead in the US Capitol, but his timing is exquisite and that’s a prime factor in political commentary, as is his ability to depict sleeping and furious elephants.


Benjamin Slyngstad had done a more methodical comparison several days ago, and I admire his detailed takedown, but it’s didactic and comes across more as a lecture than a cartoon.

I suppose someone versed in four-panel cartooning — Jen Sorensen or Tom Tomorrow — might have combined Kal’s sarcasm with Slyngstad’s detail — but they didn’t, and I like what both cartoonists have done.

So play the editor in your mind: Both pieces are on your desk, you’re on deadline, and you only have space for one of them.

Do you go for Kal’s emotional punch or Benjamin’s analytical breakdown?

And no fair changing your mind once you’ve set up the page.

Here’s a fully emotional piece from Ann Telnaes (WashPo) about the added security around the Capitol in her hometown.

In this case, if you need words to buttress her sorrowful graphic reflection, Jonathan Last wrote a piece at the Bulwark on his own sadness that many people who work in the nation’s capital linked to on social media.

Again, I’m not sure whether I want the graphic gut-punch or the reasoned reaction, but I’m not that imaginary editor and so can choose both.

However, I was thrilled that, on her personal pages, she repeated this classic from 2004, which I used to use in my lectures to high school kids, both for the message and the art.

Telnaes didn’t simply decry the restrictions imposed on the nation’s capital, but used her background in animation to depict the weary posture of the woman such that she communicated a sense of depressed, angry resignation.

Bringing it back now also makes the point that terrorists are terrorists, whether they come from Saudi Arabia or our own streets.

It’s one thing to mourn our loss of freedom, but there is a fury behind the reactions of both Ann Telnaes and Jonathan Last which needs to remain in the foreground as we select our response to enemies, both foreign and domestic.


Speaking of fury, Matt Wuerker (Politico) didn’t have to wait for yesterday’s ceremonial washing of hands before pointing out that the GOP has no intention of standing up to Q-Anon and its seditious adherents.

Greene produced a few crocodile tears for having passed along insane, traitorous ideas, saying she had been “allowed to believe” in a vast conspiracy and offering a half-vast semi-apology.

Which is how you handle it when you are sorry you got punched in the nose but not for the beliefs that you should have kept to yourself.

And, come on, it’s perfectly sincere: You really are sorry you got punched in the nose.

Or, in her case, almost punched, since her teammates support her through thick and thin.


Maybe we should pass the hat and erect a monument to them, like the one honoring Benedict Arnold’s heroism at Saratoga, which commemorates his shattered leg, but doesn’t mention his name.

It’s how you honor the contributions people make before turning their coats.

Though first they have to make a contribution.

Details, details.


Finally, how’s about we lighten things up a little with First Dog in the Moon’s reflections on a world without Google.

Google has been embroiled in a fight with the Australian government over a law that would compensate publishers for work included in search results, and had threatened to pull out of the country.

The whole cartoon is, as usual, insightful and hilarious and I wish we had the tradition of working class fury found in most countries.

Do go read the whole thing.

Apparently, there has been some kind of compromise, but, before that happened, Microsoft assured Aussies that it would remain there, leaving them with Bing, which the company calls a “decision engine” rather than a “search engine.”

Bing bases its responses on what other people have decided was the best answer, which brings us full circle back to Marjorie Taylor Greene and thus to this classic SNL game show.


3 thoughts on “CSotD: Sound and fury signifying something

  1. In the war between the Australian news media and Google it’s difficult to feel either side are the good guys.

  2. Thanks, Brett — I needed that after slipping on the ice in a parking lot yesterday. Wouldn’t have minded the fall 30 years ago, when people would say “Oh, it’s icy!” but now it’s “Oh, that poor old man!”

    Which reminds me of a quote I wish I could find, in which someone said that, when you’re young and can’t remember something, they say, “Ah! He’s got so many more important things on his mind!” but now they say, “Poor old guy is losing it.”

    I don’t have a Nobel but I do know when the liquor store opens, so at least I won’t make that slip-up. Though perhaps the fact that I know their operating hours is why I don’t have a Nobel.

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