CSotD: Facts, opinions, truth, illusion and loyalties

Matt Wuerker (Politico) outlines a glitch in a free society, or at least in this one, which is that Power can still gain an advantage by keeping its populace frightened and insecure. The easier to eat you with, my dear.

And, in a capitalist system that does not rein in monopolies or keep private enterprise out of politics, those with money are those with power, and calls to overturn Citizens United, like calls to bell the cat, boil down to the question of how to attach the bell, which I would emphasize is less a matter of courage than of tactics.

It’s not impossible, but to actually do it would require a cavalry charge in which you expect a certain percentage will fall, but the numbers will ultimate prevail.

One brave mouse is simply a mouse wasted.

Meanwhile, Wuerker didn’t need a plug labeled “Lies,” because, while snark, bile and hysteria can be based on facts, in the current media mix, they do not appear to be.


Jeff Koterba (Cagle) concedes that there is a certain element of the population who are both impervious to facts and hostile to reason, and who have not simply a preference for embracing paranoid, anti-rational beliefs, but consider it a matter of loyalty.

Back to Wuerker’s television, there are calls for a return of the Fairness Doctrine, which required that broadcasters both present opinions and balance them with contrasting views.

This is not the Equal Time rule, which applies to political candidates, but most broadcasters complied with the Fairness Doctrine by offering equal time for “responsible” parties to offer opposing views.

However, while the Fairness Doctrine would have hampered the rise of talk radio and Sinclair Media, it would do little to stem our current flood of disinformation.

The constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine was based on the fact that the broadcast spectrum is finite and that the government not only could limit access to it, but had to, at the risk of overlapping chaos that would render broadcasting useless.

There was never a Fairness Doctrine for print, and there cannot be one for cable — home of Fox News, OANN and Newsmax — or the Internet.

There could be voluntary practices, as the movie industry, broadcasters and comic books once took up, sometimes with more of an arm-twist than at others.

Aside from the bans on showing tits, or depicting husbands and wives sharing a bed, most of them declared, for instance, that villains were not supposed to profit from their crimes, and went along with a general sense that you shouldn’t promote fear and lies.

I guess you had to be there.


Today, Gary Varvel (Creators) is hardly the only conservative who feels that a request for social media companies to not promote harmful disinformation and deliberate lies, and an effort to inform them when such things are posted, amounts to “government censorship.”

No. Forbidding companies to sell patent medicines or unsafe food products that will poison people, and stopping them from filling the skies and waters with toxins, are examples of government regulation.

Poisoning people’s minds is protected by the First Amendment, and the government can only request that companies not do so.

Those are the facts.

When I presented political cartoons in high schools, I’d point out that “This school is made of bricks” was a fact and that “This is the best school in the country” was an opinion, and, since they were mostly juniors and seniors, they already understood the difference.

At least, they nodded along. They’re all voting age now and I’m not sure everybody really got it.

So let’s go over it one more time.


Often, when I disagree with a cartoonist’s opinion, I simply pass it by, and that was the case a few days ago when Chip Bok (Creators) posted this.

Nearly all observers are expecting inflation, across the spectrum. Most economists that I’ve heard feel it will be more of a glitch than a trend, but others are less optimistic, and Bok is very much within reason to express that fear.

It’s also fair game to blame Biden’s policies, despite decreased unemployment and other gains.

So depicting him as the fraudulent Wizard of Oz is fair commentary, and Bok doesn’t require my agreement for his cartoon to qualify as a valid opinion.


Here, Michael Ramirez (Creators) steps onto shakier ground, because, first of all, the Democratic legislators who flew to Washington were all vaccinated. They’ve conceded that, in such close quarters as an airplane, they should have been masked anyway, but the mistake was made, and conservatives are not off-base for criticizing the error.

Assuming those conservatives consistently demand that everyone on airplanes should wear masks, vaccinated or not.

However, his joke was that they were infected with stupidity, not with the coronavirus.

It follows that the claim that they “infected everybody” is based on an opinion that at least some of the people in Congress were wise until last week, and that now Democrats and Republicans are all stupid.

I’m not sure Ramirez believes that, but this one — though it plays with facts — falls under the category of “opinion,” and thus, while he has certainly done much better work, this is fair commentary.


By contrast with those opinion pieces by Bok and Ramirez, Steve Kelley (Creators)‘s assessment of the Fauci/Paul dust-up seems based on MAGA loyalty and a claim that it’s judging the facts.

That is, judging facts only people with direct knowledge and significant expertise could assess.

Perhaps all cartoonists should publish essays the way Clay Jones does, laying out their facts and reasoning. Kelley might then point out that Rand Paul plans to ask the Justice Department to indict Fauci for lying, and claims to have “scientists that will line up by the dozens to say that the research he was funding was gain-of-function.”

And that smoking doesn’t cause cancer, climate change is not caused by people and Trump won the election.


Finally, I don’t have a lot to add to John Deering (Creators)‘s cartoon, except to suggest that the patient wasn’t really going to do any of those other things, either.

They’re just easier to fake.

Most things are, if you try hard enough.


3 thoughts on “CSotD: Facts, opinions, truth, illusion and loyalties

  1. I think that while Cable and Internet are delivered to us primarily by wires (or fiber optics), they do utilize the “Broadcast Spectrum” in their journey: microwaves and other radio waves.

    Their messages also probably travel to and from satellites by radio; requiring esoteric equipment to access — but radio sets and TV sets were once rather esoteric.

    The cable and phone industries are constantly fighting for more of the “Broadcast Spectrum”.

    The radio spectrum is all around us and it’s full of good and bad stuff — we just can’t see or feel it.

  2. You could well be right, Nelson. I remember a bunch of quarrelling when they sold off that section of the spectrum, but the details escape me. I do remember that it got pretty unpleasant!

    Of course, the cop-out answer is that you would still have to bring back the Fairness Doctrine and drag everyone — and their expensive lawyers — into court and probably up several courts before you had an answer.

    Which would involve belling several cats. Maybe after we overturn Citizens United …

    But, yes, good point and I’ll poke around in the files to recall those pesky details before I advance the argument again.

  3. I have often wondered, if the fairness doctrine had remained in place, would social media been sown with the corrupt seed corn that unabated right wing talk hosts had spent years propagating? Would it be a better place if the toxic memes of Rush Limbaugh (may his name be erased) and Bill O’Reilly hadn’t been ready made to infect its soil upon its creation?

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