CSotD: Knaves and Fools

Jack Ohman (WPWG)’s phrasing differs slightly from Ron White’s classic bit, which is also a reflection on the current state of medical science. The nice thing about that video clip is that White, a veteran of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, cannot possibly be dismissed as a liberal.

Which means even rock-ribbed rightwingers should listen when he says, “There’s not a pill you can take, there’s not a class you can go to. Stupid is forever!”

As a good liberal myself, I take comfort in the fact that, according to one survey I read but can’t find at the moment, only 15% of people are firm anti-vaxxers, and the rest have questions they need answers to.

You can’t fix stupid, and you’re beating your head against the wall to try, but you can reason with some people, if you can get their attention.

Calling them “stupid” is probably not the best way to do that, but sometimes the frustration boils over, and I’m okay with both Ohman and White, because they each champion good causes.

The real problem is an ancient one that appeared in commedias nearly 300 years ago:

Signor Pantalone: What are we to make of this fellow? Is he knave or fool?
Doctor Lombardi: I really don’t know. Probably a little of both.


Does Michael Ramirez (Creators) truly not understand that situations change and recommendations change with them? Or is he the one who is sowing doubt?

Three days ago, they said I should carry an umbrella. Two days ago, they said I didn’t need one. Now they’re telling me to carry one again. Why can’t they make up their minds?

The real question is what advantage is gained in misrepresenting the science and exposing people — particularly the people who are ostensibly on your side — to greater risk?

The only answer I can come up with is a compulsion to keep faith with Trump, himself an embodiment of knave/fool confusion, who first denied the pandemic, then proposed asinine defenses, and then took credit for developing vaccines whose value his disciples question.


Meanwhile, the objection to the question in Steve Kelley (Creators)’s cartoon is that it has been asked and answered.

I suppose, if people rely entirely on OAN and Newsmax, they might not have heard the straight and obvious discussion, but I’d like to think that would be a pretty slim target audience for the cartoonist at a major newspaper, even a conservative one.

Especially given that Kelley’s own Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has explained the reasoning.

Maybe Boss Tweed was right — “I don’t care what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But, damn it, they can see the pictures!”


I wish it were as simple as the choice Clay Bennett (CTFP) offers, but, of course, it’s not. As said before, if every driver who had three drinks died in a fiery crash, we wouldn’t need drunk-driving laws, but people get hammered and still arrive home.

Similarly, only a few of the people who refuse the vaccine will die. I don’t mean to wish they all would, but the odds mean we have to fight their denial, just as we had to deal with people who said, “My grandfather smoked a pack of cigarettes a day and lived to be 95.”

Though it became easier to handle that one, once we’d established that the Tobacco Institute was deliberately spreading lies about the topic.

They weren’t fools. They were knaves.


Garth German provides a transition to the next topic, and I suspect he’s right, but, mostly, this lets me address the issue without singling out any of the effusive, over-the-top “What an amazing astonishing hero!” cartoons on the topic.

I’d have been okay with some “Good for you!” salutes to her decision, because I do think it’s a brave new world — in the Shakespearean, not Huxleyian, sense — where young people are beginning to recognize that being happy is not a goal readily achieved by compulsively pleasing other people.

But Simone Biles is only one of many people — including Naomi Osaka and Brittney Spears — who have publicly stepped up on their own behalf.

The fact that she’s the most prominent is a factor in her problems: She became not just the face of gymnastics but the face of the US Olympics entirely, and to continue to single her out threatens to contribute to that pressure.

Plus it’s lazy.

Good journalism — and political cartoonists should be journalists — means doing some digging. The AP is guilty of committing journalism, with both this story and also this story, about how that pressure to be the best can take a toll on all players, not just the superstars.

Yes, Simone Biles brought up the topic so others could talk about it. Now go talk to, and about, them.

You might even unearth a cool sports story if you stop looking only where NBC is telling you to look.


Finally, in this discussion of knaves vs. fools, Steve Greenberg’s cartoon echoes several memes on social media and makes me wonder if some union is promoting this issue.

When I lived in Colorado 35 years ago, checkers at King Soopers were unionized, and you had to go through bagging and shelf-stocking before you could become one.

But it’s a low-skills job in most grocery stores today, particularly since you only have to input fruit and vegetable codes and everything else simply scans. My sense is that the pay scale reflects that, though if they’re starting at $15 or more an hour, good for them.

Though, if so, it’s a reason for stores to want to automate the process, just as banks have set up ATMs, while very few gas stations pump for you unless you’re disabled.

Fast food places have automated kiosks and phone apps to take orders, and there are stores on the horizon where everything will carry electronic tags and your bank account will simply be debited as you walk out the door.

The process is nothing new: At the turn of the 20th Century, shopgirls fetched what you wanted from behind a counter, and 200 years ago, Luddites smashed mechanical looms that took jobs away from skilled craftsman.

Are you guilty of filling your own shopping cart while wearing machine-made cloth?


7 thoughts on “CSotD: Knaves and Fools

  1. 100 years ago, every telephone call depended on an operator to make the connection. Does anyone today lament all the operators put out of work by, initially, rotary dialed telephones?

    Before ?1930, any music you heard with a movie was performed by an orchestra or pianist. There *was* a union-led movement in the 1930s against electrically reproduced music and improvements in loudspeakers, but they didn’t win out — the local googolplex theaters don’t hire staffs of musicians.

  2. And now in the pandemic 20’s, many of us are using cheap labor to select and bring us our groceries to the front porch! I doubt they make $15 an hour, however.

  3. Bill Adams … Those workers at Whole Foods start at $15/hour and many are full time employees with benefits.

  4. I’m old enough to remember operators as standard for long distance calls, but I also remember calling for “Operator Assistance” when a call didn’t go through or when a line seemed busy for longer than a reasonable time, and, of course, for calling the time and temperature person, before (gasp!) she was replaced by a robot.

    Those googolplex theaters don’t even hire ushers and projectionists any more.

    And there’s a reason people refer to that store as “Whole Paycheck.” Good jobs, good benefits, but it’s a boutique grocer.

  5. I wish there was a “like” button for these comments. Thanks for the laughs (also applies to Mike for the column). BTW, in my early years, all calls in my town were connected by an operator, and she (always a “she”) also would give the correct time if asked. Further, it was my good fortune to marry one of the last cord board operators in the country. (Good fortune was not because she’d been a telephone operator.)

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