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CSotD: Kicking the stone

Rabbits Against Magic (AMS) establishes today’s theme with a joke that should make you weep rather than laugh.

Facts are facts and opinions are opinions, but truth seems to waver somewhere in the middle, and saying “seems” only emphasizes the uncertainty.

There are limits: When George Berkeley wrote that reality was only what our minds perceived it to be, Samuel Johnson kicked a large stone, declaring through the resulting pain “I refute him thus!”

Then again, the Nib is currently hosting a cartoon by Robyn Chapman called “Making Sense of Heaven’s Gate” that takes a non-judgmental view of a suicidal cult most people seem to have viewed as pure delusional lunacy.

Though I can’t prove that their now-disembodied spirits weren’t all picked up by a UFO that trailed behind the Hale-Bopp Comet. Perhaps they were. Who’s to say?

But let’s be fair: If I kick what appears to me to be a large stone, I seem to injure my foot.

But that’s simply my truth; your foot won’t hurt at all.

Which leads us to our

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Gary Varvel – Creators)

 

(Clay Bennett – CTFP)

 

(Matt Davies – AMS)

This odd trio starts with my agreeing with Varvel, but, at the same time, suspecting he wasn’t intending to compliment Biden for his flexibility.

Biden did lift many of the restrictions we’d adopted at the height of the pandemic, and has followed the science as it responded to the combination of people refusing the vaccine and a new variant arising.

And Varvel is honest in having the scientist say “may have to,” given that the recommended measures are less specific and more generous than what science demanded before the vaccine was developed.

Which brings us to Bennett’s depiction, suggesting that we eased up too soon. We can argue into the night over whether Biden’s success in promoting vaccination was simply a case of riding the coattails of Trump’s final act, in which the process began, and the degree to which the denialism of the former administration has contributed to the hold-outs who make the Delta variant so much more dangerous.

We can also argue whether anyone ever said to abandon face masks entirely, though my reality is that 65% of the people in my county are fully vaccinated and we’re largely going unmasked.

Still, I see people masking and stores are debating returning to mask requirements.

Which brings me to my criticism of Davies’ cartoon, because I agree that there’s been confusion, but I don’t blame the CDC. If I were to draw this cartoon, I’d depict multiple paths of mutating viruses, changing guidelines, rampant denialism and honest ignorance.

But I got my second shot in April, so I’m entitled to kick the stone and imagine myself in pain, if it helps persuade others that this is perhaps not the best time to indulge in George Berkeley’s subjective reality.

 

I’ll challenge Bob Gorrell (Creators) to explain how, in his perception of truth, public health restrictions relating to Covid differ from requirements that meat packers not distribute fetid product, that certain drugs only be sold by prescription, that people drive certain speeds on certain roads and that they not do so while drunk.

Those are easy stones to kick. We can discuss another day why it’s okay for schools to subject kids to the coronavirus but they should be forbidden to teach them about racism, or why we shouldn’t look too deeply into what happened on January 6 and hold people accountable if their impression of truth leads them to assault police officers.

 

Jack Ohman (WPWG) has his own perception of reality, and seems willing enough to tackle the metaphysical issue of what happens when we trim our sails not according to science but to follow political expediency.

And harking back to the Heaven’s Gate story, in which people deliberately and joyfully consumed apple sauce laced with fatal doses of phenobarbital and washed it down with vodka, as was their right, we should note that Rep. Jackie Speier, who was shot five times at Jonestown, does not dismiss references to “drinking the Kool-Aid” as a joke, and has suggested a parallel in the current view of truth and reality.

You have the right to drink poison but I think we can agree that you have no right to lie to people in order to induce them to drink it, and, I feel even more safe in saying, you have no right to murder people who come to see how you proclaim your truth.

Yet here we see members of Congress mocking the Capitol Police who were assaulted by disciples who followed not simply a different truth, but, as Ohman notes, one that conflicts with what their leaders insisted was true up until that morning.

 

Finally today, let’s not assume that subjective truth is the exclusive province of right-wing politicians, cultists and anti-science anti-vaxxers.

I generally agree with Darrin Bell, but in today’s Candorville, he bites the hand that feeds him, since the strip is syndicated by the Washington Post Writer’s Group, which is owned by Jeff Bezos.

It’s possible he got flak from a nervous WPWG editor over a planned cartoon, but his accusation that the ownership keeps him from criticizing Bezos does not match what I’ve seen in the pages of the newspaper. Bezos’ trip into space was openly criticized here and here, and even joyously mocked here.

Nor have I seen prior restraint over the Boss exercised upon WPWG editorial cartoonists, a small stable that includes Clay Bennett, Lisa Benson, Tim Campbell, Jeff Danziger, Jack Ohman and Signe Wilkinson. (Bell’s editorial cartoons are syndicated by King Features.)

None of which is to say that it isn’t true for Bell, who may have his reasons for hurling a serious and specific charge, though the fact that it got through seems like a hearty kick of the stone on the part of his editors.

As far as I can tell, Bezos has kept his nose out of the Post newsroom, which, under his ownership, has seen enormous rises in both digital subscriptions and digital income.

I wish the billionaires who tried to rescue the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun had been as successful.

 

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