CSotD: Journalism takes stepping out of the water

Sherman’s Lagoon (KFS) plays with a fairly well-known saying, that fish don’t understand the concept of being “wet” because they live in water. It’s applicable to all sorts of things people don’t seem to get for having failed to ever step outside their own experience.

Some people are lucky enough to live lives that don’t allow for sheltered isolation, others have experiences that shake them out of it. In Katherine Mansfield’s classic short story, “The Garden Party,” a rich young girl questions her privileged existence through the death of a working-class man in the village, despite her family’s resistance to empathizing with the widow and children.

Mansfield leaves poor Laura hanging between becoming awakened and slipping back into privilege, though she herself stepped out of the water, as chronicled in Sarah Laing’s brilliant graphic novel.

I don’t know how any artist or writer can work successfully without stepping out of the water, and I’d certainly include journalists in that group who must, like MacDuff, meld emotion and objectivity to create honest depictions.

If political cartoonists want to be taken seriously as journalists, they must play by MacDuff’s rules.

For instance:

Journalists have sources and contacts, but no friends, and Greg Kearney’s acid response to Susan Collins having voted against the Voting Acts Right both saddens me and strikes me as right and fair.

As noted here before, when I was in Maine, I had a very pleasant relationship with Senator Collins, and so I was glad to have left that job before she swerved to the right.

But I’d have covered her pretty much as Kearney does here.

I’ve had to step on friendly feet a few times, as well as having my own trodden upon. Politics ain’t beanbag, as the man said.

But the game still has some rules.

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Andy Davey)

(Morten Morland)

These are both so visually appealing that you may have to do a bit of stepping out of your own in order to analyze their message, which, in both cases, is that Russia’s control over energy resources will cause European nations to, at best, hesitate to challenge an invasion of Ukraine and, likely, let it go forward without intervening.

I see those as worst-case scenarios, but they’ve put in their homework, because, despite Biden’s insistence that the allies would suffer through an energy crisis rather than tolerate an invasion, response from the EU and NATO countries has not been nearly that definitive.

I prefer Davey’s warning over Morland’s more pessimistic view of the likely outcome, but they’re both well founded.


Michael Ramirez (Creators) offers a challenging take, because it’s both partisan and more philosophical.

He’s long been a Biden critic, and it would be a surprise for him to back the president. So the question becomes, is he fair this time?

Sanctions are a minefield whenever they come up. Conservatives didn’t want sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid government in those days, and, more recently, they didn’t think sanctions would help keep Iran in compliance with the multi-party nuclear deal.

But there’s a difference between honestly opposing sanctions and, for example, spreading blatant lies about the Iranian money returned when sanctions were lifted.

I happen to think the massive sanctions Biden favors would give Putin pause, and I’d certainly like to hear the proposed alternative: Is the preferred action a war, or is it letting Putin grab Ukraine?

However, the cartoon is fair commentary, the kind of thing we could debate over a beer but perhaps should not debate over three or four beers.


Steve Kelley (Creators) invokes a little more pushback, because the term “woke,” like “CRT,” is a buzzword that has been appropriated as an insult, so my initial reaction is two words, second one “you.”

Except that — despite the dog-whistle terminology — he’s got an excellent point, and note that the donkey is being dragged down by extreme demands. They aren’t necessarily his own ideas, and, yes, they will alienate some voters as we approach the midterms.

The counter argument is not that Kelley’s wrong, but, rather, that the elephant is not so neat and tidy himself, and that voters will also be put off by Senate obstruction, by a partisan Supreme Court, by gerrymandering in the states, by obstruction of the January 6 attempted coup and by the continued support of Trump and the Big Lie.

But that’s another debate better held over one beer than three. Kelley’s cartoon is fair commentary.


However, there’s no real defense for this Bob Gorrell (Creators) piece, because it makes no real point.

It’s simply a case of sticking out his tongue at a president he doesn’t like, and fails even as an insult, since the metaphor, if taken literally, references a horrific, ongoing failure of the previous administration.


Insults are a valid weapon in the cartoonist’s armory:  Dave Brown consistently drew Trump’s comb-over as a slightly demented ferret, but he never made that the point of his cartoon. Here, the main point was Trump’s indifference to BLM and the death of George Floyd, with the ferret merely a lagniappe.

Insults are fair when used as a spice, but nobody — right or left — should serve them up as the main course.


And the factor being cited should be true. Robert Ariail (AMS) is only one of many cartoonists continuing to flog the false notion that Biden made a “gaffe” in his mention of “minor incursions” at his press conference.

He didn’t misspeak, and he clarified his unclear phrasing in a follow-up that same night:

Good question, indeed, especially since the two examples he then gave of incursions that would require debate over an appropriate response were cyber attacks and attempts by Russia agents “to undermine the solidarity within Ukraine,” both of which appear to be happening.

I know I’ve been harping on this one, but, goddammit, Moynihan’s Law remains in effect, even today, even for cartoonists:

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”


There are, however, actual gaffes, and Michael de Adder gets fair mileage over McConnell’s telling remark, though the very essence of a “Freudian slip” is the accidental revelation of unspoken beliefs.

The revelation was accidental, and responding that some of his best speech writers, schedulers and office managers have been Black simply confirms that he simply doesn’t get it.

Fair game? McConnell volunteered!

Bottom line: Professionalism matters. Dry up!


4 thoughts on “CSotD: Journalism takes stepping out of the water

  1. Remember the Biden “poor kids are just as bright as white kids” gaff? I don’t put much stock in Freudian slips

  2. I like to quote the version of the Freudian slip definition that calls it, “When you say one thing, and mean your mother.”

  3. From this side of the pond the Gone with the Windbag pastiche makes more sense, as our own mini-me Trump, Boris Johnson is the idiot in the dress saying “frankly my dear, we don’t give a d@mn”. The UK Conservative party actually said that his racism and lack of ability to tell the truth was “priced in” when they appointed him as leader. Lets hope his chickens are coming home to roost and he’ll be out of power soon…

Comments are closed.