CSotD: Effective Commentary

Mike Smith (KFS) makes his own State of the Union report.

There are empty store shelves all around the world. Covid continues to hit a whole lot of countries. You can’t blame everything on The Guy in the White House.

Not even the weather. And, for that matter, he’s not the guy standing in the way of Climate Change correctives, either.

As noted here before, it’s not just the Trump backers who are piling on Biden, and, while it’s everyone’s job to keep the president’s feet to the fire — regardless of who that president is — political cartoonists should be journalists.

You’re not required to offer a solution, but your accusation, however exaggerated for effect, should have some basis.

It reminds me of an editor I worked for, who explained that a punning headline had to be as good a summary and tease as a non-punning headline, and it also had to be a good, concise pun.

A bad example was a story about a young girl who had won a photography award, headlined “She’s no flash in the pan.”

Photographers use flash attachments, but that’s the extent of any connection. The phrase relates to muskets, not cameras, and a kid’s first award is no guarantee even of a second, much less a string of successes.

Similarly, there have been a number of Russia/Ukraine cartoons showing American and Russian tanks facing off, and, yes, it’s a confrontation.

But when Biden is bending over backwards to use sanctions instead of force, and when he has repeatedly said that he has no intention of military intervention, you can’t draw him in a tank.

Well, you can, obviously, because several cartoonists have. But you shouldn’t.

Here’s an example of contrasting approaches in this

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Ed Wexler)


Both cartoons comment on the contrast between the way conservatives try to keep kids from reading books with adult themes and the ready availability of guns in our society.

We’ve seen many cartoons making this same point, but I like the simple way Osval lays it out: We make it more difficult for a child to get a book than to get a gun.

I very rarely disagree with Wexler, but, while he and Osval make the same point, he does it here with a claim that won’t hold water:

There are guns made for young people, there are even youth hunting days set aside for them in many states to go out with an adult, licensed hunter. But 13-year-olds can’t walk into a store and purchase a gun in any state I know of.

I know his intent, but this is not a quibble.

Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had to obtain the guns they used at Columbine illegally. Adam Lanza’s mother bought the gun he used at Sandy Hook (and on her). The 20-year-old who bought 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse his gun faced two felony charges.

For that matter, while a kid might not be able to get Maus in his school library, I doubt his local bookstore would refuse to sell it to him.

The point is good but the argument fails.


Mike Lester (AMS)’s Spotify cartoon, by contrast, is an example of stretching the truth to make your point, in this case a point with which I would disagree. But that’s irrelevant in this discussion.

Just as that Tennessee school board didn’t ban Maus from the school, only from the curriculum, nobody is “censoring” Joe Rogan’s podcast: They’re basically boycotting it.

That may indeed be part of “liberal cancel culture,” but I think the Dixie Chicks, Starbucks and now Carhartt and a raft of others — including Art Spiegelman — would tell you to go cry on somebody else’s shoulder.

Still, Lester is correct that people who support efforts to suppress the spread of covid want Spotify to stop giving Rogan a platform to spread misinformation.

Their point is that social distancing, masks and vaccines can’t end the pandemic as long as people are refusing to take those steps and that anti-vaxxers and science-deniers keep the disease alive.

Lester disagrees.

And his use of “censor” in place of “boycott” is reasonable, given that those who are quitting Spotify and those who pull their music from it are not simply saying “I won’t listen to Rogan” but “Rogan should not be available.”

It may seem as if Lester is saying that nobody should refuse to sell gasoline and matches to an arsonist, and you don’t have to agree. I certainly don’t.

Still, we can argue the point, and Lester is within the bounds of fair commentary.


Juxtaposition of Not Biden in a Tank

(David Fitzsimmons)


(Ted Littleford)

Here’s pair of cartoons on the rightwing’s current response to the Russia/Ukraine crisis.

I like them both, but here’s the point of discussion: Fitzsimmons lays out his argument in some detail, while Littleford makes a concise, more emotional argument.

Which do you prefer?

Tucker Carlson may be the one most actively embracing the bear at the moment, but there are plenty of other conservatives who seem a lot more fond of Putin than they were half a century ago, when they were screaming “Go Back to Russia!” and throwing red paint at antiwar protesters.

These “Impeach Earl Warren” hardliners have an even longer history of accusing anyone who wants to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted of being communists, a term they continue to hurl today, even as they take Russia’s side against the US position in the brewing conflict.

Now, I think we can assume neither of these cartoons will change any of their minds.

But it might still be possible to pull a few Uncommitteds into the battle.

If that is the goal, which do you think is more effective: The detailed argument or the emotional appeal?

Either way, conservativism sure ain’t what it used to be. (Neither is TV journalism.)



5 thoughts on “CSotD: Effective Commentary

  1. ” . . . when they were screaming “Go Back to Russia!” and throwing red paint at antiwar protesters.”

    I’m an old hippie, and my thoughts have run along that line since Drumpfism came to the fore . . . why such a turn-around? I’ve yet to find a logical explanation (or am I too naive to ask for logic?).

  2. There’s lots of tasty details in the Fitzsimmons piece. I particularly like the beauty mark on the oligarch’s cheek; gives a ‘decadent French aristocracy’ vibe that’s quite apropos.

  3. RE: Wexler cartoon. I’m assuming the likeness of the kid buying the gun to Kyle Rittenhouse was intentional, altho he didn’t actually buy it himself.

  4. Rittenhouse was several years older, has dark hair and, as you note, didn’t buy the gun.

Comments are closed.