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CSotD: Freedom, Responsibility and Rent

Tomorrow is World Press Freedom Day, and, as Ann Telnaes notes, it couldn’t come a moment too soon, a point made at Saturday’s WHCA Dinner but largely lost in coverage of Joe Biden and Trevor Noah’s remarks.

Much as I despise the event, both Biden and Noah delivered some great material, not, perhaps, as incisive as Stephen Colbert’s famous “truthiness” speech which made his audience squirm more than they wanted to, but tough enough to get some uncomfortable laughs.

Which is the goal of political humor.

It’s a convenient untruth to say that, if you’ve offended both sides, you’re getting it right. Too often, offending both sides just means you didn’t understand the topic.

A political joke that hits home, rather, should spark a level of recognition that results in both a laugh and a groan from an honest listener.

That said, Biden and Noah’s combined success, and the fact that the dinner is valued more as entertainment than for insight, meant that the commentary on press freedom was largely overshadowed. I couldn’t find a clip on YouTube or elsewhere, but you’ll find the relevant six-minute segment here.

I was particularly struck, not by the roster of journalists killed in Ukraine, because death is part of war, but by the remarks about journalists threatened and their equipment attacked on January 6, because that shouldn’t be part of news coverage in peacetime.

Putin provides permission for those who kill reporters in Ukraine, but he’s a war criminal.

I’m more concerned about those in this country who create an atmosphere where mistrusting and physically attacking the press is encouraged.

 

To have had a president who specifically invited crowds to attack reporters was terrifying to anyone who values a free press, but, as Christopher Weyant points out, current primary races indicate that supporting false interpretations of the attempted coup, and believing in the Big Lie behind it, have become litmus tests for anyone hoping to gain a Republican nomination.

This ought to scare the hell out of you, but, like the apocryphal frogs in the pot, perhaps the transition away from freedom and democracy has been so gradual that we didn’t notice.

 

However, we’ve reached a point where the level of hostility between parties has become such a knee-jerk reaction that conservatives are condemning Homeland Security’s attempt to rein in disinformation without bothering to find out what this new department is even trying to accomplish.

Bob Gorrell (Creators) assumes it will dispense lies about our Southern border, when, in fact, one of its two declared missions is to counter the lies spread by coyotes and others that make people think they can easily come here.

In a free nation, political cartoonists have a moral and ethical obligation to be journalists, and learning the department’s purpose didn’t require Woodward/Bernstein level investigative digging: It was contained in the Associated Press’s report on the new department:

I would suggest that it requires a more concerted effort to avoid knowing this than to find it out.

However, if you operate on the belief that the Other Side is continually lying, and then confine yourself to media explicitly dedicated to preserving and reinforcing that opinion, anything is possible:

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

 

But clarity is as important as honesty. Even truth can become lost in a riptide of competing facts. Clay Jones offers what seems to be a confusing two-fer by addressing the overall economy but only giving one example.

He offered this explanation at his Facebook political cartooning site: “As rental prices increase across the nation from 30 to over 50%, Biden said he’s not worried about a recession.”

True, but, as is, the panels suggest that Biden responded with indifference specifically to housing costs, which are only one facet of either inflation or recession.

Here’s what he actually said:

 

But Jones is right that people need help: As alluded to yesterday, the Democrats seem to be failing to address the “kitchen table” issues average Americans face, and housing costs are certainly high on that list.

 

As this three-minute report from CNN notes, lower-middleclass people are being forced from their apartments and houses by leaps in rent, or, at best, into such straitened budgets that they cannot get from paycheck to paycheck.

 

In addition, reasonably successful people are shut out of purchasing homes by inflated prices and rising mortgage rates, as Matt Davies illustrates, though that offers some defense for rising rents, assuming that landlords are beset by both adjustable rate mortgages and rising property taxes.

 

It’s not an ironclad defense, mind you, given that adjustable rates haven’t gone up much at all, it makes no sense to refinance a fixed-rate mortgage and, while property taxes do go up, very few communities go through the long, contentious and convoluted process of reappraisal more often than every few years.

The most likely reason I can think of for jacking up rents is that you want more money, possibly so you can buy more housing and jack up the rent there, too.

Maybe I spent too much time as a reporter covering residential real estate or maybe I spent too much time as a guitarslinger playing for barowners with Cadillacs, beach houses and pinkie rings who couldn’t afford to pay the band.

And perhaps I’d be happier some place like Australia, where nice folks like First Dog on the Moon are not shy or overly polite about criticizing the ruling class:

The point of all this is that it is the absolute duty of a free press to keep the feet of the powerful pressed to the fire, but, to paraphrase the expression, with great Press Freedom comes great Press Responsibility.

Political cartoonists must be both honest and clear.

While, to paraphrase another expression, “If you can’t bring the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

 

Community Comments

#1 Andréa Denninger
May/2/2022
@ 7:50 am

I know of one business (I don’t go out much, so don’t talk to many folks, but this came from my hairdresser) that had to close due to rent doubling/tripling (she wasn’t sure which, but it was a LOT). So much for the moratorium and the rent-assistance, etc.

#2 Paul Berge
May/2/2022
@ 7:54 am

I do wish Biden would break the habit of saying he isn’t concerned about things we pay him to be concerned about.

#3 Andréa Denninger
May/2/2022
@ 7:55 am

You could SEE the Faux news folks plotting their revenge. OTOH, if all these jokes and putdowns of drumpf convince him to run in 2024 (which may be why there were so many of them), the Dems assume they can win again, as opposed to other potential GOP candidates (DeathSantis, for example, who, the rumor goes, is smarter than drumpf and therefore more dangerous).

A Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. Also the title of a Terry Prachett book . . . wonder what he’d’ve made of these Interesting Times.

#4 Fred King
May/2/2022
@ 9:29 am

I wish the Democrats were better at coming up with names. “Disinformation Governance Board” is giving people like Bob Gorrell a straight line that is too tempting to pass up. Something like the Committee to Combat Corrupting Propaganda would be equally Orwellian but might resonate with some Republicans.

#5 Louis Richards
May/2/2022
@ 6:55 pm

@Fred King #4
Well, they could call it the Ministry of Truth, but nobody would believe that it’s NOT doublespeak.

#6 Lonny Groseed
May/3/2022
@ 6:01 am

A recent segment on 60 minutes posited that the rise in home prices was due (in part) to corporations buying up single family homes and turning them into rentals.

Regarding mortgage rates rising, they’re still a long way from the levels of the early 1980s. On my first home purchase, the fixed rate was 16.5%.

#7 Mark B
May/3/2022
@ 8:06 am

“Political cartoonists must be both HONEST and clear.”

Well, that certainly eliminates the conservative cartoonists I’ve seen here.

#8 Bob Crittenden
May/3/2022
@ 11:13 pm

Lonny – that’s why I went with an 8% ARM, max change of 2%/yr, 6% life of loan, AND paid it off early.

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