CSotD: Fair Commentary

There’s a dust-up among editorial cartoonists over a fellow who cartoons for Cagle under a cloak of anonymity, which seems, by any measure, a violation of journalistic ethics, in which anonymous sources are used only with reluctance, but the stories in which they appear are signed.

It seems particularly unnecessary, given that (A) nobody here is locking up dissidents, (B) even the current Supreme Court would recognize the First Amendment right to express opinions and (C) you certainly won’t get in trouble for brown-nosing the conservative establishment.

Cartoonist Pedro Molina, who is in self-imposed exile from the repressive regime in Nicaragua, observed

Context is EVERYTHING. For example, when I started drawing cartoons in #Nicaragua, we all signed our names. After all, we lived in a democracy. The kids who have started to draw after 2018 in Nicaragua all use pseudonyms. And not only do I understand them, I encourage them to do so! Why? Because Nicaragua is now living under a dictatorship. A regime so brutal that there are people sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for a tweet they posted or for waving the national flag in the street. So you have to be careful. It is also worth remembering that using a pseudonym does not exempt you from your ethical responsibility with your work which is where, in the end, people will notice if you are really a professional or just another internet troll hiding behind anonymity to insult, lie and spread their hatred and sectarianism.

Nobody in this country needs to be anonymous, which adds heft to that second part of Molina’s comment.

There are cartoonists who spin with venom on both sides of the aisle, and I don’t often feature their work because it doesn’t address topics seriously. However, I do occasionally highlight and debate the better efforts.

They may spin the facts, but they stand behind their work, even when their take barely qualifies as fair commentary. Some of the most ghastly, extremist, questionably honest people in the business still sign their names to their work.

To do otherwise would be to proclaim yourself a chickenshit.

This particular cartoon is a good example of going beyond spin into wretched dishonesty. Fortunately, he labeled the panels to make refutation easier:

  1. Yes, Mueller did find evidence. Barr didn’t release that part of the report but it’s available to honest searchers.
  2. Critical thinking demands asking whether the claim matched verified reports. In this case, we know the president tore up and scattered documents that had to be Scotch-taped together by his staff. Why not believe he’d flush the pieces, if he happened to be in the can?
  3. Fair commentary, though key figures in the NYC AG’s staff resigned in protest at their newly elected boss’s decision.
  4. An absolute lie. The riot was in full progress before Trump gave his half-hearted go-home tweet. We’re about to hear more about his delay as the riot went on.
  5. There are claims disputing small details of her testimony, but there is no “evidence” refuting it. Let the nay-sayers testify as she did, under oath.
  6. As the old barroom challenge goes, “Say it to my face.”

I’ve given this more space than it deserves, but cartoonists with character are having enough trouble making a living these days.

They shouldn’t have to compete with cowards who won’t stand behind their work and who fling insults at those who do.


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Bob Gorrell – Creators)


(Jeff Stahler – AMS)


(Kevin Siers)

By Contrast: I don’t share Gorrell’s merriment at the pushback against Biden running for a second term because I never wanted him to run for a second term, but Gorrell’s honest in his opinion and worth engaging with.

IMHO — and I’m not alone in saying it — Biden’s not too old to be president, but he’s too old to run for president and I hope he knows it. I also hope he keeps his plans to himself until after the midterms.

Stahler touches on the topic from the other side of the aisle, and there’s a hint in his cartoon of the disloyalty among the progressive wing, which sneers at Obama’s use of the adage, “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” and who want what they want when they want it. Their unrealistic demands loom as an issue in both the midterms and 2024.

We saw people discourage Democratic voters in 2016 because “lesser of two evils” wasn’t good enough, and so we got “greater of two evils” and how’d you enjoy that?

Still, it’s a reasonable and responsible desire to have someone younger and more assertive and, as noted here yesterday, if we’d had an orderly transition of government, that would be very much on the table right now.

As it is, we’ve never quite regained the quiet balance achieved during the post-Watergate Gerald Ford regency, and Siers points out the result: A Democratic Party trying to emphasize the good that has been done to a constituency that is demanding more, and a GOP that refuses to back away from the horrors of the past four years, despite polls showing that people don’t support extremism.

But, then, the only polls that matter are the elections, and this November’s tally will tell if we’ll even have real elections in 2024.

If SCOTUS turns it all over to state legislators, you’d better hope those states are in the hands of lawmakers who want voting to matter.


By contrast, Britain’s Conservatives had no problem separating themselves from their bad hair bad boy, though Steven Camley suggests they’re now about to turn those knives on each other.

As this brief video indicates, those knives were indeed placed in the back, but, then, politics ain’t beanbag.

David Frum spoke to Johnson’s fall in a Bulwark podcast, and — having grown up in Canada’s parliamentary system before immigrating here — pointed out that the Prime Minister is not a separate entity as our President is. He’s the leader of whatever party has a majority in parliament and serves at his party’s convenience.

It makes it easier to get rid of someone who isn’t pulling his weight, which, at the moment, seems quite an advantage.

Sigh. Mister, we could use a man like Joshua bin Nun again.


12 thoughts on “CSotD: Fair Commentary

  1. As the late, great Daniel Patrick Moynihan so succinctly put it, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

  2. I have read Rivers’ cartoons on Cagle.com and am not a big fan of this cartoonist’s artwork. Or the cartoonist’s politics for that matter. Kudos to you for pointing out the cartoon’s inaccuracies. I share your hopefulness in hoping that the SCOTUS rules in favor of not letting statehouses decide elections in 2024 and beyond. And that the Democrats (should they lose the House and/or Senate in November) tighten up their message and lay the stage for a comeback in 2024.

  3. I followed the link the Rivers’ cartoons, and I agree with Jane. The cartoons seem to lack the sparkling, rapier-like wit of Mallard Fillmore.* All right, I freely admit to political bias, but can anybody find any humor in them?

    *Most MF strips: “Liberals are dumb. Tee hee hee.”

  4. The best part of my job is signing my name -Mike Lester

    -and fwiw I’ve seen some MacNelly impersonators over the years but this guy makes no attempt at hiding it.

  5. Mike, you came around because this guy is the reason you blocked me on Facebook when I criticized his attempt at impersonating MacNelly. Wow.

  6. So what’s with that fly-fishing cartoon? Slip of the mask of right-winged bravado?

  7. if it was worth the bother, i’d send a letter to Anonymous Cartoonist with >Dear *Rivers*Yours sincerely< at the bottom, and the cartoon's last panel in the center.

  8. Camley’s cartoon and your exposition of it should make Kevin McCarthy glad he isn’t in Parlieamaent !

  9. talk about Not Worth the Bother! apparently, some keyboard symbol combos are code for Delete Words. and there’s no Delete Post. so, one last time, then i give up:

    if it was worth the bother, i’d send a letter to Anonymous Cartoonist with Dear Rivers at the top, Yours sincerely at the bottom, and the cartoon’s last panel in the center.

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