CSotD: The Fog of War and Peace

I’ve often noted that the current level of disinformation is hard on “bland restatement cartoons,” in which absurd characters say exaggerated versions of what real people are saying in all sincerity.

In this case, however, Tom Tomorrow tackles the dilemma by keeping the exaggeration to a scant minimum, with the only real hyperbole being that cable television doesn’t admit they’re intentionally booking nut jobs on their programs, though it often seems they must be, particularly for Sunday morning’s festival of partisan talking points.


If nobody is being quite that overtly absurd on the TV shows, they surely are over on Twitter, where the GOP and its allies are posting preposterous statements and accusations, like Charlie Kirk’s decision that, since Truth and Justice could only have lost if the other side cheated, it’s time to burn down the Reichstag.

Or something.


While over in the mainstream (print) media, Steve Kelley (Creators) offers a version of “Tell me you’ve never volunteered in a local election without saying you’ve never volunteered in a local election,” or maybe he’s simply demanding we stop making it possible for so many people to vote.

Even if you feel we shouldn’t let people — including military members serving overseas — vote by mail, it’s absurd for the same dissidents who distrust voting machines and want paper ballots counted by hand to turn around and insist those counts be completed four hours after polls close.

Their point, rather, seems to be to undermine faith in the system, and to go back to a mythological America that never existed, in those halcyon days before we were forced to look around and, as Jacob Riis put it, see “How The Other Half Lives.”

Riis rubbed our noses in it at the turn of the 20th Century with his camera and with his willingness to climb down from the Ivory Tower and go find out what he was talking about, as did other muckrakers and reformers like Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens and Helen Campbell.

But never underestimate our ability at denial.

It’s been 300 years since Swift observed “Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect.”

All our advanced technology has changed is that falsehood — intentional or accidental — flies that much faster.

It is crucial that commentators, including political cartoonists, keep their heads on a swivel and double-check before they publish.


Case in Point

(Tim Campbell – Counterpoint)

(Michael Ramirez – Creators)

In this case, we’re not seeing any deliberate deception but, rather, “the fog of war,” in which it’s often unclear what happened and why. A Polish border town was hit by some sort of explosive missile, and the immediate assumption was that it was Russian, from which people deduced that it was intentional.

As Campbell suggests, an attack on a NATO member would call for a widening of the conflict, while Ramirez takes a somewhat more restrained response, but points out that Russia can hardly be said to have clean hands.

On further review, it appears to have been a Ukrainian defense missile gone astray, which is the sort of thing that happens within the fog of war, but, as Swift might say, the jest is over and the tale has had enough effect that people continue to assume that, whoever did it, it was intentional.

For Putin’s fans, then, it was Zelenskyy attempting to draw NATO into the war, despite there being no evidence of that, either.

It helps to recall that, following Pearl Harbor, a number of people concluded that FDR had plotted the attack with the Japanese, because the world contains no foul ups, no accidents, no failures and certainly no mysteries.


A more insidious bit of confusion this week came when Iran’s parliament reportedly voted to execute 15,000 anti-hijab protesters, drawing numerous denunciations, not only this one from Pat Bagley but from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

For those closely following the story, it seemed a reversal, because, as Barbara Slavin had been saying just last week, the Iranian government seems flummoxed by the uprising, a lot of Iranian women are ignoring the hair-covering laws and it appears Tehran would like to find a way out of the mess.

Still, the Supreme Council has been known both for spouting hot air and for going after spiders with a meat ax, so it was easy enough to accept the report in Newsweek.

Which turned out to be bogus. It’s still an ugly situation, just not as ugly as the reports had indicated.

Here’s the dilemma: It’s necessary to confirm these things, but it’s also necessary to respond in a timely manner.

Choose your cliché: Is it better to “jump the gun” or to “cry over spilt milk”?


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Christian Adams)

(Patrick Blower)

A different sort of fog settled around the meeting between Joe Biden and Xi Jenping, which both these British cartoonists saw principally as a routine summit, and an issue for Vladimir Putin, who must already feel like Odd Man Out in diplomatic circles.

But America Firsters have never accepted the idea that “politics stop at the water’s edge,” and Twitter was flooded with partisan demands about what the two should have discussed and attacks on how Biden should have behaved, rather than analysis of what they did discuss.


As for how Biden did behave, their loyalists flooded the zone with phony takes based on a welcome-to-Cambodia event a few days earlier and Photoshopped images of things that never happened at all.

Because they’re patriots!


Finally, this further note about the World Cup, with Daniel Garcia calling out Qatar’s sportswashing and FIFA’s corruption in allowing it.

First, it takes some bolas for a Portuguese cartoonist to condemn the games in which his fellow countryman, Cristiano Ronaldo, will likely wrap up one of the most outstanding careers in the sport.

Beyond that, this challenge for fans of the sport, among whom I count myself: Unless you are a Nielsen diary family, whether or not you watch the games will have absolutely no impact on their ratings.

But it might have an impact on your self-image.

However much that matters.


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