Tom Tomorrow poses an interesting question: Should the mainstream media give coverage to foolish, hateful propaganda?
Nobody would likely care about transgender issues if the rightwing hadn’t ginned it up and turned it into a major political matter. In the real world, it only impacts a very small percentage of the population and their friends and families.
Yet here we are, and he makes a reasonable claim that nobody would even know about this if the mainstream media hadn’t covered it.
However, there’s a significant chicken-and-egg issue in this, which is that the fresh-faced young jackass in that first panel was already reaching a significant audience, whether it was on the underground media of reddit and 8chan and such, or in the rightwing of Fox and Newsmax.
Like most of the stupid, hateful things that have to be shot down by fact checkers, there’s a question of who starts these things? It may be understandable that gullible people pass along foolish myths, but, at some point, somebody invented each one. Who? And why?
It’s probably not that fellow in the first panel. By the time he decides to pass it on, it’s grown legs, and he’s promoting the idea because he knows it will draw attention to himself and his other agendas.
However, the point is that, if tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of people are buying into it, that’s news and it deserves some coverage. We can argue over how much.
Still: Chicken. Egg. Egg. Chicken.
There is this: When a source makes a claim that is clearly, obviously untrue, the interviewer should challenge it. DeSantis could have, and should have, been challenged to tell in what states babies are born and then slaughtered, a statement so ridiculous that it belongs in Q-Anon’s pizzeria basement.
Sometimes those things fly past and leave you with a “Wait a minute — Did he just say that?” by which time the conversation has moved on.
It’s still a failure, but I’m more apt to forgive it in a live interview than in the type of coverage and commentary that allows — that demands — time to think, to research and to fact-check.
For instance, conservative cartoonists have had a field day with “Cocainegate,” and Bob Gorrell (Creators) is not the only commentator to interpret the lack of an arrest and prosecution as a deliberate, corrupt coverup.
Perhaps they watch too much CSI on TV, and believe that astonishing technology regularly transmutes the tiniest clue into convicting evidence.
But editorial cartoonists are supposed to be journalists and journalists are not supposed to be gullible or naive.
Shorn of partisan propaganda, it seems someone dropped a plastic bag containing a fifth of a gram of cocaine — a misdemeanor quantity — in a receptacle in a White House lobby where visitors normally place electronic devices prior to going from public to restricted areas.
It may have slipped out when they took a phone from their pocket; it’s hard to believe they put it there planning to pick it up again on their way out.
Whoever brought it in didn’t whip it out, wave it around for the security camera and then slam-dunk it into the receptacle, and the Secret Service found no fingerprints and no reason to drag a few hundred visitors in for interviews over something so inconsequential.
Illegal drugs in the White House have happened before and this wouldn’t have been much of a news story had the anti-Biden media not jumped on it.
As it is, the Secret Service wasted significant time and resources over something that only mattered to partisan commentators, not to anyone with a fifth of a gram of common sense.
Though we can be fair and see how that shoe fits on the other foot:
Jack Smith sent a “target letter” to Donald Trump, a notice of a potential indictment and an invitation to appear before the grand jury. It caused glee among those who have been waiting for the Justice Department to make some concrete advances in clearing up the events of Jan 6 and the theft of secret documents.
So Ed Hall offers this celebratory cartoon, which has already drawn negative feedback, even from those who are normally his allies.
Unlike Cocainegate devotees, he’s not lying or making things up. It’s just an obvious play on “target” and on the fact that the investigation is closing in.
But it’s more specific and personal than the crosshairs promotional piece for which Sarah Palin took so much heat following the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2010.
Palin was only targeting Congressional seats she wanted challenged, and Hall, similarly, is only emphasizing Trump’s increasing legal jeopardy.
But what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If you criticized Palin, you must also criticize Hall.
Not for anything evil. Just for something that needed second thoughts in a world full of well-armed screwballs.
UPDATE: Ed Hall has had those second thoughts and the cartoon has been withdrawn.
Juxtaposition of the Day
There are plenty of substantive issues out there which matter a great deal more than personal identity, accidental coke dropoffs and dubious symbolic choices.
They may take more digging, however, and the challenge for political cartoonists is to know when to ring the alarm, not to inflame but to awaken.
Each of these advances a point of view, but they go beyond partisan shouting.
Luckovich wonders why the oil companies do not seem to be responding to the climate crisis, even as the evidence has gone beyond theory and into actual, clear damage. He riffs on a popular meme, whose deliberate simplicity limits him to blaming “profits” without delving into more complex policies that have brought us here.
Yet here we are, and, for all their profits, the oil companies are in it along with the rest of us.
Bennett throws out a different challenge, accusing the “No Labels” political movement of disguising an agenda to split the moderate vote and hand the 2024 election to Donald Trump.
Unlike the oil industry’s longterm efforts to preserve petroleum as our main fuel, this will hit us in a year and a half.
That makes it crucial for people to question the movement now, and to look beyond the No Labels label to its hidden backers before campaigns gain speed and traction.
In both cases, it is editorial cartooning issuing a warning rather than simply shouting its outrage.
Which seems a nobler approach.