CSotD: Swift Bowl is over but Swift Boats are back

One of the recurring gags in Candorville (KFS) is Clyde’s continuing, deliberate ignorance. When the news comes on, he switches to reruns of Gilligan’s Island, and, as seen in this morning’s strip, he doesn’t notice monstrous storms and flooding outside his window.

In moral theology, “invincible ignorance” is an excuse for sin, the theory being that a bushman in the Kalahari can’t be blamed for not worshipping a deity he’s never heard of. “Vincible ignorance,” by sharp contrast, is the refusal to learn what is in front of your nose.

Clyde is an example of vincible ignorance because he not only chooses to remain uninformed but takes pride in living in a shell. Darrin Bell makes it funny in Candorville because it’s not at all funny in real life.

This Theresa Burns Parkhurst cartoon appeared in the New Yorker in 2021, but someone posted it on social media last night and it fits in well with people talking about “sports ball” and, in a few cases, honestly wondering why everyone was suddenly talking about Taylor Swift.

It’s of a piece with Clyde, except that Clyde’s deliberate avoidance of knowledge is satirical and funny, while encountering it real life is appalling and, given the state of the nation, frightening.

It is, of course, not mandatory to enjoy sports, just as it is not mandatory to enjoy ballet, opera or modern art. But ignorance is nothing to take pride in, and not recognizing names like Mikhail Baryshnikov or Maria Callas or Pablo Picasso is shameful.

Similarly, you should know that they made a movie about Barbie, that the Super Bowl was played last night, and that there have been major storms in Southern California.

Note that nobody is forcing you to see the movie, watch the game or stand out in the downpour.

But if you haven’t noticed that, as John Cole puts it, Taylor Swift has been living rent-free in the heads of rightwingers, you’re not just ignoring “sports ball.” You’ve been ignoring current events and politics and the upcoming election and the future of our country.

… with Gilligan, the Skipper, too, the millionaire and his wife …

Steve Kelley (Creators) shouldn’t bet the farm.

The level of deliberate ignorance on display on social media is stunning, and the pride people take in being “too smart” to know what’s going on around them is hardly confined to trivia like Taylor Swift. Or Elvis Presley. Or the Beatles.

Or that Los Angeles got more than half its average yearly rain over three days last week.

Or that an investigation of classified documents in Joe Biden’s possession included off-hand, off-topic, subjective remarks about his alleged mental acuity.

… the movie star, the professor and Mary Ann …

Yeah, yeah, I know. You weren’t watching Gilligan. You were reading a best seller or making exotic desserts from scratch.

Or possibly playing a violin concerto while Rome burned around you.

Who cares?

Ah, well that’s a different question. You ought to know about the world, about sports and arts and politics and health and so forth, but you’re not obligated to care about all those things. You’re simply obligated to know enough about what’s going on that you won’t pose a danger in November.

Which brings us from Taylor Swift to the Swift Boats.

John Darkow portrays the leadership of our nation’s gerontocracy, for which he borrows a movie title, sarcastically, because this obviously is a country for old men after all, not because it was designed that way but because that’s who’s running it.

As Darkow says, “and yet here we are.”

Perhaps, fellow citizens, you remember Al Gore, who lied about inventing the Internet (though he didn’t) and who lied about being an inspiration for the main character in Love Story (which was partially true, though Segal was misquoted) and who lied about discovering the pollution of Love Canal (which he never claimed.)

Calling Al Gore a liar worked so well in that election that it was tried again in 2004, when John Kerry, decorated for his combat service in Vietnam, was set upon by the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, whose sliming of Kerry’s service record received widespread publicity before their honesty, intent and even presence at the scene were called into question.

In other words, the blueprints for media coverage of John Hur’s report on Biden’s possession of classified documents were drawn up nearly a quarter century ago.

Just as cartoonists and columnist leapt at the chance to climb aboard the “Al Gore lies” bandwagon and to report the Swift Boat accusations, and just as they leapt to comment about Taylor Swift this past month, they’re now eager to collect eyeballs over Biden’s alleged mental deficiencies.

Morten Morland concedes Trump’s long-reported, multiply-sourced temper, but assumes that Biden’s incapacity is equally verified.

Bob Gorrell (Creators) expands Hur’s accusation, promoting it from uncertain memory to outright insanity.

Mike Lester (AMS) similarly assumes that an accusation of fading memory is also a diagnosis of mental illness.

While Steve Breen (Creators) takes a humorous anti-Biden approach, mocking his occasional misstatements.

He’s at least fair in the imagined mix-up, since people with speech impediments often grab at a comfortable initial sound without immediately realizing it’s slightly off. (Mitterand/Macron, for instance.)

It was kind of him not to have Biden say “Nelia.”

Jeff Stahler (AMS) pushes back slightly, contrasting the candidates in a way that is unclear: Is he accepting the amateur diagnosis but weighing the alternatives, or mocking voters who might do so?

Adam Zyglis also pushes back, contrasting Biden’s pattern of mixing up names with the MAGAts pattern of dismissing the seriousness of an attempted coup.

While Pat Byrnes offers cold comfort, indeed, pointing out that MAGAts are well aware of Trump’s combination of fumblemouth and of lies, but don’t care.

Trump’s popularity may be secondary to his legal problems, but, as Martyn Turner points out, he can now shift his claim of immunity-through-presidency to a claim of immunity due to poor memory.

Though Gary Markstein (Creators) remembers that, when Trump was questioned in the Mueller probe, he repeatedly answered “I don’t recall.”

This contest of fading memories is less important than whether editors, columnists and cartoonists remember the Swift Boats.

Because they’re back, and the whole world is watching to see how it goes this time.

19 thoughts on “CSotD: Swift Bowl is over but Swift Boats are back

  1. I am usually in agreement with your observations, but comparing Taylor Swift to Picasso, Elvis, etc. is absurd. History and current events cannot be viewed in the same way. I had a step daughter who assured me that New Kids on the Block were bigger than the Beatles. “Oops” as the saying goes. I am not in the least concerned with how the magats view Swift. I am greatly concerned that the magats exist at all.

    1. I didn’t compare her to Picasso, but she’s extraordinarily dominant as a musician, in her era, as were the Beatles and Elvis. Not bigger — I didn’t say that either. But much as I dislike the Andrews Sisters, for example, I think it’s a mark of cultural literacy to know who they were. Ditto with Madonna. Ditto with Jenny Lind. And extra credit for knowing that peach melba was named for a singer. Cultural literacy is fun and often turns useful.

      1. Thanks for the “extra credit” – I didn’t know that, and it was fun learning about it and her.

      2. Oh come on. Nothing younger generations ever produce can be as good as what my generation did. And those generations before mine? Pish.

  2. I’ll be 72 on my next birthday, and I can honestly say that sometimes I go blank on names or dates. But I’m pretty certain that I was doing that when I was 22 at about the same rate. Is it only because of my age that it seems suspect, and do young people who are not actually suffering from early Alzheimers or ongoing dementia question whether their memory loss is worrisome, or is this yet another form of ageism, and they just shake it off as a “brain fart”?

    1. Amen. I taught at a junior high for many years and had many kids who always “forgot” their work…paper..pencils…text books…permission slips…I used to say “You know, if you were my age and forgot all the time they’d put you in a “home.”

  3. I think there’s more going on in the Candorville than just Clyde’s willful ignorance. Lemont describes these things in the prior panels as if they were lived experience and it is only in the final panel that we discover that these events are things he saw on the news. I don’t think flooding in his neighborhood would escape Clyde’s notice; he lives in a basement studio apartment.

  4. Thanks Mike for the broad perspective on this ageless topic.
    Clyde’s ‘doesn’t ring a bell’, was that an intentional pun on the cartoonist’s name?
    As we often say, ‘You can lead a horses-ass to knowledge, but you can’t make him think’.
    I signed up for a series of memory improvement courses. . . . But, I kept forgetting to go to them.
    O.K., O.K., I’ll leave on my own, no need to push me.

  5. At the 2000 NCS in Boca Raton, Florida I’d traveled alone and was seated at the Mort Walker Family table next to Mrs. Mort Walker. The entire family was very welcoming and it gave me the honor of chatting w Mr. Walker and sons. When they called my name in the Book Illustration category I went on stage, accepted the award, thanked the crowd and sang “POLITICAL SCIENCE” -acapella until the band kicked in. I can still see the look on Mort Walkers face. True story.
    -ML

  6. It really is amazing how many people are not just ignorant, but wear their ignorance as a badge of honor.
    People who respond with “I don’t know who/what that is” as if it makes them brilliant debaters.

    Granted, things have gotten pretty hectic in the Internet Age. Where there are now so many “celebrities” and “influencers” who are really just nobodies with swelled heads and a YouTube channel.

    But it gets worse when the people who really should know better (like editorial cartoonists) feign ignorance just because it promotes their narrative or simply makes them feel better.

    1. And it’s so easy to not be ignorant. I came across a name that was familiar but appeared in an unexpected context. It took all of 15 seconds to plug it into Google and get “Oh, okay. I see.”

      There’s no excuse for ignorance these days except for (A) misplaced pride and (B) intellectual sloth. Beyond just not wanting to have your prejudices questioned.

  7. In terms of mass public awareness and “pop-culture” relevance, the current relationship of Swift and Kelce could perhaps be viewed as roughly approximate to that of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio back in the days of yore. I doubt many would deny the significant “icon” status of THAT famed union. Whether TayTrav turns out to be equally enduring in the (inter)national consciousness is entirely another matter.

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