Not Safe for Cartoon Fans with Taste or Brains

It’s that time again.

Two stories are prompting a deluge of shitty — make that incredibly shitty — editorial cartoons. (Shitty is the norm, at least when it comes to those in USA Today, and other mainstream newspapers and websites.) First is Edward Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong to Russia and then to — maybe Ecuador. Acting like 1991 never happened — like the Cold War never ended — hack cartoonists are reliving the glory days of an ideological clash between socialism and capitalism that, well, just isn’t happening anymore. And boy oh boy, do they look stupid!

Then there’s the death of James Gandolfini. I hate to break the news to my fellow cartoonists, but “The Sopranos” was a TV show. He wasn’t really a mobster. He’s pretending.

OK, off to the races:

133262 600 Civil Liberties cartoons

Poor Gary Varvel. Hardly the most politically astute pundit to begin with, this one has gotta hurt. Because China really did look out for Snowden, protecting him in a special police-run district and then permitting him to leave despite America’s Big Brother move — talk about creepy — of annulling his passport.


133335 600 Whistle Blower cartoons

If I were the parents here, I’d be proud. But somehow I doubt that that’s what Koterba has in mind. And, um, time to consult a colorist.

133131 600 The usPhone cartoons

If I see one more “Obama has big ears” gag related to the NSA PRISM program…


133024 600 Snowden cartoons

This one kinda freaks me out. Fitzsimmons’ rep is as a liberal. Oh, well, so much for that. Because according to him, Snowden is a traitor who helped the Taliban. Although I’m not exactly sure what the Taliban — who knew the U.S. listened to every phone call long before the story broke in The Guardian — learned from Snowden.

133185 600 Privacy Blower cartoons

2013 Pulitzer Prize winner. The forced metaphor totally fails: Obama isn’t revving up the destruction of our privacy. That fig leaf is long gone. But do newspaper editors want to see Sam’s shriveled wang, bloodsoaked with the anal fluids of some Afghan detainee?

And finally…

133154 600 Edward Snowden and Lindsay Mills cartoons

On to poor James G.:

133566 600 James Gandolfini cartoons

Supporting evidence for my drive to ban certain cartoonists from using Photoshop. Also: he wasn’t actually Tony Soprano.

133494 600 James Gandolfini cartoons

Did any of these guys actually see the show? Tony Soprano wasn’t Tony Montana. Bullets didn’t spray.

Luckovich cartoon: James Gandolfini dies

He. Was. An. Actor.


  • First off: Ted, I fucking hate you. You know that. Damn you to perdition for exposing me to the vile tempest of mainstream political cartoons from which mine virgin eyes have for so long been shielded. Fetish pornsites would be less damaging to my ailing psyche.

    Second: Fitzsimmons and Koterba (sp — can’t read the handwriting) are the Reason We Can’t Have Nice Things. Ted mentions that Fitzsimmons is thought to be a liberal and concludes that he’s not — correctly. But here’s the problem: he still owns the title.

    This is why political protest seems to always involve dumbasses and drum circles. The organizing label of the relevant political tribe has been hijacked, and like-minded, decent people have no banner under which to organize.

    Think of it this way. Roll the clock back to the sixties, and the civil rights movement had everything modern righteous political crusades do not. They had — first of all — a fucking name. OWS was a shit label because people in that movement were claiming a relatively restricted agenda and the smaller your agenda the smaller your tribe. (And that restricted agenda deliberately ignored the holisticity of the issue. Concerned about damage done to immigrants by NAFTA, which was a Wall Street baby? OWS is not for you.) Civil Rights, however, covers basically everything.

    In addition, the CRM had discipline — everyone dresses nicely — universality — radical change was demanded for a large segment of the population — and inclusiveness — no fucking drum circles.

    See, back inna day, Fitzsimmons wouldn’t have the liberal label — or, more accurately, he’d be considered a sell-out (or nastier names) and the liberal label wouldn’t mean anything. His love of authority would put him in the Status Quo category and, thus, he’d do no damage to the sense of tribe that activists were developing. Now, his ilk owns the label, and anyone trying to do good is confronted with the most sophisticated network of concern trolling on Earth and told that voting Dem Will Solve Everything.

    Yes, there are many people in the U.S. who don’t give a shit because they got theirs. There are also many who are tremendously stupid and literally do not believe that it is possible for themselves — and sometimes even their political leaders! — to enact big changes to the economy and politics. This is a universal problem: humans suck. But even those well-meaning humans are faced with serious social hurdles when they want to make a difference. They can’t even identify each other readily. We are crowded and isolated.

  • So I’m wondering…do these guys not know how to make a point? Or is there a point to these toons that’s just hard to see? Could they all be pointless because their ‘artists’ just don’t give a damn?

    1. Yeah China’s repressive…how relevant is that?
    2. How many people is that kid possibly hearing say whistleblowers are great?
    3. Nice pun.
    4. Clearly Mr. Snowden loves the Taliban and so does everyone who supports him.
    5. So clever.
    6. WTF? is right.
    7. So clever.
    8. So clever.
    9. So clever.

    Mr. Snowden should feel honored and satisfied that such fascist monsters think he’s evil. What validation.

  • On complaining about a so-called liberal. You must understand, Ted, that the role of liberals in our society is to soften the harsh reality of autocratic rule and make it more pallatable to the masses. It’s precisely what Democrats of late have done….make us feel good about getting screwed. The danger for the power elite is when the liberal class loses it’s facade of compassion and is scene for what it is -the intellectual justification for the power elite – that you risk things coming undone and social progressives (for good or ill) have a chance to take over. We are completely misunderstanding the role of various groups in America when we label poltiical factions.

  • alex_the_tired
    June 24, 2013 9:59 AM


    This is more to your other point on the screwed-up posting (I can’t get to a posting screen on it). Political takeovers invariably are quick. The power grab is obscene. But you can’t start snooping into people’s lives like this without it. And you can’t take forever to grab the power.

    I suspect Snowden’s only hope for staying alive is found in his initial statement, the one in which he mentions that he could have had access to anyone at all, even the president. In fiction, it’s the old “open this letter if I die” gimmick. All the people in charge, not the elected ones, the ones really in charge that practically no one knows the names of, are terrified of what’s going to come out if Snowden’s found in his freezer, hacked into pieces, with a typewritten suicide note next to him. (Personally, I think Snowden will simply vanish.)

    As for OWS. Sekhmet, you’re absolutely right. And, worst of all, all those people involved with OWS are now damaged goods. They will be red-flagged in the databases for the rest of their lives. Any movement that becomes involved with any of them will go to the top of the list for observation. Nascent protest groups are the easiest to eliminate by simple methods. Visual observation, identify the ringleaders. If possible, (a la Scientology’s methods), get them fired and evicted. Break into their houses and apartments and plant drugs and child porn. Have their cars stolen. Get their credit cards cancelled.

    Years ago, this would have sounded completely crackpot. But now? We all know, for a fact, that all this information is obtainable by the NSA via their data center. They don’t need warrants, they don’t need permission. If they do, it’s always granted to them. Sure, two years after it begins, via a FOIA request, you can get a redacted copy of the report that tells you nothing. Meanwhile, you’re crashing on someone’s couch and wondering why you can’t even get a job at McDonald’s.

  • exkiodexian
    June 24, 2013 2:31 PM

    Awesome. Love this feature!

  • Alex,
    Oh, wow, yeah. I’d love to know what Mr. Snowden knows. Obama is overzealous in pursuing him. It’s obvious as hell that he is not guilty of ‘espionage.’ Obama’s so pissed that other countries have not helped him string Edward up. Usually in the movies and sometimes real life the hostage, prisoner, wanted man, member or leader of a criminal organization can stay alive because people want what he knows. It’s probably the opposite for Mr. Snowden. Many people want him dead as fast as possible for what he knows.

    You paint a chilling scenario…They do have all the time, money, and reason in the world to brand anyone political an ‘enemy of the state’ even people who don’t constitute a real threat. They don’t have to kill anyone. The can just blacklist and destroy your ability to function in our society.

  • They look more like barnacles on a beach than bullet holes to me.

  • Some of us are old enough to know more about what Prism can do. LBJ had dirt on 72 senators and managed to end a filibuster against civil rights. The Southern senators who caved in to LBJ lost the next election, so what LBJ had on them was worse than losing that election.

    J. Edgar Hoover had dirt on the Congress and the President, and used it to keep his carte blanche to get dirt on anyone and everyone.

    But Prism is much more. No one has any idea what the person who controls Prism can do with it. For starters, Ms Merkel had to thank Obama for saving Germany from thousands of deaths from a terrorist attack prevented by Prism. Since Prism did so well in Boston, did it really save thousands of German lives, or just one German life that would have been utterly ruined if Obama had released what Prism knew about HER?

    And Mr Rall used to have a cartoon every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but I haven’t seen them as regularly as before. Does Prism know something about Mr Rall?

    And I keep seeing that Snowden is a traitor, that if he were not, he’d have gone public in the US. Since the New York Times has mostly reported the incredible efforts the US has had to pursue, against the opposition of the most evil governments in the world, to track down this traitor who gave American secrets to the Taliban (the New York Times can’t tell you what they were, of course), it’s not clear to me what publicity (if any) Snowden would have gotten had he tried to go whistleblower anywhere in the US.

    And still, one of Mr Rall’s guest columnists says he should have kept all his whistleblowing inside the US where the government could make sure none of America’s enemies (e.g., like the US voters who are thinking of voting against an incumbent) could ever hear about it.

    One of the gocomics comments was ‘I hope he likes Latin American food.’ At least I know that Latin American food is MUCH better than US food, so that bit of his life will be improved, even if he has to keep moving places, hoping the Seals can’t find him.

    (I just hope he can get out of Russia. The food there is terrible, unless you like borscht.)

    • In terms of cartoon post schedule, I have changed it. I had been on a MWF schedule, but with the Internet it makes more sense to release dated material quickly, not to hold it. I’m doing the same three syndicated cartoons a week, plus others (LA Times, etc).

  • Aaargh. I meant my post for a different essay. For this essay, I’d just say that the cartoonists grew up when there were several newspapers for every city, and every city had different newspapers and different cartoonists, so if a Dallas cartoonist and a Cleveland cartoonist ran the exact same cartoon, no one would see the similarities and object.

    Now, of course, they do see the similarities and do object.

    And yet, many cartoonists take the easiest, most obvious approach, and that’s usually the ‘America is the Best, the Shining Country on a Hill.’ approach. Which Mr Rall (and I) denigrate. And (as Mr Rall stated recently) usually doesn’t pay all that well unless the cartoonist is really good at it.

    (But at least the ‘America is the Best. The Shining Country on a Hill.’ approach won’t get Prism on your tail.)

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