Affecting his usual oh-so-reasonable tone, comics critic Noah Berlasky is out with a hatchet job about the Daily Kos cartoon censorship story this morning. Among the highlights:
There’s not much question here of Rall’s intent. Rall says he didn’t mean a racial slur, and Daily Kos goes out of its way to say that they are not claiming he was purposefully linking Obama to animalistic stereotypes of black people. Moreover, as anyone who has ever seen Rall’s cartoons is aware, his drawing skill is rudimentary at best. There is every reason to believe Rall did not intend the cartoon to look the way it looks.
Not to look a rhetorical gift horse in the mouth or to be a contrarian for contrarianism’s sake, but what the fuck does Berlasky know about my intent? Nothing — because he didn’t bother to attempt to contact me for comment.
As a regular reader of The Atlantic, isn’t this a firing offense? Isn’t trying to get feedback from the subject of your hit piece kind of, you know, Journalism 101? (Note to Art Spiegelman fans: I repeatedly tried to get the Master of Pretension to talk to me for my 1999 Village Voice piece.)
Then there’s the matter of Berlasky’s personal biases. He has a habit of crawling out of the woodwork to comment about my most controversial work, inevitably in the most negative terms he can conjure. That’s fine; he’s entitled to his opinions, one of which is that my work sucks. But readers, I think, deserve to know your biases.
Berlasky reminds me of a music critic I used to work with at the old New York Observer. He hated rap and metal. So every time he reviewed a record that belonged to one of those two genres, he gave it a bad review. The thing is, the readers didn’t know he hated rap and metal. They thought he hated those specific records. Which was unfair because, in some of those cases, the records were pretty good rap or metal.
Berlasky doesn’t care for editorial cartoons. He obviously doesn’t know much about them. (Choice quote: “That’s why Thomas Nast, who could communicate without words, is one of the masters of the genre.” Actually, Nast was quite wordy.) And he definitely dislikes everything I do.
Shouldn’t he have told his editors at The Atlantic about his biases before pitching them this story?