Sorry for the Delay

It’s a big secret and stuff, but not really. I’ve been working on a new book about Central Asia. Writing books takes a lot of time, which—along with technical issues associated with the website—have cut into my blogging time. Anyway, I’m back for a while. Unless I’m not.

When Cartoonists Fuck Up

Just noticed that today’s four-panel cartoon depicts Dick Cheney with post-drinkathon five o’clock shadow in all but the third panel. Yeah, that makes sense. I can’t figure out what’s worse: my mistake, or the fact that some people won’t notice.

Abstinence Only

After years of having sex, I’ve decided that it’s time for other people to not have sex ever. Toward that laudable end, you should check out Scarlet P.’s Abstinence Only site at http://www.abstinenceonly.com. And remember: don’t have sex. Ever.

George Orwell, Call Your Office: U.S. Army Refuses to Release Pat Tillman Info

If there’s a better lede paragraph than this one, I don’t know what it is:

The military has completed an investigation into former NFL star Pat Tillman’s death in Afghanistan that aimed to address concerns raised about whether the Army held back information, but its findings won’t be made public.

More details at http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=2037637

Feedback on the Media Labeling Column

Steve writes:

Excellent column. Who could forget “Panamanian Strongman Manuel Noriega”. Words kill and cover up. By the way, I’ve always thought of those who challenge orthodoxy as patriotic..

As have I, as have I.

Niall et al. Write:

Thank you for speaking out. The media labels article was brilliant and as always very encouraging. We live in a very white bread place called Boise Idaho because we have two little kids to think of. We want you to know via this email that we know you are one of the very few real heroes of this awful retro dark ages time. I wish people would consider 1930’s Germany and then reflect upon our own times. It’s scary now.

Stop rolling your eyes. We may not have death camps (yet), but we already have the concentration camps and mass detentions, not to mention government-sanctioned torture and murder of prisoners. In any case, the idea isn’t to wait and see whether the current political climate eventually morphs into fascism but rather to take (ahem) preemptive action to prevent it from doing so. Too many conservatives argue that that the mere fact that fascism hasn’t taken hold in America is proof that we’re not heading in that direction. I suspect that too many of them just don’t want the rest of us to pay attention, since fascism is the highest form of conservativism.

Matt writes:

I was surprised by your latest opinion column, regarding the labels that journalists place on groups or individuals. I agree with your central tenant — that the media can shape a supposedly neutral news article by their descriptions of the parties. However, I believe a lot of conservatives agree with that, as it is one of the various complaints against what many see as the liberal bias of the media. Many conservatives see conservative politicians or groups described as such, while their liberal counterparts are desribed less frequently. Tom Delay is a conservative congressman, Nancy Pelosi is House Minority Leader.

Frankly, I watch a lot of news and I don’t see examples like the DeLay/Pelosi comparison. But to the extent that they occur, they should not.

Likewise, groups when defending conservative views are often described as conservative, but when those same groups are arguing for a “liberal” position, the groups are called public-advocate or such neutral term. I am not inventing this, I have read studies and seen evidence with my own two eyes. Similarly, as you
wrote, descriptions of international groups are shaped by the journalists perception. Take Hamas, I call them terrorists. The AP may call them gunmen. The Arab press may call them freedom fighters. Obviously, it would be nice and decent if everyone called them terrorists, but it is confusing how you would like to enforce that.

Not to me. I would refer to Hamas as “the group Hamas said…” and let what they did and/or said speak for themselves. Would it have been necessary, in 1942, to say “totalitarian dictator Adolf Hitler said…”? Less is more when it comes to labels.

Even within this country, language represents a viewpoint. The NYT calls Likud party in Israel the “right” party, while Labor is “left-centrist”. That is ridiculous. Within the voters of Israel, Likud currently represents the the dominant party. It is only in the eyes of the NYT reporters that it is a “right” party, as defined by what the reporters consider what the middle SHOULD be.

I don’t agree with the Times’ labels for the two parties, but this is a lousy example. A quick look at policies and politicians pertaining to each party does seem to agree with the Times. Likud is hard-right; Labor isn’t hard-left. The fact that Likud is “dominant” doesn’t change the extreme nature of its ideology any more than the fact that the Nazi Party was dominant in 1930s Germany softened or moderated its ideology.

[…]As for descriptions of you, controversial seems fairly neutral — nobody can argue that you are controversial. Can they? But patriotic, you’d have a lot of people disagreeing with that. Plus, I’d gather you are the subject of more opinion than news.

Well, you probably couldn’t argue with the subjective description of as “cute,” either. But does it really add anything to the discussion to call me “cute cartoonist Ted Rall”?

Okay, onto a pet-peeve. Your use of the term “neo” incorrectly. Everything is “neo” for you. I am a neo-fascist. Neo-McCarthyite. Neo-everything, why — because I proudly voted for President Bush. It is lazy writing. First of all, the defining characteristic of McCarthyism was seeing communism everywhere (I was taught they were paranoid, although with the KGB files opened, perhaps less than we thought). Now, who does that describe today – IMO, the American left, with their theories of voter fraud, neo-cons, war, 9-11, the superhuman powers of Karl Rove, Israel, Haliburten. And as for neo-fascist, shame, shame, shame. Yes, we are fascist because of the Patriot Act, which passed like 99-0 in the Senate, including the vote of the candidate you voted for President. I am shaking and have a suitcase hidden under my bed for when I have to move. Seriously, do you go to a diner for breakfast and request neo-pancakes with neo-syrup with a glass of neo-milk.
Anyway, I am being scarcastic, but since I’ve been called a fascist, it seems fair 🙂

The “neo” prefix refers to revivals of a term from the past to apply to the present. I refer to Bush & Co. as neofascists because they’re reviving characteristics of traditional old-school fascism with a 21st century twist. They’re not really fascists in the 1930s sense; for one thing, they have no aesthetic sense or panache. But there are enough similarities that the comparison should be made. I’ll agree that it can get old, but until someone suggests a better term I’m sticking with it.

As for paranoia among the left, if you dig a little deeper you’ll see that Halliburton really has exercised an outsized influence on this White House, that Karl Rove really is a spectacularly intelligent guy, that the Republicans really did steal Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 using techniques that were seriously over-the-top. You’re entitled to be blissfully unaware if you want, but don’t expect to get credit for being intelligent from those of us who pay attention.

Tom writes:

Just finished subject column (via Info Clearinghouse) & thanks. How about the “Liberal” & “Conservative” labels, and their connotations, that have plagued our national discourse for decades:
Liberal: Free-spending, intemperate & immoral, free-loving, long-haired/dirty-clothed hippie, welfare culture, irresponsible, tree-hugging, etc. = Democrats
Conservative: Careful, serious, concerned, well-groomed & dressed, responsible & moral, etc. = Republicans
Is there any way out of this?

Probably, but it involves more unity than Democrats are typically capable of. After all, today’s “liberals” typically are deficit hawks, conservative on foreign adventurism and want the government out of our personal lives—traditional platform planks of conservatives. And today’s “conservatives” are interventionist, fans of huge government, big deficit spenders. The labels are stupid, and don’t even mean what they mean.

Jim writes:

I’ve enjoyed your cartoons tremendously. Even when I don’t agree with them, they are sincere and don’t pander (unlike *cough* that mallard cartoon).
This is in regard to your latest article about media labels.
I live in Huntsville, Alabama where a few weeks ago, Eric Rudolph was here for a, I’m not sure, but not an actual trial, because what
I was paying attention to, was that no one here called this man, who bombed abortion clinics in Birmingham, found guilty of the Atlanta bombing, a terrorist. Terrorism is a technique. One this man employed. I wish I could say the news stories would have been the same if he’d been Arab-American, but I’m afraid not. Instead they called him an “anti-abortion activist” and a “suspected bomber”
Disgusted with the mainstream media,

Nothing to add here.

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