Archive for April, 2007

April 23, 2007

Ted Rall Discusses the French Elections: Live in Washington DC

I’ll be joining Radio France Internationale correspondent Claude Porsella, TF1 correspondent Guillaume Debré, and fellow cartoonists Jeff Danzinger (New York Times Syndicate), Kal (The Economist, ex-Baltimore Sun) and Nick Galifianakis (Washington Post Writers Group) for a panel discussion about the French presidential elections tomorrow night in Washington.

When: Wednesday, April 25, at 6:30 pm

Where: Alliance Française, 2142 Wyoming Avenue NW | Washington, DC 20008 | Phone 202.234.7911

Cost: $8.00 for members of the Alliance Française, $12.00 for all others

April 22, 2007

Cartoonists wth Attitude in San Francisco

Today is day two and the final day of the Alternative Press Expo (APE) independent and small press comics creator confab at 620 7th Street (near Brannan) in San Francisco. Come out and buy artwork and books by yours truly, Mikhaela B. Reid, Masheka Wood, Ben Smith, Matt Bors, August Pollak, Stephanie McMillan and others. Look for the CWA booth! Yesterday was fun but soggy; today is looking to be sunny and dry. It’s today between 11 and 5; hope to meet you there.

April 14, 2007

Congrats, Censors!

Media Matters for America, founded by David Brock, is crowing from the sorta-left (can you really trust an ideological traitor?) about Imus’ firing. MM is even distributing a hit list of right-wing talk show hosts and others who they want to see fired for spewing what they deem to be offensive language.

Over on the probably-right are outfits like BeliefNet, that are using Imus’ firing as a staging ground for attacks on popular music. Tipper Gore, call the batcave! Here’s what BeliefNet’s latest email says:

Don Imus Controversy
With Imus Gone, Let’s Clean Up Rap
“Imus got what he deserved, but the root of the problem is our vulgar culture. As a black woman and a child of God, I ask, Why don’t Christians stand up to rap artists?”
Poll: Should Imus Have Been Fired? | Discuss
His Apology: Accept It | Not Enough
Talk Radio Is the Real Culprit
“It’s time to stop handling these rappers with kid gloves and letting them run free every time they cry “I’m innocent.” Young minds are at stake every time they turn on the television and see a man disrespecting a woman, sliding a credit card down the crack of her backside–thanks, Nelly–or just allowing women to exploit themselves in a music video for a crummy paycheck. (Yes, the women agree to be in these videos by their own free will, but when will they decide they don’t want them to sell themselves to the highest bidder anymore?) Young ears are being flooded with the poisonous lyrics of today’s rap music. Stop conveying the message that it could ever be appropriate to call a woman a “‘ho” or a “b*tch”–regardless of what you personally know about them. It’s not okay, ever–whether you’re an African American rapper or a white talk-radio shock jock. “

Charmers all around, I’m sure.

Well, congratulations. It took you 30 years to notice that he told tasteless (and often funny) jokes, many of which relied on racial and gender stereotypes, but he’s gone. Hurrah!

Meanwhile, the Rutgers women he offended have seen their lives improve not…one…bit. Their fathers and brothers still risk getting pulled over and searched and beaten and raped and murdered by police for no reason whatsoever. African-American team members whose parents live in inner cities spent their spring breaks in areas that have been abandoned by city and state governments that don’t care what happens to them. Their own job prospects are limited by their skin color. But hey, at least they got that loud-mouth talk show host fired. Yay for racial justice!

No one is crowing louder than the left. There’s just one, or maybe two problems: One, it’s not like Imus will be replaced by, say, me. (I’m keeping my phone open just in case CBS calls, though.) Two, he was one of the most progressive voices on talk radio.

Obviously, Imus’ “hos” joke was stupid. But an apology was more than sufficient. He didn’t deserve to be fired. Could it be that the P.C. soft-liberal “left” has played into the Republicans’ hands–again?

April 12, 2007

Keep Don Imus; Protect Transgressive Humor

Don Imus’ off-the-cuff remark calling the Rutgers University basketball team “nappy-haired hos” was a crime–a crime against humor. It was dumb and stupid.

The reason groups like Media Matters for America–the group founded by ex-right wing smearmeister David Brock that is using underhanded tactics while calling for Ann Coulter’s column to be censored–are calling for Don Imus’ head, however, is that the remark was also racist and sexist.

Well, of course it was.

I was a huge Imus fan throughout the 1980s, until WNBC news-talk radio became WFAN sports radio and he started spending too much time talking about sports to keep my interest. During that time Imus made clear that he was an equal-opportunity offender, trading in ethnic and racial and religious humor, against no one more than rednecks–in other words, himself. What he said about the Rutgers women was not a deviation from his decades of broadcasting.

Firing him for making (bad) racist and sexist jokes is like firing a mailman for delivering letters. It’s what he does.

As he said in his defense, context matters.

For example, I am sick and tired of saying that I called Pat Tillman an “idiot” and a “sap” in a cartoon. I didn’t call him those things. A character in one of my cartoons did. Parallel: Charles Schulz never pulled a football away from a little boy; his character did. Not the same thing.

Imus’ on-air shock-jock persona relies on just the kind of jokes that got him into hot water. Are we, as a society, going to say that all racial and ethnic humor is to be verboten? That idea makes me terribly uncomfortable, yet it’s the logical conclusion to the Imus controversy.

Needless to say, a nation that sits idly by while its soldiers torture and maim innocents in concentration camps ought to be concentrating on more serious matters than a radio host’s ill-considered humor. But while we’re at it, humor relies on transgression, on trashing sacred cows. The very fact that you’re not allowed to say “nappy-headed hos” prompts comedians to try saying it–just to see if the shock value makes it humorous. In this case, it doesn’t work. But comedians need to be able to try everything, to take risks. Imposing economic censorship–firing people for exercising their First Amendment free speech rights–stifles creativity and inhibits discussion. It makes life a little more boring, a little suckier.

I hear a lot of lefties crowing over Imus’ firing by MSNBC TV. How will they feel when right-wingers retaliate with their own censorship campaigns the next time the political winds change? It wasn’t so long, after all–2004–that MSNBC.com fired me for expressing my own, then-controversial opinions.

Anyone who wants Imus to be fired hates America and the First Amendment. I hope these pro-censorship assholes are all registered Republicans, because they sure as hell aren’t liberal or progressive.