Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ted Rall censored by Daily Kos

Colleague and pal Ted Rall was censored by Daily Kos. Because of the way he draws Obama. You read that correctly. For the way he DRAWS Obama. After he posted a cartoon last week, this warning appeared:

"Your depiction of Barack Obama is intolerable. Being critical of Obama, even ferociously so, is not the problem. Through British and American history, blacks have been subjected to racist depiction of themselves as monkeys and apes. No excuse is acceptable for replicating that history now, no matter what your intent. If it happens again, your posting privileges will be suspended."

For the record, I don't believe Ted is in any way a racist, and don't find his caricature of Obama to be racist. Here it is below, next to a random white guy.

As you can see, Ted's Obama is pretty much the way Ted draws EVERYone. But the editors at Kos publicly shamed him for making Obama look like what they thought was "an ape". The warning itself reeks of bullshit. Lecturing a political cartoonist on the history of cartoons, then making a point of stating, hey, it has nothing to do with the content so don't dare accuse us of that! 

The real issue, I've no doubt, is that (far) lefty Ted is highly critical of the prez and his policies and the rabid Obama supporters who make up much of the Kos readership wanted him gone. The editors cowtowed to their complaints and hit Ted with the "racist" label to cover their own editorial pusillanimity. They pulled this stunt just before the Thanksgiving holiday so there'd be no media coverage. Political cartoons are a dying genre. This is why.

Ted was not a paid contributor to Kos. Instead, he posted his strips for free in the Kos feed, to see what kind of reaction he would get and to drive traffic to his own site. He writes that his strip always generated some of the most comments in any given day. Kos has a weird rating system. They call it "self moderating." But Ted cartoons always generated a lively debate, as good political cartoons are supposed to, but so rarely do anymore as the genre wheezes its last. I believe what really went down here was a witch hunt by a herd of pro-Obamites to remove Ted from the site by any means possible. So they pulled out the race card and piled on the liberal white guilt, and the editors buckled.

Ted  then posted this "fuck you" article on Daily Kos, which sent the commenters into an outraged frenzy. I've no doubt that was Ted's intent. He loves a good fight. One wrote "Ted crossed the line, in the same way the Danish cartoonists and Salman Rushdie did."

That's the attitude of these nitwits? That fatwahs are OK, especially if they come from a place of serene progressive goodness? My god.

Full disclosure: I was told by a Kos insider back when comix were first brought on board that my strip was also deemed "unworthy." Markos Moulitsas didn't like it. I've no problem with that, and Moulitsas is at least the real deal who believes in the politics of his site, unlike that hypocritical hag Arriana Huffington. Ted also didn't make the cut. There's no hard feeling on my part. I'm essentially done as a strip cartoonist now that I'm Mr. Bigshot Graphic Novelist. I continue with The City more as a weekly creative exercise than anything.

There's nothing worse than liberals on a PC vendetta. Rightwingers rant and rave, and may issue a death threat or two, but outraged liberals' first demand ALWAYS is that the offending material be removed. I've run into this a few times, no where near as much as Ted.

Ted is, by his own admission, not the most skilled artist in the political cartooning field. His caricatures are barely that. I describe his style as "Brutalism." But it works for him. A Rall cartoon is immediately identified, unlike 90 percent of political cartoons, which look as if they've been drawn by the same hand. I, too, was a Brutalist for a large stretch of my career, especially in the Nineties during my alt-weekly heyday. My style was even more extreme, all popping eyeballs and contorted features. I've re-thought that stylistic position and now, quite frankly, view it as a huge mistake on my part. It's no coincidence that when I moved to a straightforward (some would say "boring") art style, when I began making graphic novels, that my career took off. Of course, it could also be that my books are far superior to my strips, and I was foolishly toiling in the wrong genre all along. But I believe by making comix so purposely ugly, you give people, especially the "gatekeepers" in media, an easy excuse to reject you. Better to draw like an Archie comic or Family Circus and fill it with evil humor! Ted's brutalist caricature of Obama led to this nonsense. Had he drawn the prez in a classic caricature style, they couldn't have attacked him this way. When I draw Obama now, it's the most boring caricature I can manage. 

But Ted has won a couple RFK Awards and has been a Pulitzer finalist. He served as president of the Assoc. of American Editorial Cartoonists and, during his tenure, rightly addressed the appalling amount of swiping and plagiarism and hack work being produced by the membership. None of that matters to the Kos horde who, judging by their comments, are too intellectual to read cartoons anyways. Which leaves them free to censor them.

No one wins here. Kos readers will be happy Ted's offending cartoons are gone and they can return to languidly reading nothing but pro-Obama doggerel. That only increases the media political chasm we have in this country, a vast yawning expanse where the left and right yell insults at each other across the void. Ted, for his part, moves on, but is painted as a racist and ten years from now this ancient Kos brouhaha will still pop up on Google searches, probably very near the top since Kos has mastered manipulation of search engines.

The editors of Daily Kos should be ashamed of themselves.