This afternoon, I saw perhaps the most troubling, irresponsible, disconnected-from-reality editorial cartoon I’ve ever seen published in a major American newspaper (click to enlarge:)
It’s one thing to hastily jump to conclusions before the facts are known, but it’s another to stick to those hasty conclusions in the face of contradictory facts. Unfortunately, that’s what cartoonist Jeff Danziger is doing. In all my years in politics, I have never contacted an editorial cartoonist, but I was so appalled by this cartoon, that today I did. To my surprise, Danziger replied. Below is our full exchange:
Mr Danziger –
I’ve worked professionally in political communications for more than 16 years now – for Members of Congress, a Cabinet Secretary, many political candidates, and a variety of non-profit organizations. As a result, I’ve obviously seen many editorial cartoons with which I’ve disagreed. But I have never seen one as shamefully disgusting as the one I just saw on WashingtonPost.com that is credited to you.
In the cartoon, a violent gunman is shown inside a teapot. I take this to mean that you’re perpetuating the view the millions of law-abiding citizens who have marched in tea party rallies are somehow complicit in the horrible shooting that occurred in Tucson on Saturday.
As you should know, at this point, there appears to be absolutely no connection between the tea party and the troubled young man who pulled the trigger. Not an ideological connection. Not one shred of evidence that he ever attended a tea party rally or visited tea party websites. Not even any evidence that he was enflamed or motivated by over-the-top political rhetoric from either side of the aisle. To the contrary, all the evidence that is currently available points to the complete opposite of all of these claims.
For you to willfully and purposely advance an incredibly explosive accusation for which there is not one shred of evidence does a disservice to you and to the American public. I generally agree with critics who say that over-the-top rhetoric — on both the left and right — should be dialed back, but when you and others imply or outright claim that millions of patriotic citizens are accessories to a gruesome mass murder, you’re only making matters much, much worse.
Dear Mr. Frank-
Thanks for your letter.
I disagree. In a larger sense there is a link between anti-government rhetoric and the actions of this obviously deranged man. He is not “troubled”, he is crazed. But he knows that the larger enemy is the “government”, even though I suspect he has no idea, other than the police, what the government is. So in my experience, there is plenty of linkage, the linkage of a constant steady pressure, constant yammering on right wing radio, and constant political advertising to strike at the government, linking to a weak and distracted mind, inured to the real cost of violence by video games and super-violent films. And to this the easy availability of Glocks in a state like Arizona, and the result is more than predictable. Only willful political opportunism could blind anmyone to it. This same connection drove Timothy McVeigh and others. This won’t, I regret to say, be the last incident, not as long as the self-hatred in this country goes unanswered.
The drawing, which was designed to go with an article rather than stand by itself, is not shameful nor disgusting. It is designed like all oped art to be provocative and interpretative. It shows a point of view which relates the hyperbole of the tea party people to the actions of a disturbed mentality. The disgusting part is the lack of inclination to blame the people untimately responsible. They are again being given a pass for the viciousness they have engendered, at least in part.
I would guess that your experience is on one political side rather than the other. I am on neither. I want all this goddam noise and manufactured strife to stop. I want people to work toward a better country. I think I have earned the right to insist on it. I am not a Democrat nor a Republican, neither left nor right. I was drafted and served in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star and an Air Medal and received a field commission. That probably means less to me than to others, but I don’t have to apologize to anyone for my views. This may not equate to working in political communications as you have done, but it counts for something.
Nevertheless, I appreciate your writing and will bear your remarks in mind in future.
All best wishes,
Mr. Danziger –
I appreciate your service to our nation, and you’re definitely entitled to your opinion, but I ask you to provide one piece of actual evidence for this statement:
“In a larger sense there is a link between anti-government rhetoric and the actions of this obviously deranged man.”
To my knowledge, none exists. The fact that tea-party activists generally support smaller government does not create a “link” between them and “crazed” individuals who may be generally anti-government or anti-establishment. Everything I’ve seen thus far suggests that there’s not much separating this gunman from the emotionally disturbed killers at Virginia Tech and Columbine, other than the establishment symbols that they ultimately targeted – schools vs. Congress.
Furthermore, I have to take issue with your comparison to Oklahoma City. In that case, there was actual evidence that Tim McVeigh’s horrible and unforgivable action was in direct response to the Waco raid and other DOJ actions of the time. To date, none of the evidence coming out of Tucson indicates that the shooter acted in response to any specific governmental action or political statement whatsoever – including anything coming out of the tea party.
Finally, I must take issue with your statement that there is a “lack of inclination to blame the people ultimately responsible.” At this point, the only person responsible for this action is the guy who pulled the trigger.
If it’s ok with you, I’d like to publish our exchange on my blog. In any case, thanks for your reply. I strongly disagree with your conclusions, but I do appreciate your time.
UPDATE: 10:00 pm EST:
Ed. We are not in court. I have been watching the development of this combination of loons and opportunists since it started. The Tea Party, the very name is ridiculous. Crazed fat people tortured by their lack of success in life, following the absolute worst of our politicians. Palin, Angel, Quayle’s rotten kid. These people are your choice for anything? The whole thing is based on unreality. Don’t you understand? And Mcveigh was reading that crazy shit from the enbd times or whagtever it is called.
In the end the government has GOT to work. We are in competition with the world. Car companies don’t compete. nation now compete. And these asses want to go back to the 1700′s. I’ve written enough. The whole thing is probably unstoppable except with another dumb war. That’s what usually happens. You can have it.
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