The Sensible Liberal's Guide to Sensible Liberalism in the Age of Obama -- now featuring Chuckles the Sensible Woodchuck!
This Modern World
A few days ago, Roderick mentioned one of the sillier complaints that’s usually directed against Tom Tomorrow and his cartoon This Modern World: that he allegedly only satirizes the Right and never the Left. (By
Left, the person making this criticism usually means
corporate liberalism, or, really, just
Democrats.) There’s plenty of blind spots or confusions that you could criticize Tom Tomorow for, but this one I don’t get. I don’t know exactly why a political cartoonist with very decided views is expected to adhere to the Fairness Doctrine in the topics that he chooses, but anyway, the complaint is just empirically false, and nobody who actually read more than two or three installments of the comic would think that it’s true. Just recently, there’s comics like
Obama phenomena, but it’s especially clear if you spent any time reading the comic back during its glory days in the 1990s — since there was a Democratic president at the time, not surprisingly, Tomorrow spent more time writing about Democrats than he does now (and also, at times, the real Left — see, for example,
Chomsky). Roderick mentioned a particular comic:
But I seem to recall one This Modern World strip in which someone accidentally drops a lit match and then quickly steps on it to extinguish it –- while the punditocracy immediately goes into overdrive, speculating on how, if the match hadn’t been snuffed out, it might have caused forest fires that would devastate whole cities; they conclude:I think this shows the need for more regulation.Anyone know of a link to that?
Took me a while, but I found it. The comic is
The work took a bit of digging, but it was good fun, since it gave me the opportunity to go back and remind myself of how weird and funny This Modern World used to be back in the 1990s. (Not that it’s bad now; but I appreciated the Bay Area absurdism of something like
Citizens Beware or
Car Alarm, and Tom Tomorrow has himself said that the comic has gotten less sharp during the Bush years than it was in the 1990s — because the targets for parody have become so damn obvious that there’s no real room for subtlety anymore.) Anyway, along the way I was also happy to be reminded of
Terrorists (1995), the response to Bill Clinton’s omnibus
anti-terrorism surveillance bill:
As well as
You can catch up with more of the last decade through Tom Tomorrow’s online carton archive.
Here’s one of the funnier, and more on-point, comics that Tom Tomorrow has done lately:
Biff and Wanda are anchors on Action McNews Network.
Tonight we’ll be discussing the latest stupid campaign season distraction that we in the media keep talking about!
Why is the stupid distraction getting so much attention, rather than all the substantive issues we aren’t talking about?
Some have suggested that we in the mdia may actually bear some responsibility for the excessive attention being paid to the stupid distraction—but this is, of course, absurd!
Indeed it is, Wanda!
After all, the media did not create the stupid distraction. We’ve simply reported the facts—and provided endless hours of analysis and commentary!
That’s true, Biff! We’re not responsible for the perceived importance of the stupid distraction—
—But iff the stupid distraction is perceived as important, we have no choice but to discuss it further!
The entire process is completely out of our control! We have nothing to do with any of it!
Why—I can’t even remember how I got to the studio this morning! It’s as if my body simply brought me here of its own volition!
Why do my lips keep flapping and making these noises?
Please stop us—before we waste any more time on the stupid distraction—
—which our roundtable of experts will examine in depth in just one moment!
And: is the stupid distraction nothing more than a stupid distraction? We’ll see what random people on the street think!
All that and more about the you-know-what… after these messages.
The only thing to add is to complete the thought — to remember that the campaign season itself is the
stupid campaign season distraction — that the empty and idiotic rituals of party politics, the Presidential election, and electoral politics as a whole are nothing more and nothing less than a colossal and largely successful effort to eradicate serious political discourse from the culture, for months at a stretch, and to replace it with such a shoddy substitute as the
discussion of shamelessly dishonest attack ads, shamelessly vacuous positive ads, the reduction of all political debate to a pair of politicos’ names joined with a forward slash, the rowdy team loyalties of the Reds against the Blues, the endless series of professional blowhards gassing about the electorate and picking over popularity polls, a series of stump speeches and a tiny handful of carefully stage-managed two-person debates between anointed would-be oligarchs. And that this idiotic distraction is the sole means by which it is determined who will wield supreme Executive power over 300,000,000 people — which in these days, according to the popular theory of the
mandate, is unaccountable, unchecked, and nearly absolute over all matters regulatory, military, and indeed also legislative — for the next several years of our lives. A power which the last 8 years of continuous, unchecked, unpunished, lies, manipulation, overtly tyrannical power-grabs, and catastrophic failures, have empirically demonstrated can apparently only be checked or ended by the purely astronomical phenomenon of four revolutions about the sun. That system itself, and all the works that flow from it, richly deserves discussion, debate, and challenge. But it will never be brought under scrutiny as long as it holds sway, because the function of the system itself is to destroy serious politics, to replace it with the distraction of politicians, their personality, their power, and their parties.
Yet this colossal distraction, and all the power that attaches to and derives from the absurd spectacle, would disappear in a moment if enough of us just ignored the damn thing, if enough of us refuse to take their orders, treat the absurd spectacle of their idiotic rituals with the contemptuous silence that it so richly deserves, and create our own combinations in spite of whatever they may say.
Boycott the Matrix. It’s time to wake up.
ROVE: But look. The Republicans have got three things they need to do strategically and three things they need to do tactically.
Strategically, they better get their act together with an aggressive agenda of reform here at home about the things people are talking around the kitchen table.
What are the Republicans going to do about health care? What are they going to do about providing reliable and affordable energy? What are they going to do about jobs and keeping our economy innovative and competitive, encouraging exports? What are we going to do about helping people grapple with the cost of college education?
We’ve got great answers, Republicans do, on this, but they better get their act together in laying this out in a comprehensive way.
Pappy O’Daniel and his son, Junior O’Daniel, in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000):
Pappy: Languishing! Languishing! Goddamn campaign is languishing! We need a shot in the arm! You hear me boys? In the goddamn arm! If the election held tomorrow, that goddamn Stokes would win it in a walk….
Junior: Well… he’s the re-form candidate, Daddy…
Junior: Well, people like that re-form….
Hey! Maybe we should get us some!
Pappy: I’ll reform you, you soft-headed sonofabitch! How we gonna run reform when we’re the damn incumbent?