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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Cartoonists wield mighty power

Newspaper cartoons have become major political offenders over the past few years proving, once and for all, that there is simply no escaping the pull of partisan politics in this country. But, unlike news sources such as television and radio, which sometimes owe themselves to heated political debate, cartoons are supposed to elicit laughs and transcend dirty politics. Unfortunately, there has been much incredulity by the public recently over some very controversial comic strips, which have been seen in many of the nation’s major newspapers.

This outrage began last week with Tom Toles’ virulent comic that appeared in the Washington Post. In this cartoon Toles depicts a heavily bandaged soldier in a hospital bed as having lost his arms and legs, while Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in the guise of a doctor, says: “I’m listing your condition as ‘battle hardened.'”

But Toles did not stop there. He decided to infuse his “comic strip” with even more witty remarks at the bottom of the page where Rumsfeld says: “I’m prescribing that you be stretched thin. We don’t define that as torture.”

While it may be sad that a man like Tom Toles would write such hateful dialogue, this type of vicious diatribe is actually just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cartoonists overstepping their bounds.

A while back, Ted Rall produced a cartoon that offered up a so-called, “social commentary” on the death of Pat Tillman, the former NFL football player that gave up his high-paying job to serve his country. In the cartoon, Tillman is depicted as a dupe, “a cog in a low-rent occupation army that shot more innocent civilians than terrorists to prop up puppet rulers and exploit gas and oil resources” and as an “idiot” who “got killed by the Afghan resistance.”

Despite the nastiness of those remarks, months later Rall decided to go for a repeat performance. While the rest of the nation, and even onetime political opponents, mourned the death of former president Ronald Reagan, Ted Rall was too busy arguing that Reagan was in Hell, “turning crispy brown right about now.”

He also went on to classify the former president as “the scum of the earth.”

Now, it is abundantly clear that these men, without question, have every right to draw any type of cartoon they desire.

The right of free speech and dissent is implicit in our constitution and may not be infringed upon for any reason. Mr. Toles and Mr. Rall are allowed to disagree with U.S. foreign policy, the Iraq War, or whatever else they deem to be wrong.

However, these cartoons cross the line. They are despicable, loathsome, and unequivocally hateful. They invoke defamatory remarks about America’s soldiers to their limit, and in their anger they completely neglect to remember that they have an obligation to serve all those that read their material, including the military.

These men seem to be so absorbed with themselves and all of their outmoded, ideological beliefs that they prefer to eschew any notion of class in favor of bashing other Americans.

Men like Ted Rall and Tom Toles have done a disservice to all those who sacrifice their lives in the line of duty to preserve the freedoms of this country. They speak of the soldiers as if they were the enemy yet they forget that if it weren’t for the sacrifices of the men and women of our military, they would not even have the freedoms that allow them to print such hate-laden commentary.

This type of behavior by cartoonists is dangerous because in their disdain, men like Rall and Toles forget the possible ramifications of their actions. One of these days they may just cross the line too far and cause all sorts of problems.

This happened to comic writers in Europe where a few days ago a Danish newspaper printed a comic depicting the prophet Muhammad in a very negative and overly satirical manner.

The cartoon upset so many Muslims that it precipitated a strand of violent protests, increasing into attacks on the Danish Embassies in Lebanon and Syria.

Tom Toles, Ted Rall, the writers of the aforementioned Danish newspaper, and any other comic strip journalist that chooses to engage in this type of behavior should no longer be tolerated by the American public.

While we may not have the right to censor these cartoons, we do have the clear choice to not read them if they continue down their present course.

In the meantime, if these cartoonists would like to find a more civil and, dare I say it, truthful way of expressing doubt, they are welcome to it. After all, everyone loves a good laugh.

Unfortunately, for these so-called journalists, right now, the joke’s on them.

Send comments to Dan at [email protected]

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