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Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Thin Skinned Miscellany

1) In light of recent throw-a-cape-on-James-Brown comics blog dramatics, I'd like to point out that it is entirely possible to be both a wonderfully funny, graceful, entertaining writer capable of penetrating insight on a regular basis and a thin-skinned, occasionally downright cruel writer who likes baiting people but who can't stand being called on it. Some people can't help starting or at least fomenting the very arguments they claim they don't want to have. And everything else aside, when John Byrne has your back, it's time to take a long, hard look in the mirror. (full disclosure: I've been banned for, I assume, getting into a disagreement there.)

2) One of comics blogging's rightfully certified invaluable resources, Dirk Deppey, went off the rails yesterday in his criticism of Garry Trudeau's recent strips about right-wing use of "Democrat Party" as an epithet. Deppey:

Speaking of dumb-ass comic-strip controversies: According to Editor & Publisher, two comic strips (Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury and Darrin Bell’s Candorville) are riffing against the latest apparent attack on the Democrats by the Republicans — referring to them as the “Democrat Party”:

The use of “Democrat” Party is considered a slur, because it makes the Democratic Party seem, well, less democratic. And “Democrat” puts contemptuous emphasis on the letters “rat.”

Is this serious? Because I’m getting a strong “Mommy, he’s looking at me funny!” vibe from all this. Hint: If you’re going to comment on politics, it’s generally a good idea to convince people that you’re coming at the subject from a clever, superior point of view. Failing that, try to avoid giving the impression that you’re a thin-skinned jackass. Isn’t Garry Trudeau supposed to be smarter than this? (Above: Apparently not. Sequence from last Sunday’s Doonesbury strip, ©2007 G.B. Trudeau, age eight.)

As Dirk ought to know or could easily take the time find out if he's about to call Trudeau stupid and immature, the "Democrat Party” swipe so loved by W. these days has been used pejoratively by the right for decades--Hendrik Hertzberg traced it from the Harding Administration, up through Joe McCarthy and Newt Gingrich in a New Yorker piece last year:


As Hertzberg says, ““Democrat Party” is a slur, or intended to be—a handy way to express contempt. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but “Democrat Party” is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams “rat.” At a slightly higher level of sophistication, it’s an attempt to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation.”

Markus says it best in the Journalista comments: "the use of the tactic makes it very clear that your opponent’s antagonism is not rooted in a substantial philosophical (political) disagreement but instead simple disrespect for you as a person. The other side is indicating that you’re not worth talking to, which - back in the political field - pretty much equates to abandoning democratic principles in favour of simple mudslinging."

How is something like this not appropriate for a Doonesbury strip? It's in Garry's wheelhouse, for Christ's sake. Whether or not his execution was funny is debatable, but the pettiness and hypocrisy of the right aren't exactly new topics for the guy.

I think people who dismiss the "Democrat Party" slur as unimportant aren't making any sense, at least when it comes to comics. Comic strips, even Doonesbury and Candorville, don't talk about the most important issues every single day. Sometimes they talk about such earth-shattering matters as restaurants serving too-large portions, or guys feeling like p*****s when women make them hold their purses. Everyday, banal stuff that we all identify with is a staple of comic strips.

Does this guy complain when Doonesbury talks about any of those things? If not, then it seems likely he's complaining 'cause he's one of those people who likes to say "Democrat Party." Nobody likes being called on their own bullshit.

For what it's worth, I thought it was a worthy topic. While both were well-done, I actually thought Candorville's take on it was a bit funnier.
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