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Visit America!

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The Sorensen Monologues

Next Steps in the GOP Coronavirus Strategy

I exaggerate slightly here, but not that much. As I was working on this cartoon, I gathered that Trump had softened his anti-mask stance somewhat. But he’s so incoherent and all over the map, it seems like he could call for the mask-sniffing dogs next week. I do think we’re headed for a highly disturbing and possibly violent election season, and anyone feeling sanguine about the polls is underestimating the lengths the antidemocratic right will go to to retain power.

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Faces of the Maskless

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This Week in Authoritarian Newspeak

I’m not saying all protests are intelligent, or that they cannot be criticized. The problem is that, like “political correctness,” the term “cancel culture” paints all civil rights activism with a broad brush and shuts down thoughtful discussion. The right rules in part by means of Orwellian Newspeak concepts that masquerade as objective phenomena, but are really just name-calling.

Now, there is a real tendency for large numbers of people on social media to demand that someone be fired, but this can be good or bad; it depends entirely on the specifics of the case. Social media is full of toxicity and abuse, and I think a lot of issues can be addressed without calling for someone to lose their livelihood (though there are cases where public figures should step aside, and it is perfectly legitimate to express this).  

For further thoughts, I’d check out this essay in TIME by a Muslim woman in Toronto. And as Paul Krugman recently tweeted, “The rage over ‘cancel culture’ is also, I think, part of this syndrome; some people can’t stand the idea that they should be asked to, say, avoid insulting women or minorities, as if that were a terrible imposition.”

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Suburban Invasion

Right-wing disinformation outlets have been whipping up hysteria with false rumors about antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement planning to cause mayhem the suburbs. We’ve already seen at least two cases now of people driving converted school buses (known as “skoolies”) being targeted for harassment. A multiracial family on a camping trip to the Olympic Peninsula had locals try to trap them in the forest. The Columbus, OH police department issued a wildly misleading social media post about a hippie bus owned by street performers, which got picked up by the likes of Marco Rubio. Per TPM: “According to the juggler squad they’ve been repeatedly harassed since the social media posts went viral as terrorized Fox News watchers spot the bus and mobilize their defense.”

Trump and his media boosters have been screeching about the “autonomous zone” in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood (where I briefly lived once), which has been a peaceful space of mural painting and festive consciousness-raising. Fox actually published digitally-altered and misleading photos about the demonstration to make it seem violent and chaotic.

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Ivanka, Speech Defender

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Beat the Press

Most people have probably seen the footage of CNN journalist Omar Jiminez being hauled off in the middle of a live broadcast. You can view the video of Kaitlin Rust being fired on here, and I encourage you to view the Australian reporters being attacked while filming yesterday’s peaceful protest near the White House, if you haven’t seen it. The CBC has a good interview with Linda Tirado, who is much more chipper than I’d be a couple days after losing an eye.

It seems there should be more discussion linking Trump’s violent rhetoric about the press with what we see happening now. As Eric Boehlert notes:

Incredibly, some in the press still won’t make the public connection between Trump’s violent rhetoric and physical attacks on the media. Over the weekend, the New York Times and the Washington Post detailed attacks on journalists covering the protests. Yet the articles never mentioned Trump and his rancid anti-media attacks.

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Which Deaths Matter?

As the pandemic unfolds, I keep finding myself thinking about the round-the-clock coverage I saw a while ago on Fox about the death of one person caused by an undocumented immigrant. I can’t even remember the details at this point, but they’d clearly cherry-picked a story to rehash over and over, sowing fear and panic about immigrants. (They probably do this all the time; I just don’t watch Fox very often.) In doing so, they presented a wildly disproportionate sense of risk, given that immigrant crime tends to be lower than that from US-born citizens.

I’ve also been struck by the use of car deaths as a justification for not worrying about coronavirus deaths. 36,000 traffic fatalities a year is an unacceptably high number to write off as “inevitable accidents,” and the very Republicans who oppose traffic safety measures are the same ones using that high casualty rate as an excuse for allowing more death! (Interestingly, the libertarian Cato Institute, of all places, has a study disputing the claim that immigrants cause more drunk-driving deaths.)

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Who’s Afraid of a Little Pandemic?

Criticizing “excessive fear” over the coronavirus pandemic has become de rigueur on the right. “Freedom not fear” is a common refrain. Comical examples abound of conservatives downplaying the significance of death itself, such as this quote from The Federalist:

“So the barbaric, panicky elevation of mere life as the only good worth conserving is becoming increasingly shameful.”

As Steve Martin used to say, “Well, excuuuuuse me!”

Referring to rational, ethical behavior based on science as “fear” is a linguistic sleight of hand meant to invoke notions of feminine hysteria. Masks especially seem to be heavily gendered, as I can attest from observing people in grocery stores and the post office.

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Post Office in Peril

The US Postal Service has been a bane of Republicans for many years now, and there are many details to that story that don’t fit into a single cartoon. Most notably, there was the 2006 Postal Accountability Act which placed an exceptional burden on the USPS to prefund retiree health benefits several decades into the future, without which the agency would have turned a profit many of the years it reported losses. The coronavirus pandemic poses new problems as mail volume plummets, and bailouts are given to other industries but not the highly essential post office. Then there’s Trump’s personal vendetta against Jeff Bezos and Amazon, as well as the need for mail-in ballots this November, which threatens the GOP’s stranglehold on power with, you know, democracy. Enter the appointment of $2 million GOP donor Louis DeJoy (oh the irony of that surname) as Postmaster General, replacing the first-ever woman to hold that position, who is retiring. The American Postal Workers Union has some concerns about this. Like I said, too much material for a single cartoon!

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More Years to Fear

These times are difficult for everyone, but I’ve been thinking lately about how what has happened to America is especially mind-blowing for my generation. The fall of the Berlin Wall was one of the defining events of my youth. As a teenager, I had no illusions about the world being perfect, but it seemed unquestionable that democracy had a firm foothold in the West and was more or less on the rise globally. It’s even worse, I think, if you’re a woman who came of age in the ‘90s. How did we enter this weird alternate timeline?

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Tips for Social Distancing Outdoors

I thought the dog panel might be slightly controversial, in that opinions differ on the safety of animal petting. Some vets advise against it while others argue that fur is a porous material that traps pathogens better than smooth surfaces like doorknobs. It seems like good etiquette, at least, to resist the urge to give a belly rub.

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Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.