This Week’s Cartoon: “Fun With False Equivalence”

This comic has attracted more irate email than usual, with a longtime conservative reader referring to it as done “with vitriol.” I don’t see it as a particularly angry cartoon — if anything, it seems like my usual absurdist approach, showing how ridiculous militant right-wing rhetoric sounds coming from the mouths of famous progressives. (Aren’t we usually accused of being wimps?) I planned to do this strip ever since a blog commenter (not here)  hilariously referred to Paul Krugman as an example of incivility on the left equivalent to the insurrectionist language on the right that has come under criticism since the Giffords shooting.

To answer those readers who are upset, let me first say yes, I am aware that Obama once used that quote from The Untouchables. And yes, there have been occasional instances of Democratic politicians saying bad things, like the guy in Florida who said his opponent for governor should be shot for his role as CEO of a health care company that defrauded Medicare. But here’s the thing, people: you are forgetting to contextualize.

Only one side of the political spectrum has a broad, organized movement — once fringe, now growing ever-more mainstream — based on extreme paranoia of the government and the idea of resistance through armed revolution. This stuff forms the very raison d’etre of the Tea Party and various “patriot movement” subgroups. You have heard of the Oath Keepers, yes? If not, look ‘em up. Much of the rhetoric I criticize in my cartoons comes from politicians stirring this particular pot –  they are pandering directly to their gun-nut base. They aren’t just trying to use more action verbs.

Now, about Loughner: while the cheese may have fallen off of his cracker, he was clearly paranoid about the government and into currency conspiracy theories. Dude was down with the gold standard! That’s classic far-right stuff.  To quote my colleague Clay Jones, who drew a controversial Sarah Palin cartoon that cracked me up:

I do know the rhetoric is too much.  I know it’s wrong to put crosshairs on human beings.  I know it’s wrong to mask threats as political overtones.  It seems conservatives would agree with that.

I ask that you ask yourself what I’ve asked myself.  Did the right wing contribute to this?

I can’t say it did.

And you can’t say it didn’t.

And one last thing: I don’t care about “scoring political points.” Giffords feared for her own life, as I’m sure many politicians do today. Something is wrong when running for office — especially as a liberal — feels so dangerous. That’s what really bothers me.


  • Elmore

    When somebody with an Arab-sounding name commits an atrocity, the right wastes no time blaming all of Islam. When a black person commits an atrocity, they blame rap music, the Black Panthers, and Jeremiah Wright. When a Hispanic person commits an atrocity, they blame our lenient immigration policies. But when a white American commits an atrocity, he’s just some lone nut with no outside influences whatsoever.

    There is no evidence that Jared Loughner watched Glenn Beck’s TV show, or visited Sarah Palin’s website, or listened to right-wing talk radio. But that does not mean that he lived his life in a vacuum. The fact is that a culture of violence thrives in this country, with enthusiastic promotion by high-profile figures on the right. Both Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin hastily removed gun-themed images—photos of a stalking Beck with a handgun and the now-famous crosshairs images—from their websites after the January 8 tragedy… curious behavior from people who claim they have nothing to hide. Meanwhile, Tea Party activists carry their sidearms into Town Hall meetings. Then there are the examples cited by Jen in her “violent Spin” comic last week.

    The message is clear: if your government representatives are not in lock-step with your beliefs, go get your gun! How is this not as bad as the most violent teachings of the Koran? Many of the new Republicans in Congress pushed the idea of our nation’s “exceptionalism” in their campaigns. That they think no seeds of terrorism can take root here is dangerously naive.

  • Jen Sorensen

    Well-said, Elmore. Thanks.

  • Michael Adams

    There was a small Reddit discussion regarding sources of the quotes. And props to Elmore and the cartoonist!

  • Michael Adams After I left my last comment, I noticed the current ad.

  • Mr. Mayes
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  • Tommes the Pommes

    I recommend erasing words connected with shooting from the English language! Such as “crosshairs, aim, target, fire, arms”
    Benefit 1: political language will refer more to political correctness (some Europ’s are really embarrassed about that ‘cause it gives your politicians a touch of terminatorness
    Benefit 2: politicians need to emphasize more clearly what they REALLY mean (NOT that they’re really mean, I’d say)
    Benefit3: even better: some more politicians wouldn’t know what to say…

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.