The Sorensen Monologues

Find the villains

One of the standard techniques of authoritarians is to invert the reality of who is doing the most harm in a given conflict. Police who abuse their power are portrayed as restoring law and order in the face of chaotic mobs. Scale is distorted; actual cases of destructive protesters (or bad actors trying to make protesters look bad) are given constant attention, ignoring the overwhelming majority of peaceful activists. Fox and Tucker Carlson and many other American right-wing figures are literally operating at the level of Belarusian authoritarianism, using the same arguments and distortions and defenses of indefensible police and vigilante violence.

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Honest Headlines

News broke a week ago that the Trump campaign did, in fact, collude with Russia in 2016. You’ll recall that when the Mueller Report came out, Bill Barr generated massive headlines with his false summary of the findings. Now that we have damning evidence — from the Republican-led Senate, no less! — no one cares. It disappeared from the headlines within a day. The top story on the NYT shortly afterwards was about blood plasma. It goes without saying that a blockbuster report showing Hillary Clinton colluded with Russian intelligence to win a US election would not disappear so quickly.



First They Came for the Mailboxes…

Post office aside, it’s hard to imagine Trump & Co. going quietly into that good night. Just a few weeks ago, Senate Republicans stripped language from an intelligence bill requiring presidential campaigns to disclose offers of foreign help. You would think this would be uncontroversial, but of course we have the new Senate intelligence committee report that came out today that shows a breathtaking degree of shady contact between the Trump campaign and Moscow in 2016.

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Home of the grave

The Vanity Fair article referenced in the last panel is here. Key paragraphs:

…the prospect of launching a large-scale national plan was losing favor, said one public health expert in frequent contact with the White House’s official coronavirus task force.

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.

That logic may have swayed Kushner. “It was very clear that Jared was ultimately the decision maker as to what [plan] was going to come out,” the expert said.

That anyone on the White House pandemic team would suggest this is beyond scandalous. And yet, how many people know about this story?



Immunity Impunity

According to Ian Millhiser on Vox, the Republican bill places a “wide array of obstacles before workers and consumers who allege that they were infected due to a business’s negligence — or even against plaintiffs who allege they were infected because of truly reckless behavior by a business.” It also, breathtakingly, “allows businesses to sue — and collect damages and attorney’s fees from — anyone who so much as writes a letter to a business demanding compensation for certain Covid-19-related legal violations, if the allegations in that letter are later deemed ‘meritless.’ And it allows the United States attorney general to sue law firms, unions, and other entities that are ‘engaged in a pattern or practice’ of seeking compensation for similar violations.” So if you merely try to hold a business accountable, they can sue your pants off. Brilliant!

Now for the kicker: Do you know what this bill is called? The SAFE TO WORK Act! You can’t make this stuff up! (Actually, you can, and George Orwell did.) 



Visit America!

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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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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.

 

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