The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for April, 2019

More Maladies of the Information Age

I figured I’d take a break from The Horrors this week, something I could certainly use, and you probably could too. In calmer years past I drew more cultural strips, which are political in their own right, even if political cartoon traditionalists don’t see it that way. I may start doing a few more of these in the months ahead.

I have personally encountered all of the problems illustrated in this cartoon, the most recent one being Game of Thrones spoiler panic. The hubbo and I broke our longstanding rule of not paying for cable TV and signed up for HBO Now with a Roku (CHEAP!) so we could watch the final season of Game of Thrones without people on Twitter ruining it for us. But I haven’t had a chance to watch the latest episode yet, and I feel like I can’t check social media until I do.

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Not Helping, Mueller Report Edition

Ugh, the dumb takes on the redacted Mueller Report are flying from every direction. Mueller himself is partly to blame, for entrusting Republicans in Congress to conduct oversight and for speaking in elliptical bureaucratese that leaves itself open to spin and gross failures of reading comprehension. The report’s damning evidence was greeted by weak messaging from the Democratic leadership, with Steny Hoyer timidly saying impeachment was “not worthwhile” and Nancy Pelosi in Belfast stating that, while on a Congressional delegation overseas, “We do not leave the country to criticize the president of the United States.” She promised to follow up on the report, but I mean, come on. Can you imagine this ho-hum response from Republicans if Democrats sought and received help from Russia to win an election? I’m not saying the Dems have to commit to impeachment (though I believe Elizabeth Warren’s response was morally just). But at least show some proper outrage and say “THIS IS APPALLING!”

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The New York Post Cover Generator

As you’ve most likely heard, Rep. Ilhan Omar gave a speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations after the New Zealand massacre, in which she addressed Islamophobia and the tendency for all Muslims to be blamed for the actions of a few extremists. Here’s the key passage:

Because here’s the truth — here’s the truth: Far too long, we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen, and frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties. So you can’t just say that today someone is looking at me strange, that I am going to try to make myself look pleasant. You have to say, “This person is looking at me strange. I am not comfortable with it. I am going to go talk to them and ask them why.” Because that is a right you have.

Right-wing activists latched onto the phrase “some people did something,” stripped it of its context, and dishonestly presented it as though it were Omar’s definitive statement on 9/11. The heinous New York Post cover blared “REP. ILHAN OMAR: 9/11 WAS ‘SOME PEOPLE DID SOMETHING'” — suggesting a very different sentence with a different meaning than the actual quote. As if to illustrate her very point about Islamophobia, they showed a photo of planes hitting the twin towers and accused her of lack of sympathy for the dead. Now she faces a barrage of death threats herself.

A couple thoughts here. First, there’s nothing wrong with what Omar said! She spoke in abstractions in the service of larger logical point about blaming the many for the actions of a few. She was basically saying “x did y, and everyone who looks like x gets blamed for it.” She didn’t need to go into the horrors of y. As Elizabeth Spiers says in her critique of the vile Post cover: “She was not talking to an audience full of children or idiots. Everyone in the room knew what happened on 9/11, and everyone knew it was unspeakably horrible.”

Second, the extremist Rupert Murdoch types creating these manufactured controversies are only part of the problem. Just as bad are people trying position themselves as “centrist” and “reasonable” by arguing that Ilhan did something wrong, but it’s not as bad as the NY Post and Fox News said, or talking about her as a “vector of controversy,” or some such holier-than-thou nonsense. These people are feeding the problem

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In case you haven’t heard, the DCCC – the arm of the Democratic Party that works to elect members of the House – recently introduced a policy restricting its vendors from working with any candidate challenging a Democratic incumbent. In other words, no existing officeholder can be primaried (and if they are, the consultants who help them can’t work for the DCCC). While I understand the logic of supporting incumbents and don’t really have a problem with the party favoring them in most cases, this policy is both draconian and divisive. To quote Rep. Ayanna Pressley, “If the DCCC enacts this policy to blacklist vendors who work with challengers, we risk undermining an entire universe of potential candidates and vendors – especially women and people of color – whose ideas, energy, and innovation need a place in our party.”

The last thing the Dems need as we head into 2020 is to alienate the progressive base even further. The party is already so fragmented, I worry about how we’re going to get through the next presidential election in one piece. For more, here’s the site of the campaign against the blacklist.

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What’s in the Mueller Report?

While I still believe there’s not much to say about the Mueller Report until we actually know what’s in the Mueller Report, the response to the Barr letter has been disturbing. Barr was specifically hired to defend Trump at all costs. The man is a partisan toad with a long track record of partisan toadery; it’s what he does. The Trump administration is defined by disinformation; it’s what they do. To take anything said by a Trump official at face value, ignoring this vast context of corruption and disinformation, is simply bad journalism and poor critical thinking.

Mueller found many crimes and charged many people. We are only talking about his inability to bring indictments against top officials — which is a genuine mystery, and one that will only be resolved by the report itself. To quote TPM:

It is undisputed that the Russian government brazenly interfered in the 2016 election to support Donald Trump. In so doing, the Russians and those acting on their behalf committed a variety of federal crimes including computer hacking and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Those crimes were committed to benefit (a) Vladimir Putin and the interests of the Russian government; and (b) Donald J. Trump. It is also undisputed that Trump and his campaign joyfully used and weaponized the information the Russians stole against Hillary Clinton. Trump personally trumpeted the Wikileaks disclosures 141 times during the campaign, and his surrogates countless more times. While Mueller’s team apparently “did not establish” (i.e., did not find enough evidence to charge criminally) that Trump personally conspired with the Russian government to commit the underlying crimes, there is no question that he was (along with Putin) the single biggest beneficiary of those criminal efforts.

Now, pro-Trump conspiracy theorists are feeling extra-emboldened to call those who have actually followed this story the real conspiracy theorists. It’s all rather depressingly Orwellian.

Jen Sorensen is a cartoonist for Daily Kos, The Nation, In These Times, Politico and other publications throughout the US. She received the 2023 Berryman Award for Editorial Cartooning from the National Press Foundation, and is a recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. She is also a Pulitzer Finalist.



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