USS Clueless - Rall the fool

Stardate 20020306.0639

(On Screen): Having now spent just about a year writing for this site, I can appreciate that the one big benefit I have is that I don't have to write for a deadline. I know that some days I sit here and wonder if I'll ever have another word to say that is worth reading. So there must be a bit of panic knowing that you absolutely have to turn something out by 5:00 PM today; at a certain point you just go with what you have. The difference between good writers and great writers is that great writers can produce quality material by deadline; good writers sometimes turn out total trash. (Some writers only turn out trash.)

But a deadline is no excuse for being despicable. Yesterday Ted Rall went completely over the top with a cartoon "satirizing" the greediness of some of the widows whose husbands have been killed by terrorists. Among other places, it was posted online by the NYTimes, and there was almost immediate outrage. The NYTimes then pulled it and apologized. Rall did not.

In a statement, Rall and the syndicate acknowledged the cartoon's sensitive subject matter, but did not apologize.

"Pushing the envelope of polite criticism is what editorial cartoonists do," the statement said. "Rall represents a point of view that will not be everyone's opinion. He is looking at a recent news events with the cynical eye of a satirist."

Actually, he was looking through the eye of a jackass. It is true that editorial cartoons are supposed to express unpopular points of view, but they're also supposed to be funny. This wasn't. It was, however, tasteless and insensitive and deeply unwitty. It was about as subtle as a sledgehammer. (And if it had named names, it would have been libelous. The widow of Daniel Pearl may well have grounds for libel anyway based on the third frame.)

Rall has a First Amendment right to be a jackass. But he doesn't have a First Amendment right to have his material carried in major newspapers. I think that he's going to be deeply damaged economically by this, and that is as it should be. If he wants his material on the web, he has the right to buy his own server and put it online himself, as I have done with this page. But he has no right to expect to be paid for it if what he draws is worthless, as this cartoon indeed was. It was a complete disgrace.

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