Tom Spurgeon disagrees with my disagreement with him regarding Pat Oliphant. He’s surprised a TCJ writer would object to meanness. I’m surprised he’s worshipped in charismatic churches and seen tongues speaking first-hand. In fact I feel outflanked. The world is full of these little tricks on our expectations.

I’d say that a getting a reaction is different from making a point, and that making a point is the reason for creating an editorial cartoon. The effectiveness of a cartoon and the pleasure it gives aren’t two separate entities. If you wind up being puzzled by the cartoon’s creator or embarrassed for him, then the cartoon hasn’t done its job. Not only do you feel unpersuaded, you feel like a bit of your time has gone down the drain hole.
In the old days Jeff MacNelly used to do beautiful, pointed cartoons that I disagreed with strongly. But after reading one I had a clear idea of what he thought and why, and sometimes I felt my own views shifting a few inches toward his. That’s because an editorial cartoon, when it works, is the crystallization of an idea. Oliphant’s present-day stuff is more like a snapshot of a breakdown. When I look at one of his cartoons, I feel like I’m looking at something that’s supposed to be diagnosed, not understood.
Tom (if I may call him that) says he accepts my point that Oliphant shoots pretty wildly these days. If he can agree on that point and still like Oliphant’s work, then we’re just operating from different premises; we’re doomed to argue past each other until the not very distant moment when he finds more important stuff to deal with. But to get into the details of the cartoon: it was not simply another attack on the presumption of godbothering right-wing politicians. It was specifically an attack on tongue-speakers. The leadoff panel is of Palin babbling; the final panel has God complaining about “gibberish.” In between there’s McCain explaining that Palin is Pentecostal and speaks in tongues. The godbothering point is bundled in there, but the tongues-speaking is the centerpiece.
You might as well make fun of Jews for wearing little hats and thinking they got God to sign on the dotted line, or of Catholics for eating blood crackers. It’s just mockery of people for being different.

Tags: