I get tons of boring email. It comes with the territory. But it’s Friday night, I’m finally setting up a Netflix account of my own, enjoying a fine IPA, and all of a sudden, this professor storms into my inbox with long-winded righteous indignation! I normally would ignore such blathery, but I blame the IPA. His email, in full:
Dear Mr McFadden,
Will you read a letter from a conservative art historian who teaches at [REDACTED] College?
Since early childhood I have been a fan of political cartoons, and love to see a point made cleverly with visual means, whether or not I agree with the politics. There are cartoonists of the left who make me laugh, even as I disagree with them, and vice versa.
But I think your lemonade stand bit this weekend in the Times fell flat, and in a way you didn’t intend. As you well know (to judge by the comments on your blog), conservative businessmen or Republican governors do not tyrannize lemonade stands. This is exclusively the province of petty soul-crushing bureaucrats, the bland mediocrities that Hannah Arendt described for us. If you want to scorn, mock, ridicule or otherwise lampoon us on the right — it should be vaguely related to something we actually do. In fact, since your cartoon appeared, your own Massachusetts gendarmes just shut down a 12-year old’s stand.
And here’s a litany of similar cases.
Anyway, the rest of the cartoon is fine but it struck me that that panel was dishonest, and the one thing that’s fatal to the political cartoonist is dishonesty. Vulgarity, obscenity, any of the seven deadly sins is perfectly fine in a cartoonist, but not dishonesty. I won’t bore you any more, but for your files I am attaching here an essay of mine on the subject that appeared in Commentary in 2003. It’s only the pdf of the galley; the title was “Cartooning, Right and Left.”
Somehow I have the feeling that I’m not the only one who’s taken you to task about lemonade.
politics aside, congrats on your posting to the Times,
And my well-thought-out reply:
Thanks for the essay, professor!
Somehow I have the feeling a passive aggressive somebody needs to look up the definition of tyranny. And “for my files”? Yeah, I went down to Big Fat Whale Special Collections right away with those op-eds and put them in an acid-free box…with my poop.