Saturday, March 29, 2014

BECY 2014

Pelican Books' Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year for 2014 is out, and I'm pleased to say that I have four cartoons in this year's edition.
The 2014 edition skews conservative when it comes to the Obama administration. It is tempting to attribute that to its editor, Dean Turnbloom, a naval civilian who was, briefly, a dogmatic conservative cartoonist. (To the best of my knowledge, at least, he no longer draws editorial cartoons.) A conservative bias on Turnbloom's part might explain why there is only one cartoon in the book by brilliant liberal cartoonist Pat Bagley.

But 2013 was, on balance, not a good year for President Obama, so there are plenty of cartoons in this book attacking him not only from the right but also from the left. Yet for all the cartoons lambasting Obama for the clumsy launch of Obamacare, drone strikes, and supposed scandals over the IRS and Benghazi, there are no cartoons lampooning Chris Christie's Bridgegate, Senate Republicans' abuse of the filibuster, or the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the ensuing Republican push to disenfranchise voters. *

Self-selection could also be a factor in a conservative bias in this year's BECY. The cartoonists themselves pick some of their own cartoons to submit to the book's editors (as contrasted with the Best Political Cartoons of the Year, published from 2005 to 2010, for which editors Daryl Cagle and Brian Fairrington determined which topics would be in the book and selected cartoons from Cagle's stable of cartoonists to illustrate those topics).

To demonstrate how this self-selection process plays out, here are the topics of the five cartoons in Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year 2014 by rigid conservative cartoonist Michael Ramirez:
  • Mocking Obama's claims that he had no prior knowledge of "Fast and Furious," leaks of national intelligence secrets, a Benghazi cover-up, IRS targeting conservative groups, or Justice Department phone taps of Associated Press reporters.
  • Blasting Obama as a fake Superman amid a rubble of debt, incompetence, scandals, lies, foreign policy, spending, IRS, jobs, and economy.
  • Depicting the problems of the Obamacare website as merely the tip of the iceberg.
  • Showing Obama blithely riding an Iranian nuke a la Slim Pickens as it falls toward the U.S. Capitol.
  • An anti-abortion cartoon.
Compare that with the cartoons by persistently liberal cartoonist Joel Pett:
  • Decrying an ineffective social safety net.
  • Alleging that the Republican elephant would deny Pope Francis a green card over his statements on social issues.
  • Lamenting the illegal ivory trade.
  • Apologizing to Martin Luther King Jr.'s statue for the plight of African-Americans 50 years after his "I Have a Dream" speech.
  • There are only four Pett cartoons in the book. Son of a gun. I thought there were five.
Yes, there are cartoons criticizing Congress, albeit mostly from an "A pox on both your parties" standpoint. And, yes, there are cartoons criticizing the Tea Party, but mostly in a generic sense; there are but two cartoons critical of Senator Ted Cruz and only one cartoon critical of Michele Bachmann. There is no criticism of any Republican that quite equals the harshness of Mike Lester's cartoon of President Obama feeding a huge, vicious IRS attack dog from a bag of "Pure Tyranny."

The BECY series has always been edited by a conservative, and for the most part, it showed. From its initial 1972 edition until his death, it was compiled by Birmingham (Alabama) News cartoonist Charles Brooks. Last year's edition was edited by Steve Kelley, late of the New Orleans Times Picayune, earning him praise for a well-balanced tome. I've been trying to find R.C. Harvey's review on line, but apparently it's behind a subscription wall. (It should be at the February 13, 2013 post's link down this page.) I'd like to quote from the review anyway:
"To the extent that Kelley's selection reflects a bias, it is probably a bias in favor of cartoons that attack, which editorial cartoons are better at than they are at supporting a particular point of view. Based on the content of this book, I find it impossible to determine which side of the political aisle Kelley favors, which is undeniably a desirable outcome."
I look forward to Harvey's review of the Mr. Turnbloom's work.
* Rereading the book, I see that there are one cartoon about the Supreme Court decision and one cartoon about the new voter disenfranchisement law in Texas.

No comments:

Post a Comment