Today, R.C. Harvey is here with an exhaustive report on this summer's Ted Rall/Los Angeles Times/LAPD controversy.
To say that political cartoonist Ted Rall is provocative is much like saying the Empire State Building is a pretty tall building or Mount Everest is quite a big hill. Rall often is, simply and unabashedly, extreme and outrageous, caustic sarcasm oozing from every panel of his cartoons. I usually agree with him—although at somewhat fewer decibels per utterance. And when his ire is aroused, as it has been lately, he can exaggerate the situation that irks him—he is, after all, a cartoonist—and maybe even stretch the truth a tad. So when he first began claiming that he’d been “fired” by the Los Angeles Times for spurious reasons, I paused before climbing on his bandwagon. For one thing, he couldn’t be “fired”: he freelances with the Times, contributing both cartoons and opinion columns.
It soon developed that not only had the Times resolved not to use any of Rall’s submissions in future (effectively “firing” him), but the paper announced its decision to the world on its website, a suspicious act on its face: Why would a newspaper feel compelled to make a public proclamation that it was no longer going to use the contributions of a freelancer? When a writer makes factual errors as the Times says Rall did, isn’t the usual journalistic practice to issue a correction? But the Times went far beyond this, and the extreme to which the paper went is highly suspicious. Why make such a public big deal about it?
The Times announcement continued, justifying its decision to drop Rall by claiming that a recent Rall column played fast and loose with the facts, thereby smearing his professional integrity as a reporter and commentator. And that, like the announcement itself, seemed a little extreme. Not only was the Times “firing” Rall in public, but it was sabotaging his reputation so he wouldn’t be able to find work anywhere else.
This is serious stuff. Deadly serious. No wonder Rall was pissed.
I have a different perspective on these events than Harvey does, largely because despite listening to Rall's "enhanced" audiotape multiple times, I have never been able to hear many of the key things Rall says are there. But Harvey's account is still well worth reading; there are important issues involved, and the facts at the bottom of the story are murky.
—Chip Zdarsky has refused to accept a Special Award for Humor from the Harvey Awards, arguing that it makes no sense for only him to be nominated for the award, considering Sex Criminals writer Matt Fraction's contributions.
—In Playboy, Noah Berlatsky exaggerates the merits of Randall Munroe's XKCD, which is a good enough strip that it doesn't really need the hyperbole. (Not that overstating things online is a crime.)
—Rob Clough reviews the latest volumes of the Complete Peanuts, as that project nears its end.
—This Friday will see the opening, at the Turchin Center of the Arts in Boon, NC, of "At the Junction of Words & Pictures", an exhibition celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Center for Carton Studies curated by TCJ columnist Craig Fischer. Featured artists include Ariel Bordeaux, Chester Brown, Charles Burns, Sophie Goldstein, Kevin Huizenga, James Sturm, and Sophie Yanow, among many others.
—Gabe Fowler of Desert Island: