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Remember When Political Cartoons Kicked Ass?
Updated: 13 weeks 1 day ago
I just started doing local and state cartoons for the Harrisburg PA Patriot-News. Here’s my first one.
Hello, central Pennsylvania! Should be fun.
Senator Bob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, has opposed gay marriage. Now he has changed his mind. Why? Because his son came out as gay. The path to a politician’s heart, it turns out, is through his DNA.
As reported at boston.com, the Boston Phoenix (the urge to add the adjective “venerable” is almost irresistible), is closing. I’ll leave it to Ted to post (if he wants) about the death of alt-media in the United States.
The thing I wanted to comment on is the hopeless passivity of the media. Joseph P. Kahn (as the Boston Globe is still owned by the New York Times, middle initials are required) writes a first sentence that makes me want to throw my computer against a wall: “In a poignant signal of a fast-changing media landscape, The Boston Phoenix sent out a short and simple tweet Thursday afternoon: ‘Thank you Boston. Good night and good luck.’”
Poignant? Fast-changing? Yes, absolutely. But could we stop channeling Counselor Troi? How about a little anger, a little rage, rage against the dying of the light? Nope, not in a Globe write-up! (I wonder how calm Mr. Kahn will be when the Globe disappears in a few more years. I suspect his level of calm will be directly proportional to how close he is, right now, to retirement and a Globe pension.)
Ten paragraphs in comes this, from staff writer Chris Faraone: “It’s sad, but also not. It’s not an anger thing. Everyone’s really proud. We went as hard as you could to the end.” Why isn’t it an anger thing? Why the hell is no one angry? You’re out of a job! And not just any crappy job. You were working for the Boston Phoenix. You were at an organization that pissed off politicians for decades! Just because you can’t point to anyone to blame doesn’t mean you can’t be angry. When did everyone turn into Kwai Chang Caine?
And then comes the most vile part of the whole thing: the “things-aren’t-so-bad” BS deluge.
Tiffany Shackelford, executive director of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia in Washington shows up in the story to comment that even though a “storied brand” like the Boston Phoenix is gone, the alternative news industry remains healthy.“Many of our papers are actually improving circulation,” she said. “This [closure] is not indicative of the larger health of the industry. I don’t think any of our other publications are in danger of closing.”Don’t worry, kids, it’s a small hole. And besides, the ship’s unsinkable.
I’m sure some good bands play up there, I’m sure some political scandal is about in crisp, wintery Portland. But it ain’t Boston. And when the alt-media is banished to the third-tier cities, how, exactly, will it be relevant? How, exactly, will the best talent move to larger alternative publications and break the bigger stories?
As head of the Jesuit order in Argentina during the 1970s, Pope Francis was silent as Jesuit priests were arrested and tortured by thugs working for the US-backed dictatorship at the time. Of course, he was a man of faith – probably too much faith.
I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).
This week: As City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Eric Garcetti vie for black Democrats in South L.A. and white Republicans in the Valley, the race for mayor of Los Angeles is getting sliced ever more thinly by sophisticated demographic modeling.
Why Sheryl Sandberg is Evil
Sheryl Sandberg is the author of a new book that you’ve heard of if you’re connected enough to be reading this, promoted by one of those PR tsunamis that publishers inflict upon the public every year or two in hopes of recouping six- or seven-figure advances: Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.
She is also the chief operating officer of Facebook.
“Lean In,” we are told, is More Than Just a Book. It is a social movement. A way of life.
“She is someone who works at Facebook,” moons Garance Franke-Ruta in The Atlantic. “Who leads Facebook. Who helped invent the Facebook we know today. Hers is a Facebook feminism.”
Comparing herself to Betty “The Feminine Mystique” Friedan, Sandberg wants her book to inspire “Lean In Circles” where women would meet to plot how to climb the corporate ladder and achieve gender parity in the boardroom. At their creepy gatherings, women will learn how to act more boldly, aggressively – more like men. Her idea of how men act, anyway.
Franke-Ruta again: “Sandberg is an unapologetic capitalist and senior manager who began her career in Washington, DC. She says she’s interested in seeing more women in leadership posts in corporate America and in the highest ranks of government. That means more women at the top, more women in positions of power, and more women who have the training and experience to lead within institutions actually getting a shot at doing – or daring to do – it.”
Visions of armies of women in beige blouses and dark safe corporate jackets marching through the streets of suburban office parks, chanting quotes from and waving copies of Sandberg’s manifesto, fill her dreams.
I think Sandberg is one of the most insufferable fools in the world of business. Which is saying something. But I don’t hate her for the same reasons as people like Maureen Dowd.
In the New York Times, columnist Dowd sums up Sandberg as a “PowerPoint Pied Piper in Prada ankle boots.” Such Dowdian snark, though cruel, is fair. Sandberg, after all, uttered a comment whose revealing immodesty would make Donald Trump blush: “I always thought I would run a social movement.”
Memo to SS: You don’t “run” a social movement. Lead it, maybe. If you’re lucky.
The Paper of Record asks the six- or seven-figure question:
“Even her advisers acknowledge the awkwardness of a woman with double Harvard degrees, dual stock riches (from Facebook and Google, where she also worked), a 9,000-square-foot house and a small army of household help urging less fortunate women to look inward and work harder. Will more earthbound women, struggling with cash flow and child care, embrace the advice of a Silicon Valley executive whose book acknowledgments include thanks to her wealth adviser and Oprah Winfrey?”
Oh, and her husband quit his job to mind the homestead. That’s convenient.
Still, Dowd et al’s argument that Sandberg’s wealth denies her the standing to issue advice to working women leaves me cold. It doesn’t matter who or what she is; either her ideas are smart and/or good for society or they’re not. A doctor who tells you to diet and exercise is giving you good advice even if she’s fat and smokes. Hell, I’m a dude yet I think I know better than Sandberg what’s better for women. For all I know, and many women agree, she gives good advice to ambitious women trying to climb the corporate ladder.
What grates about Sandberg, I think, is less the fact that a person born at mile 25 thinks she won the marathon because she worked so hard, than her failed attempt to elevate a self-help book to the level of politics.
Sandberg doesn’t know about politics. She doesn’t even know about identity politics.
Politics – debate and discussion about how we should live our lives and how to solve our problems after we have identified them – is hard. Very few people – including most politicians and elected officials – undertake the lifetime of thinking and research, or possess the magic of inspiration, it takes to come up with a transformative vision for an alternative future. The U.S. is tragically devoid of brilliant public intellectuals – our best and brightest political minds are ruthlessly censored and marginalized.
That’s real politics.
Then there’s identity politics.
Identity politics, the struggle by women, gays, ethnic minorities and so on against their privileged rivals in the economy and society, is a dead end. It’s tokenism. At best, movements based on identity politics grant special privileges to a tiny subset of traditionally oppressed demographic groups. Meanwhile, the overall hierarchical class structure remains intact.
It was moving, for example, to watch African-Americans celebrate the election of Barack Obama. Four and a half years later, however, not only can we see that the status of blacks remains the same as 2008 – harassed, arrested, shot and imprisoned at disproportionately high rates, discriminated against in the workplace, deprived of access to a high-quality education, their lifespans shortened by disease and poverty – Obama himself, supposed symbol of progress, doesn’t even talk about racial problems, much less try to fix them.
Everyone’s goal ought to be to liberate humanity from oppression. Identity politics distract from this struggle. They liberate no one.
What Sandberg advocates is even less worthwhile than identity politics.
Sandberg wants rat-race politics. Men, she argues, act like a bunch of testosterone-fueled jerks at work. She wants women to beat them at their own game.
“When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women,” writes Sandberg. “When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less…The solution is making sure everyone is aware of the penalty women pay for success. Recently at Facebook, a manager received feedback that a woman who reported to him was ‘too aggressive.’ Before including this in her review, he decided to dig deeper. He went back to the people who gave the feedback and asked what aggressive actions she had taken. After they answered, he asked point-blank, ‘If a man had done those same things, would you have considered him too aggressive?’ They each said no. By showing both men and women how female colleagues are held to different standards, we can start changing attitudes today.”
Man, I sure wouldn’t want to work at Facebook. It’s a lot more fun to work in an organization where no one – men or women – comes on too strong. Where people work as a team.
“Lean In” fails because Sandberg wants to accelerate the “race to the bottom” behavior that has become standard in American business and politics. She is not the solution to a problem.
She is a problem.
What we need to do is create a society in which everyone – men and women, gays and straights, whites and blacks, and so on – enjoys equal access to the good things in life. Whether like me you have concluded that capitalism, the idea that we are all created unequal, is evil and irredeemable, or you’d prefer to reform the system to make it more humane, replacing male assholes with female assholes gets us nowhere.
Rather than tell American women (or men) what to do, Sandberg would do better to consider her own role in making the United States a worse place to live.
She’s worse than a garden-variety “an unapologetic capitalist.” The virtual antithesis of Google’s “don’t be evil,” the company where she works has become one of the most culturally and economically destructive businesses in America by monetizing the death of a nation’s right to privacy. (This is worth, by one calculation, about $130 per user.) Facebook is so unaccountable that it doesn’t even provide a phone number for customer service. Now it’s emulating the reprehensible Arianna Huffington, attempting to accelerate the aggregation of what’s left of journalism outlets so essential to the health of civic life and democracy with its latest redesign of its News Feed.
Facebook is the face of the New Economy. It sucks $5 billion a year out of the U.S. economy, yet it puts almost nothing back in. It employs fewer than 4,000 Americans. (By way of comparison, GM—which generates less than twice as much as Facebook—employs more than 200,000 workers.)
Even if Sandberg is successful with her Lean In Circles, she will have accomplished the same thing as Facebook. She will have made a tiny privileged of elites richer—and 99% of America poorer.
(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)
COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL
The bottom 99% of wage earners in the United States lost 0.4% of their income between 2009 and 2011. The top 1% gained 11.2%. So the one percent grabbed 121% of the income gains from the so-called recovery. Can America afford much more recovery like this?
Burger King at the airport is like Burger King minus the full menu. TCBY express is like TCBY but less so. Similarly, the United States under austerity is an institution that never offered many services in the first place and is now even worse.
I am disgusted by a widely-publicized TV ad being aired by the Freedom to Marry Coalition, which is pushing for legalization of gay marriage.
“Freedom…that’s what I fought for as a marine,” says a young veteran who fought against the people of Iraq, using his warrior cred—and his Republicanism—to argue for the right of gays and lesbians to marry.
Personally, I’d rather that gays and lesbians lead the way to a better life for everybody—by urging straights to stop getting married and abandon the trap of monogamism, which causes untold misery and reinforces outmoded systems of patriarchy, hierarchy and capitalism. It is disturbing to watch homosexuals fight for the right for their own enslavement, much as it is sad to see women and gays struggle for the “right” to murder Iraqis, Afghans and other Muslims in their homelands by serving in the military.
Perhaps these arguments are too forward-looking.
But nobody should be OK with using the deaths of innocent Iraqis to promote gay rights.
Gay people are oppressed. So are Iraqis under U.S. occupation. Occupation by war criminals like the vet in this ad. How many Iraqis did he shoot at? Kill?
The people of Iraq need our support against the U.S. occupation. Oppressed peoples should support one another. This is a shameful ad.
Political cartooning has been around since ancient Rome and is more popular with readers than ever before. Now that print media is being replaced with online distribution channels, however, they’re being left behind—and content-based websites are missing the chance to exploit this powerful mix of words and pictures. Cartoonist, author, ex-newspaper syndicate executive and occasional comix war correspondent Ted Rall explains how cartoons—not just political cartoons—can bring more eyeballs to your website and can be directly monetized.
Intro – About Me
I have been living and breathing cartooning my entire life. I started out with political cartoons, and that’s still my main gig, but I’m also a graphic novelist, illustrator, comics editor, commentator on the field of comics, and long-form comics journalist.
I have watched my world change.
I turned 50 years old this year, and when I was a kid, comics were everywhere. They were a huge business. The typical newspaper ran many pages of comics, which took off in newspapers 100 years ago under the sponsorship of the papers owned by William Randolph Hearst. Hearst knew comics brought in lots of readers. As a result, cartoonists became staggeringly rich. Milton Caniff, Al Capp and Charles Schulz were multi-millionaires. In fact, Charles Schulz is the nation’s second-richest dead person; his estate still brings in $28 million annually. To be admitted into the National Cartoonists Society during the 1950s, to be considered a professional, you had to be syndicated in at least 750 newspapers. Today, that’s the rough equivalent of netting $4 million per year – and that didn’t include merchandise or books. Now it’s unusual for any cartoonist to have more than 30 papers – net income about $20,000. By the year 2000, the average paper carried 26 daily comic strips and 5 gag panels (one panels, like The Far Side). Now it’s closer to 10 strips and 1 panel. The best cartoonists and potential cartoonists are quitting, or never going into cartooning in the first place.
Cartoons were, according to carefully-guarded internal surveys, often the first and in some cases the only thing that got read in the paper. Every newspaper employed a full-time staff editorial cartoonist, sometimes two or three. As of the late 1940s, mainstream papers like the New York Times had four full-time staff political cartoonists. Cartoons often appeared on the front page. Magazines like the Saturday Evening Post – long before my time – made a lot of money running cartoons. Collections of newspaper comics were often number-one bestsellers – this was mainly because comics were sold at the front of the store by the cash register. They were impulse purchases. Today you can’t even find them because they’re in the so-called “humor ghetto” in the back of the store on the second floor by the men’s room. Spine out.
During my life I have seen newspaper comics savaged by the death spiral of print media, comic books go from mass-market products that were sold in every gas station in America to a niche item sold in comic shops frequented by the pathetic and the fascinatingly obese. Political cartoons have been virtually eliminated to the point that today there are fewer than 10 truly viable full-time editorial cartoonists in the United States with a discernible future. (There were at least 600 when I was a kid.)
There have never been as many cartoons online, or as many readers – but the quality level is very low. Many are basically just memes. Memes are basically cartoons – really shitty ones. Professionalism is all but gone. So we’ve forgotten how good – and how powerful – comics can be.
Cartoons go back, well, pretty much forever. The cave paintings at Lascaux were cartoons. There are obscene depictions of Roman officials – early political cartoons – on the walls at Pompeii. Print journalism is not going to die, but it is suffering a serious economic downturn due to the disruptive effect of the Internet, analogous to the way that radio suffered during the advent of TV – but remember, radio came back and is bigger than ever today. Similarly, print will never go away because it offers something that the Internet can’t. You can’t watch TV while you drive down the street, but you can listen to the radio; you can’t read your Kindle while the plane is taking off or about to land, but you can read anything you want on dead trees.
Not to mention, there is a big difference in reading retention. Studies have shown that we remember more of what we see and what we read in print than we do on a screen. But even if print were to go away – and there is no way that it will – comics would thrive online. Even today, barely 14 years into web 2.0, we see an emerging market in webcomics.
We have to define webcomics. Webcomics are not any different from newspaper comics. Webcomics are more of a sensibility than a medium. All comics are online, all comics attempt to sell merchandise, all comics attempt to engage directly with readers. “Webcomics” tend to be more of a slapdash affair than other comics, with lower standards of professionalism, zero barrier to entry, and tend to focus on niche markets of readers – videogame fans, sci-fi fans, in short, dork culture.
Which is fine. But brings me to¬—
The Death of Political Cartooning
Professional – i.e., high quality – editorial cartoonists haven’t been able to make the leap to the brave new world of online media. There are several reasons for this. First, we don’t have cute merchandisable recurring characters like Snoopy and Garfield.
Second, most political cartoonists have been stuck in the 1950s and 1960s, pretty much as lame as the political cartoon parodies in The Onion make them out to be. So they can’t relate to younger readers, i.e., those under 60. No one understands the old-fashioned metaphors: the Democrats as donkeys? Republicans as elephants? Uncle Sam? So cheesy. And what’s with those stupid labels?
Third, the culture of online gatekeepers – the editors and producers of websites like Salon, Slate, Atlantic Online and so on – is different from that of newspapers, magazines and other print media. Many online editors come out of coding and design culture, and/or the worlds of words, usually blogging. Sites like Huffington Post are designed as SEO bait: enticing headlines and carefully chosen keyword searches. For them, content isn’t king, but something that you have to put up with in order to get as many hits as possible in order to monetize them.
Now this is not a pity party. NPR has that market cornered. I’m not going to try to sell you on why graphic political satire is good for democracy, why it’s important to keep a uniquely American artistic tradition going, etc. Guilt is irrelevant. Money is relevant. Online magazines and blogs are leaving money on the table by excluding political cartoons from their mix.
To which you might ask –
How do you know?
First and foremost, we know that lots of other people – everyone but web magazines, blogs and apps – are making bank from comics. In 2012 the U.S. comic book industry made $330 million. Thanks to the 25 million e-comic books that were downloaded, the transition to digital was successful. Graphic novels generated $385 million. The five major comics syndication companies are private, so we don’t know their profits, but even with the current disruptions in the marketplace it’s a fair back-of-the-envelope guess to say that comics syndication generates about $50 million per year in revenues.
I know comics have unrealized potential because I’ve seen the internal data. I was editor of acquisitions and development at United Media, one of the big five syndicates that sells content to newspapers and magazines, between 2006 to 2009. When I was there, we ran extensive surveys comparing all the different types of content that that appeared at United’s website, comics.com. There were columns, feature articles, puzzles, comic strips, gag cartoons, serial cartoons, old cartoons, excerpts from books, animated cartoons, you name it. If it involved humor and/or prose, we had it and we compared it. We had content by big names, little names and everything in between.
And we found out some interesting things.
First, we learned that edgy content always has a higher chance of going viral and tracked higher and gained more reader loyalty than bland content. You could see right there why print media was in trouble, and it didn’t have anything to do with the Internet. (After all, circulation has been declining since the 1960s.) Some of the biggest names in comics, features with over 1000 clients, didn’t have any traction or audience online. People just didn’t care about them. Their audiences were wide but shallow. On the other hand, some of the wildest and craziest comic strips, things that editors of newspapers thought were too hip or too trendy to run, were consistently drawing huge numbers. Brooke McEldowney, did two strips, 9 Chickweed Lane and Pibgorn, that barely made a dent into papers. But they were weird and kind of dirty in a dirty-old-man kinda way, and his dirty old man readers would follow him anywhere.
Another really interesting take-away from my time at United was that political content tracked very high. This surprised us. Traditionally, political cartoons have always been the ugly stepsisters of the newspaper business. Comic strips were where the money was. In fact, a lot of editorial cartoonists, starting with Jeff MacNelly and Shoe, started drawing comic strips on the side in order to pay their bills.
But on the Internet it’s very different. We’ve seen memes go viral. But that’s just the beginning. The sweet spot, it turns out, is a political cartoon by a professional cartoonist, one whose brand/personality becomes known and thus part of the product, that responds to current events and does so quickly and using aggressive, edgy humor. Not only that, this kind of humor lends itself spectacularly well to mobile devices. Think about it: a big news story breaks right now. Within hours a funny, simple, trenchant cartoon about the event is shot out over social networks and other distribution channels. It’s easy to imagine everybody forwarding it to their friends.
Now before we go on, I need to explain the different types of cartoons. All of which can make you money.
Political cartoons comment about politicians, political trends, social commentary, etc. If it’s on CNN or MSNBC or FoxNews, it’s something that a political cartoon might be interested in.
Graphic novels include both fiction and nonfiction, biography and autobiography, serious and inane. It’s a fancy term for really really big, usually perfect-bound, comic books. Often drawn by someone little bit more intelligent and a little hipper than the usual superhero comics.
Comics journalism is a new form. It’s where the cartoonist covers a story just like any other reporter word, but instead of just writing about it, he or she draws cartoons about it. Joe Sacco pioneered the form with books like Palestine and Safe Area Goradzne. My best-known book of comics journalism is called To Afghanistan and Back, the result of my 2001 trip to Afghanistan. I’ve got another one coming out this fall.
Newspaper comics include both strips and panels, although there are a lot more strips.
Webcomics are basically in the same format as newspaper comics, but make no attempt to appear in print and tend to be directed toward a different, more niche audience. Format is usually a strip rather than a panel, and they are as likely to be in serial continuity format – in other words, a continuing story – than a stand-alone piece.
Gag cartoons are single panel cartoons of the type that appear in the New Yorker.
Animated cartoons are cartoons that move. There are a lot of these on the web, although they haven’t really taken off for political cartoonists because of the reasons that we talked about before – editors and producers haven’t given them a chance.
Now me tell you about the money.
When blogs and other websites give cartoons good placement – when they give good cartoons good placement – they tend to do very well. Unfortunately, a lot of websites don’t know what they’re doing.
For example, I used to edit a cartoon roundup – a selection of the so-called best political cartoons of the week – for the Daily Beast, Tina Brown’s online magazine. When she ran it on Fridays above the so-called invisible fold – the bottom of the screen, not requiring anyone to scroll down – readership kept going up. Tina was so happy with the cartoon round-up that she came up with a stupid idea – using it to draw readers to places and times where they didn’t normally go. Her reasoning was that they would supposedly draw new readers, that readers would follow them. But that’s not how the Internet works. She moved them to Saturday, the slowest day of the week online, and then moved them below the invisible fold. It got to the point where they were so hard to find that I had to search for them myself. Then the numbers tumbled. She canceled the feature.
The liberal political blog Daily Kos, on the other hand, knows what it’s doing. They have a similar feature, and they play it up on their front page. And the numbers are great. They make so much money that they are even able to pay the cartoonists a respectable wage out of it. Which gives them a lot of credibility in the Democratic community.
So how do you make money with cartoons?
You can buy the right to use syndicated material for a song. In other words, you find cartoonists who are already producing cartoons, and pay them for the right to use those cartoons on your site.
Or you can commission original work. Obviously this is more expensive. However, you can see the advantage. If you have a website dedicated to a niche audience, you can enthrall them with comics they won’t find anywhere else about the stuff that they care about most. This is no different than what you would do with plain old words, except that people notice words less than they notice cartoons. Pictures attract readers. You can sell more ads. But that’s only the beginning.
If you have a personal relationship with a cartoonist, in other words, you are commissioning original work from a professional, high-quality cartoonist whose work is so engaging that it brings a lot of readers, you can sell merchandise, such as book collections of their work, through your site and share the proceeds. You can sponsor public presentations with the cartoonist – people love to watch cartoonists talk about and show their work – and sell tickets to see them. I have had as many as 1000 people pay $20 each to come and see me. Okay, that’s unusual, but it’s not at all unreasonable to have 200 people willing to pay that kind of money. And I’m not a superstar.
If you’re really ambitious, you can hire a cartoonist to produce “work for hire” – cartoons and characters that you either own in part or in whole. To get a good cartoonist to do this kind of thing – I do it for MAD Magazine – you have to pay well, maybe hire them full-time and include benefits. Why not? You hire writers, and they can’t possibly generate as much revenue as a cartoonist. Anyway, if you go the work-for-hire route, you can make millions by selling the movie rights. Hollywood is way crazy for the rights to graphic novels.
You can also use cartoons to draw attention to your existing features that might be performing OK but could do better. For example, if you have a columnist who is great but not generating enough page views, you could add a cartoon to the same page that will bring people to the column. Hopefully the content will be related so that the cartoon will be sticky in terms of bringing support to the writer. It’s all interrelated.
All we are talking about here is reinventing the old-fashioned profitable newspaper model of the mid-20th century. It was typical back then, when newspapers knew what they were doing because they were run by intelligent people, to run illustrations including caricatures and cartoons of all kinds – by the way, they do this in India today and they make lots of money doing it – to pair up words and drawings so that one draws attention to the other – no pun intended. In the Times of India, the biggest mass circulation English-language newspaper on earth, they hire cartoonists to illustrate news stories. How did the van accident happen? Let’s draw the screams of the dying motorists! The Taiwanese studio Next Media Animation has made a splash with animations about events like Tiger Woods’ spat with his angry wife. They’re only scratching the surface.
Finally, we need something invented. I don’t understand why it doesn’t exist yet. Surely someone here can put together a hackathon?
What we need is an ad-supported package for forwarding content around the Internet via email and SMS. Think about what happens now. Let’s say you read an article at NYTimes.com you think is interesting. Even if you are an online subscriber, that’s where the income to the New York Times begins and ends – $35 per month. A buck a day. For coverage that their reporters literally get kidnapped and killed over. Pathetic.
If you forward that article to 10 friends, and they each send it out to 10 friends and those send them out to 10 friends and so on and so on, the piece goes out to millions of people. Millions! But the New York Times never sees a single penny beyond that dollar a day.
That’s because their stuff goes out as a simple email. That’s insane! Those emails should be individually monetized.
By the way, we are talking about any kind of intellectual property that you want to see go viral. Not just newspapers. What we’re talking about is a frame with advertising embedded that is verifiable and auditable by advertisers. We should be able to determine how many people received that embeddable framed content, how many people saw it as it was repeatedly forwarded. And obviously how many people clicked on the accompanying ads. The Onion gets 7.5 million uniques a month. They can monetize that. But what about the millions of people who get the forwarded emails?
I understand why this isn’t standard.
Now imagine adding a cartoon, a political cartoon or something else, to your web magazine, blog, app, whatever. Someone likes it, forwards it, and it goes viral. You can sell those 20 million views, the ones that you never would’ve been able to monetize otherwise.
Let me leave you with a big fucking “Duh.”
The Web is a visual medium. Words plus pictures. You already know graphic interface is important. You wouldn’t create a website without photos. Well, then, why wouldn’t you have cartoons too?
I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).
This week: The California state Republican Party has been declared dead and gone. Why? According to a Democratic political consultant, the state GOP is too white, to write, and too uptight. What if the party were to take the advice and straighten up in order to appeal to more voters In an increasingly liberal state?
Years back, George Carlin had a singularly perfect bit about “shell shock” becoming “battle fatigue” becoming “operational exhaustion” becoming “post-traumatic stress disorder.” Carlin was arguing a point that has been made multiple times: how you think affects what you think. That war is terrible and destroys the people it touches is morphed gradually into the standard operating procedure being that a wellness specialist provides positive incremental feedback to help you self-actualize a post-incident readjustment. (Translation: a handful of prescriptions and a psychologist will, somehow, magically make you okay with how you now have to learn to wipe your ass with the metal hooks that replaced your hands when they got blown off while you were fighting the war to make Dubya’s father’s friends even richer. And if you complain? You will be humored and taught/conditioned to not complain out loud. Why? Because complaining is what losers do. Complaining is what quitters do. And complaining is how every single revolution ever got started.)
Bill Hick, a comedian who died much too young, made a similar observation about how Debbie Gibson writes all her songs: “Yeah, she writes all her own songs about her own real life experiences. [W]hat’s the next one called? ‘Mom, why am I bleeding?’ When did we start listening to pre-pubescent white girls? [...] We have at our fingertips the greatest minds of all time, the knowledge and history of the greatest thinkers of all fucking time, but no, what’s that little white girl saying? Let’s go put Debbie Gibson’s thoughts on compact disc so they’ll never be destroyed.”
I saw the Carlin-Hicks offspring last night (or the night before) in an ABC News item about the effect of the Sequester.
First, see how it’s called “the Sequester”? (Ted may have covered this already.) It’s a frickin’ budget cut. So why call it “the Sequester”? Because that sounds better. When someone says “sequester” you think of one of two things — a jury being put in a room to decide a legal case or carbon dioxide being pumped into the bottom of the ocean. Sequester carries a flavor of gravitas, of a rational, prudent step being taken to resolve something. Budget cut carries a flavor of failure. And this time, there’s enough blame to go around for everyone on all three sides (Rep., Dem., and Journ.). So everyone’s calling it Sequester.
Second, the ABC News piece shows the culmination of the Carlin-Hicks hypothesis. The piece had the cutesy widdle part about how pwecious middle schoolers weren’t able to go on tours of the White House because those tours were cancelled as part of the Sequester. And there were clips of the semi-articulate children reciting what they’d memorized ahead of time (see Debbie Gibson). They’d even made some adowable signs about how the “White House is our house.” (I guess the cards that read, “Mom, why am I bleeding?” and “Why am I getting hair in my armpits” weren’t ready.)
At one point, the reporter (Jonathan Karl, IIRC) mentioned that the film crew had just happened to run into John Boehner while they were filming a segment of the report, so they went to a film clip of Boehner mouthing some inanities. They “just happened” to run into him. So, were they originally going to air this report without ANY senior officials? Just gonna run with the kids, huh? That’s Carlin-Hicks for you.
Even though the ABC News piece actually criticized the president — they pointed out that he was going to a restaurant six blocks from the White House, which meant a full Secret Service contingent, which meant a big price tag — they sandwiched the criticism in cutesy, so it lost its impact. But that’s what the news does now. Lots of simpering and a slight trace of mirth in the voice at all times. (Sidebar: I propose a new drinking game: Every time Diane Sawyer seems mildly amused, take a drink. Every time she leans forward as if the teleprompter font is too small to make out, take a drink. You’ll want to switch arms every few seconds or one bicep will become noticeably larger than the other.)
But that’s how you do it: soften everything, make it all look rose-colored and moist-eyed and cute, and everything goes down nice and smooth. All that’s missing is a basket of puppies on the news desk while they read the 30 second report on drone attacks.
Automatic budget cuts known as the Sequester mean that the government will no longer be able to afford, for example, as many killer drone attacks.
About this, anyway.
An op-ed in the New York Times tries to gin up hysteria: terrorists can buy guns!
The logic is, um, not flawless:
Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, has reintroduced a worthy measure to close this “terror gap”— eight years after his initial attempt failed. It would give the Attorney General authority to stop a firearm or explosive sale when a background check reveals the buyer is a known or suspected terrorist who the Attorney General reasonably believes may be planning mayhem. The National Rifle Association opposed the measure in the past because the terrorist watch list has been shown to contain errors. That’s hardly a justification for extending carte blanche to terrorist suspects.
Actually, it is.
I don’t give two shits who the AG thinks might be planning terror shenanigans.
Gun ownership is a constitutional right, and constitutional rights don’t vanish – or shouldn’t, anyway – on the say-so of some political hack like Eric Holder. There shouldn’t even be a terrorist watch list in a country where we are considered not guilty until proven otherwise by a court of law.
The New York Times: the gift that keeps on giving.
Yesterday I reminded you of the paper’s nauseating role in the 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chávez. Naturally they whitewashed this from their coverage of his death.
Today they editorialized this hilarious nugget:
“The Bush administration badly damaged Washington’s reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. Chávez. The United States should now make clear its support for democratic and civilian transition.”
Um, what?!? The Paper of Record pretends there is no record. So which Times do we believe: the fascist pro-coup rag, or the lofty pro-democracy journal?
In a Two-Party System, the Loser is Us
Stalin called bourgeois parties “the dancing bears of social democracy.” Toothless and undignified distractions, these non-movements personify the function of electoral politics—to channel the energies of the oppressed into bullshit discussions about trivia and inanities.
Uncle Joe’s hilariously inelegant phrase comes to mind these days as the corporate pundit class prattles on and on about the supposed current crise de coeur of the GOP. How, everybody is asking (if, by everybody, you mean a coupla dozen writers), can the Republican Party maintain its relevance?
Like that grammatical atrocity The Sequester (it’s a budget cut), the Republicans-could-go-extinct meme is a crisis so manufactured it hardly exists. The Party of Hoover still controls the House of Representatives. They hold us 27 state legislatures and 30 governors mansions.
You could even argue that they have the Democratic Party. The Dems of yore, after all, were big-spending liberals standing up for the little guy. FDR and LBJ wouldn’t recognize guys like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, more worried about deficits, sucking up more to bankers and ignoring the plight of the poor and oppressed than so-called conservatives, as members of their party.
All this handwringing over the alleged danger that the GOP could fade into irrelevance—that’s mediaspeak for losing more elections—ignores the fact that Barack Obama only defeated Mitt Romney, a bizarre human being and an awful candidate—by a few percentage points. Republicans lost a few seats in the House and a pair in the Senate, but things basically remained unchanged. Not bad for a party that failed to present any new ideas beyond the usual gays suck, government should be small when the other party is in charge, and one of these days, just you wait and see, the rich really will spend some of those tax cuts here in the States.
The argument that Republicans need to reinvent themselves boils down to two factors, the first shoulder-shruggingly silly: given what a terrible job Obama did with the economy during his first term, the Republicans should have done better. No one was closer to summing this up than The New York Times the morning after Electorapocalypse 2012: “After four years in which the jobless rate never dipped below 7.8 percent, with millions of Americans still unemployed or underemployed and median household income falling, Republicans still failed to unseat President Obama and, for the second election in a row, fell short in their efforts to win control of a Senate that seemed within reach.”
A lack of crushing victory does not a defeat make.
The Paper of Record, Wednesday-morning quarterbacking elections a decade or two earlier, was evidently astonished by voters’ refusal to maintain its previous practice of punishing the incumbent party for a bad economy by rewarding an opposition that offers nothing better.
The worry that Republicans really should focus on is demographics: an influx of immigration, especially by Latinos alienated by decades GOP race-baiting on illegal immigration, coupled with a seemingly long term trend among young adults toward increased liberalism on social issues like gay marriage—young adults who will of course become the older adults of the future.
“The question now facing Republicans,” Brian Montopoli of CBS News wrote in November, “is whether they shift toward the middle or instead try to appeal to growing demographic groups while staying planted firmly on the right side of the political spectrum.”
George Skelton of The Los Angeles Times quotes a “veteran political consultant” who explains why California’s GOP is pretty much doomed: “Too white, too right and too uptight,” says the consultant, a Democrat. “That’s why the Republican Party can’t come back in California.”
A cogent and witty summary. And many conservatives seem to agree. The problem for them, as it was with Romney’s failure to make the case that he couldn’t fix the economy, is that all the proposed solutions are so lame that they’re hardly worth trying.
Karl Rove, “Bush’s architect” whose crazy right-wing politics now seem positively liberal compared to the even crazier, further-right Tea Party-dominated GOP, addressed delegates to the California state Republican convention last week, making the case for tokenism: “We need to be asking for votes in the most powerful way possible, which is to have people asking for the vote who are comfortable and look like and sound like the people that we’re asking for the vote from.” In other words, Marco Rubio. Which is Spanglish for Condoleezza Rice/Colin Powell. Sorry, but minorities have become too sophisticated for that. They want candidates who stand up for them, not just those whose skin tone matches theirs on the RGB chart.
In his pamphlet “Go For the Heart: How Republicans Can Win,” David Horowitz, whose politics blend classic 1930s fascism with Reagan at his welfare-queen filthiest, argues that the Republican victories of the future rely on a combination of hope and fear, making voters feel that Republicans care about them and that liberals want to enslave them in some imaginary nanny state. The trouble is that neither argument stands a chance of getting off the ground given decades of GOP propaganda. If Republican leaders have been successful at anything, it’s that convincing Americans that, not only do they not care about them, Americans don’t deserve to be cared about, and indeed anyone who does care is evil. As the tacit support for Obama’s flawed healthcare reform plan demonstrates, however, people really do want the government to care about them, at least to some extent. If anything, they’d like a little more nannying (in the form of a public option).
Many conservatives suggest downplaying the GOP’s stands on social issues because they aren’t popular. Some say they should be changed entirely. Others imagine a mishmash of social liberalism or at least libertarianism and fiscal conservatism.
The real reason that all of this is interesting is that it reveals the muddleheaded mess that characterizes political thought at this, a crucial juncture in the late final crisis of late stage capitalism in America. A successful political party, whether a genuine movement or a dancing bear of bourgeois electoral democracy, requires a consistent and coherent ideology. It isn’t enough to cobble together a laundry list of poll-tested positions on issues past and present. You have to put forth a way of thinking about the world that allows anyone to predict with a high degree of accuracy how your party would respond to the problems, challenges and controversies of the future, to events that are completely impossible to imagine today.
The Republicans aren’t anywhere close to achieving a coherent—much less popularly appealing—ideology.
On the other hand, neither are the Democrats.
(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)
COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL
When news of Hugo Chávez’s death broke yesterday, I wondered whether the Paper of Record would ignore its own disgusting record on Venezuela in its coverage. Alas, I was not disappointed.
In April 2002, when coup plotters briefly overthrew the democratically-elected president and kidnapped him to a remote island in the Caribbean – with the consent and backing of the White House – the Times jumped aboard the coup wagon. Not only was there an official editorial endorsing the coup, there was even a breathless profile of Pedro Carmona, a “Man in the News” in Times parlance, the coup leader/figurehead/who knows, full of details the Times could only have gotten in advance from one source: their chums in Langley, with whom they have a well-established and very cozy relationship.
Today the Times had nothing to say about its own role in the 2002 coup.
Um..Mr. Public Editor?
According to a new Pentagon study, drone operators suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome at the same rate as real soldiers who fight in, you know, combat.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejects a lawsuit against the government’s secret spying program against Americans because its victims can’t prove they’re being spied upon…because it’s secret.
Just started it…why should Bill Day get all the cash from the Internet? $42,000!!!!!