Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

December 1, 2013

Ted Rall: "I Have Been Censored By Daily Kos"

There's a post here by the cartoonist Ted Rall about a site called Daily Kos sending him a note saying they would rescind his ability to post at the site -- which he was doing for free, and of his own volition -- because of their problems with his depiction of President Obama, which they feel is racist. Here's a Rall cartoon featuring the President.


I think that's a pretty standard depiction according to my memory of Rall's cartoons featuring the president.

I'm not sure there's a whole lot to say here. I wouldn't think for a second that Rall actively wants to portray the president as ape-like; that's just way too ugly to think anyone could operate that way. As Rall's friend Ruben Bolling points out here Rall depicts a lot of politicians as having less-than-human features that could be accused of simian tendencies and has a brutal, simple art style generally. Then again, I'm not sure what that proves except it provides a more forgiving content for Rall's intent. If it's the depiction that's the problem it can be a problem in one case out of six but still really be a problem; if it's the intent that's the problem then the context becomes crucial.

In the end, I'm unclear how Rall's intent is in question. Re-reading the letter Rall received, the letter-writer doesn't seem to be accusing him of intentional acts of perpetrating racist ideas; this person and whomever they represent is choosing not to allow Rall to post cartoons that encompass a recurring depiction he/they find troubling because of their racial implications. It's the art they seem to have a problem with, not Rall's intent, not Rall. At least that's how I read it. I'm also confused how their asking him to stop posting and then Rall making it public is on the Daily Kos people as something that will stain Rall's reputation in future google searches.

Could it be as Rall claims a politically motivated attack? I guess. I mean, most sites like traffic, but I suppose it's possible that a dissenting opinion like Rall's might be so unpleasant or in some ways upset the readers that they would ask him to change his depiction in the hopes that he'd quit rather than just directly bouncing him from the site. I'm having a hard time figuring out why a feint would be pursued instead of a direct ban, but I suppose it's possible.

I guess I stand to get called Rall's "enemy" for not jumping on board or whatever, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around this. I'm happy to run letters pointing out how I'm a dummy.

If I could recast the discussion, I'm much more interested in a site using reader-uploaded free content and then wanting an editorial say over that content on an interpretive issue. That seems really problematic in terms of running any kind of site, but I'm not one that pays much attention to political churn as sport, no matter how successful a site may be. Maybe this happens a lot in that world.
posted 1:55 am PST | Permalink

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