Sunday, December 8, 2013

Off the Ralls

The "leftist" cartoonist Ted Rall may at last have hit bottom in a drawing castigating the late Nelson Mandela for his inexplicable failure, during his four years as president of South Africa, to chase off the World Bank and eliminate inequality, run in what is now his practice with a lengthy self-justifying explanatory gloss (which explains Mandela's failure in terms of how he was just like those toadies Gandhi and King instead of—wait for it—Malcolm X; because Malcolm totally eliminated inequality in—oh wait, he didn't, he just died, gunned down, after adopting a more Gandhi-like set of principles, but never mind). I sent a comment on its appearance at the Sulia website (you can check out the link):
He obviously hadn't actually looked at the comment and I didn't have the heart to try to tell him a second time, but he's wrong there. It's not the audience's fault he has to tack [jump]
these interpretations onto his cartoons; the cartoons in themselves are no good. And not just because they're politically incorrect, although there's a connection there, because political incorrectness is just insensitivity, and insensitivity makes bad art. The thought behind them is slack and fatigued, not strong enough to hold the frame, so that it kind of spills out the bottom into a puddle of muddy prose. It's comment-thread abuse and repetition, sputtering indignation and unearned fear. It's trying to keep up with a set of young folks who are themselves in their forties and embarking on midlife crises. Ted Rall has become a fashion victim.

I really don't want to argue with Rall's thesis here, though I naturally do disagree with it. Not that South Africa has not basically been a one-party state over the past 20 years or that the World Bank doesn't have too much influence there, but that Mandela is somehow personally at fault, as if there were some well established recipe whereby politicians bring peace and freedom to this vale of tears (damn that President Chomsky, he just isn't trying). I just want to point out that like quite a number of Rall's other recent efforts this is not funny or wise, and to make a recommendation that applies to jokes of every kind: if you have to explain it, it's not a good one. Go back to the drawing board and stay there until you have one that works on its own.

Here's a cartoon that's worth at least a couple thousand words, from May 1995:

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