Jen Sorensen

A Moment Significant of Either Something Important or Nothing In Particular

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Lucifer', by Franz von Stuck, 1890.

There is this, from Jacob Hamburger for L.A. Review of Books

What exactly are the ideas that have made people like Weinstein, Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Christina Hoff Sommers into what a recent New York Times profile described as intellectual “renegades”? According to the Times writer Bari Weiss, most emphasize the biological differences between men and women, a feeling that free speech is “under siege,” and a fear that “identity politics” is a threat to the United States’s social fabric.

A listener of Harris’s podcast might add to the list a vociferous defense of the validity of genetic explanations for IQ differences between racial groups, a follower of Peterson’s videos might insist on the nefarious influence of “postmodern neo-Marxism” on college campuses, and a fan of Ben Shapiro might contribute a skepticism toward the reality of “transgenderism.”

The movement sees itself as an alliance that defies established political categories in order to defend these ideas against the creeping influence of thought control. This leads us to another important meaning of the term intellectual dark web, the suggestion that its ideas are not only controversial, but particularly innovative in our political moment. If the dark web arouses the anger of certain commentators in the media or the academy, it is for the same reasons that new technologies in the internet age are “disruptive.”

It would take a short memory, however, not to notice that these sorts of polemics over political correctness are anything but novel: they have been around for at least 30 years, ever since a strikingly similar set of media debates centered around college campuses took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Toward the end of the Reagan years, political correctness became a favorite bugbear of conservative intellectuals, who believed that college professors had latched onto illiberal or totalitarian notions of equality, and were indoctrinating their students with a subversive view of American society. Today’s “dark web” provocateurs rarely mention these predecessors, who not too long ago occupied a similar place in national media debates. Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 17 July 2018.But the comparison suggests that the “iconoclastic” ideas of these figures are actually a well-established institution in American discourse: an institution whose home is on the political right.

—and what stands out is that we really ought not be surprised. To the one, the general point is nothing new; to the other, what is the significance of this particular discussion getting this press at this time?

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Image note: Top — Detail of Lucifer, by Franz von Stuck, 1890.  Bottom — Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via The Nib, 17 July 2018.

Hamburger, Jacob. “The ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Is Nothing New”. Los Angeles Review of Books. 18 July 2018.

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A Reflection on an Echo of a Cartoon

Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via Daily Kos Comics, 3 January 2017.

To the one, winter is as winter does, and we should probably leave it at that. Nonetheless, a month later, Jen Sorensen’s point still echoes:

Hillary has certainly frustrated me at times over the years, but I came to admire her intelligence and poise over the course of this election cycle. Her performance at the debates with Trump was nothing short of heroic. She also ran on the most progressive Democratic platform ever, but since policy has become almost completely divorced from politics, she gets little credit for that. I could go on, but as my husband says, this was not so much an election as an exorcism, the culmination of a decades-long smear campaign by the right.

The term “political correctness” has been the cornerstone of conservative efforts to transform the ideas of civil rights and equality into something frivolous and stupid. The right loves plucking silly examples from obscure, powerless people and blowing them up into huge “culture war” issues that supposedly threaten the nation. “PC” is an insult that plays into their hands.

Along these same lines, “liberal elites”―long a Fox News favorite―is designed to shift attention away from the actual economic elites hoovering up the world’s wealth and resources, such as the Koch Brothers or Trump, and instead make one think of poodle-owning urbanites supposedly looking down their noses at everyone (while in reality voting to raise the minimum wage). It’s a frame, not a fact, and hides a deep anti-intellectual agenda.

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True (McDignity Mix)

Yes, there really is such a thing as “McTeacher Night”; I’ve seen one, before. And, yes, the fast food joint invites the students from a local school to come over and order food from their teachers.

Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via Daily Kos, 19 May 2016.To the one, there is an old slogan about the day the schools have the money they need and the Air Force needs to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber. It’s been around for a while; posters, bumper stickers, t-shirts―the whole nine yards. One wonders at the potential hullabaloo if we sent some military recruiters to do the same.

To the other, if you have ever witnessed one of these events, it might seem plainly evident why so many people back teachers in contract disputes. This really is asking too much of schoolteachers, yet they will put on their shining classroom smiles and face their students in good faith and the best possible spirit.

When it comes time to remind children to do whatever it takes to get the job done, perhaps we don’t often enough point to their teachers as examples because we are ashamed of what communities demand.

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Image note: Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via Daily Kos, 19 May 2016.

Not the Worst Thing Budweiser Has Ever Done, But Still

→ "Canned Patriotism: Uh-oh. Budweiser is changing its name to AMERICA for the summer. (Actually owned by foreign company.) How far we've fallen―from grand experiment to brand experiment." ← (Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via Daily Kos Comics, 24 May 2016.)It is my regret to advise that Jen Sorensen is actually not joking. Well, not about that part, at least, but what’s a cartoonist to do?

Sadly, though, no, it’s not a joke. InBev is actually doing this:

The America labels are only going on 12-ounce bottles and 12-ounce cans, said Nick Mills, general manager at the Baldwinsville brewery. Other sizes―such as 24- and 16-ounce cans―will be in patriotically-themed case boxes and packages, but will not be labeled as America.

“We do summer patriotic packages every year,” he said, noting past labels and artwork that featured the Stars and Stripes or the Statue of Liberty. “This one seems to be getting more attention.”

It has raised eyebrows from those who question the use of the word “America” by a brewer not based in the United States. A-B InBev was formed in 2008 when InBev, itself a merger of Belgian and Brazilian brewing interests, acquired Anheuser-Busch in a $50 billion takeover. A-B had been founded in 1876 in St. Louis, which remains its U.S. headquarters.

(Cazentre)

Certes, ’tis unspeakably crass, but let’s face it, this is hardly the worst thing “America’s Rape Brewery”™ has ever done. Generally speaking, Budweiser ought to be disqualified from being “America’s beer”.

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Image note Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via Daily Kos Comics, 24 May 2016

Cazentre, Don. “‘America’ rolls off the bottling line at Upstate NY’s Budweiser plant”. Syracuse.com. 25 May 2016.

Not Actually a Punch Line

Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via Daily Kos Comics, 26 May 2015.Even though it would make for a crass joke, there are days when we find ourselves wishing it was a punch line. The thing is that as setups go, Jen Sorensen’s explanation only goes downhill from there. And no, that’s not a complaint or disdainful critique of the cartoon; it’s a very good cartoon worth the click to read. Truth is stranger than fiction. You can’t make this sort of joke up. And, besides, you know. Americans. Conservatives. Family values. It’s not actually funny. She is describing a disaster; no matter how we tell it, the story only gets worse as it goes along.

This is a matter of priorities. We are the United States of America, and we damn well know what is important to us.

And this is how we show it.

(sigh)

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Sorensen, Jen. “Pro-life, Boko Haram style”. Daily Kos Comics. 26 May 2015.

A Peek Into the Latest Republican Tantrum

Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 24 February 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.Perhaps the whole brouhaha with Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) seems confusing; we would not blame anyone for wondering whence it comes. But, to the other, it does not arise ex nihilo.

Jen Sorensen offers a peek at the answer, and it really is about as stupid as you might imagine.

Really.

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Sorensen, Jen. “Punditspew, ISIS edition”. Daily Kos Comics. 24 February 2015.

Milbank, Dana. “Scott Walker’s cowardice should disqualify him”. The Washington Post. 20 February 2015.

An Ouroboros (Earth Home Mixup Mixtape Mix)

Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 17 February 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.Every once in a while, it pays to run the rhetoric to earth.

To wit, Jen Sorensen’s latest ‘toon might seem aimed at Republicans, especially if you just hang with the “not a scientist” detail we offer here. But it’s not really so direct a criticism of the GOP; where that sneaking suspicion comes from is the (ahem!) “accidental” coincidence between conservative rhetoric specifically and irresponsible rhetoric in general.

If Sorensen really wanted to make it about Republicans, the swimming pool frame would not be about biodegradation but, rather, blaming Democrats for the lack of undocumented immigrants to clean the damn pool.

Sure, it’s a little thing, but details matter.

And, certes, we would acknowledge a certain weakness of this sort of rhetoric. After all, the home is different from the world at large in the same way the family budget is different from the business budget is different from the government budget. Still, though, the only reason we put up with treating the world around us this way is because we don’t see it so directly. If all the waste we’ve dumped into the ocean was instead piled up in the streets, people would actually give a damn. Of course, they would just vote to dump it all in the ocean, which in turn leads us back ’round the ouroboros.

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Sorensen, Jen. “If people treated their homes like they treat the earth”. Daily Kos. 17 February 2015.

Pass/Fail

"TRUE OR FALSE: Objecting to certain police tactics is the same as hating all police officers."  (Jen Sorensen, 30 December 2014, via Daily Kos Comics)Remember how the cycle works.

It is a really simple idea: We would like to be able to support our law enforcement institutions and personnel.

This argument has been going on for a while; cartoonist Jen Sorensen asks an obvious question. Indeed, it is so obvious a question one need not wonder why the public discourse flees it in screaming terror.

So here’s the thing: When an ugly episode arises involving law enforcement, we are reminded that these episodes come about because of a proverbial few bad seeds. Yet these few seem rather quite protected by other police traditions that require the participation of the rest of those allegedly good officers. Didn’t see a thing, or the guy was definitely reaching for a gun, or what, do you want a guilty person to go free just because of a technicality?

But that is just a fallacy, a fundamentally dishonest reaction. It always seems to come down to an all-or-nothing proposition put before us by police supporters.

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Our Best Wishes for the Happiest of Genocide Days

Easter in the nation's capital was a dark and gloomy day with a chill breeze blowing, but U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.

In honor of our American Feast of the Genocide, how about some thematically-related cartoons?

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 28 November 2014.Adam Huber leads off, giving thanks to the internet that he might post tomorrow’s cartoon today, that in turn he might spend tomorrow either hung over or tryptocomatose.

Lalo Alcaraz, like many others, reflects on the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

• Speaking of true meanings, Adam Huber took a shot at it earlier this week.

• Or maybe Brian McFadden puts forward a more appropriate reflection on the true meaning of “Thanksgiving Day”.

―No, really. Steve Benen offered a vignette earlier this week explaining one of the great political controversies surrounding the idea of “Thanksgiving Day” that is worth the two minutes it takes the average literate American to read. It is also where we got the photo of FDR on Easter. Go figure; go fish.

Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 25 November 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.Jen Sorensen attempts to summarize the crazy, tinfoil relative who reminds us why we need to keep the fact of attempted genocide in mind as a fundamental component of our Thanksgiving Day rituals.

Reuben Bolling offers a glimpse at Genocide Day Thanksgiving Day in Chagrin Falls.

• #TBT the time Adam Huber won the Genocide Day Cartoon Parade by starting in April.

In re the above, to the one we promise that is the last of the Huber cartoons for today. Prolific about genocide? Genocide-prolific? Can we just go with genolific? At any rate, our apologies for this post in general; we’ve known it was coming for months, having filed this cartoon away for this year’s celebration.

• We might note that Matt Tarpley managed an actual feelgood cartoon in honor of “Thanksgiving Day”. It is also worth pointing out that apparently Death closes his eyes when swinging. And yet, Death bats a thousand.

• Not to disparage the fine artists above, but Zach Weiner deserves some sort of award for skipping the holiday edition altogether. Thus, a cartoon from earlier this week that reminds us to give thanks for consumerism, undereducation, and paranoia, which really are the thematic components of what we Americans make of this day.

And while the wannabe patriots and pragmatists might moan about how people just won’t forget history and celebrate the glorious triumph of all that came after the attempted genocide, it is equally appropriate to remind them to go screw and give thanks that nobody is trading them death blankets as an act of biological warfare disguised in alleged commerce.

Otherwise, give thanks like you would for any other day, that we are still here and get to experience it, and perhaps take a moment to wonder why we put ourselves through this ritual that nobody seems to like, since we’re always muttering about the Turkey Pardon, the banality of parades, fretting over how to get the best Black Friday deals (Hint: Do your shopping last Monday, at least until next year when the new statistics show us which day actually has the best prices), or complaining that anyone would spend this miserable day of family gatherings—over tasteless ritual food and football games that more often than not have nothing to do with your favorite team—getting drunk.

But make sure to raise a wrist for genocide.

A Shot in the Somethin’

Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 12 May 2014.

“I think it’s partly [suspicion of authority], but I also think it exposes something about liberal politics. It exposes the libertarian vein that can run through liberal politics. This is an issue where you see people who call themselves liberal and say that they’re concerned with social justice joining the same movement as people who are actually libertarians and more on the far right side of things or part of the Christian right.

“I think it has less to do with the suspicion of experts than it has to do with this thing that we treasure and nurture in America, individualism, which can actually be quite damaging if it’s taken to political extremes. And we can see it both on the right and the left.”

Eula Bliss

Here is a hint to any parent who might well be caught up in the process of trying to convince a coparent that skipping vaccinations is a bad idea: If you’re the parent who takes the kids to the doctor, just get them the freakin’ vaccinations.

The RumpusThat’s what we did. And, sure, there was some back and forth in there about who ever objected—as if I, for some reason, would—but surely enough it came up again from familiar quarters, this time repeating the vapid Michele Bachmann line—you know, the one about cognitive disabilities so ridiculous that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement to make the point?

Right. So, yeah. If the coparent wants to show up and pitch a fit in front of the doctor, she is welcome to do so. Other than that, it’s pretty straightforward. To the other, I doubt she would actually go so far as to show up at the doctor’s office and pitch a fit. After all, nobody likes being laughed out of the room. And, besides, it would require actually showing up at the doctor’s office.

Not everyone is gifted with such disposable tinfoil, but there are likely more than we might otherwise guess.

And for those, yes, subterfuge by omission is completely acceptable, because when it comes to harming your children, the fact that the other parent is a parent only matters so much.

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Koven, Suzanne. “The Big Idea #10: Eula Bliss”. The Rumpus. 17 November 2014.

Drobnic Holan, Angie and Louis Jacobson. “Michele Bachmann says HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation”. PolitiFact. 16 September 2011.

Burton, O. Marion. “American Academy of Pediatrics Statement on HPV Vaccine”. American Academy of Pediatrics. 13 September 2014.