Friday, November 19, 2004

Popular websites drop Ted Rall because of public response to his 'special needs' cartoon -
The coordinated protests against Ted Rall's recent cartoon, drawing an analogy between the conservative movement's impact in the current political science and the mainstreaming of students with developmental disabilities have resulted in at two national media outlets dropping his work from their offerings - and Discussion of the cartoon has mushroomed in the world of Internet discussion lists and blogs. See description of the cartoon from the discussion list DS-HUM (Disability Studies in the Humanities.

I am not sure I agree with the action to drop Ted Rall's feature because he as used this touchy public issue to draw an analogy about the contemporary political scene. The cartoon was always intended to be a satire of political discourse across the liberal - conservative divide. The depiction of the young student with developmental disabilities as inarticulate and 'loathsome' is true to the response of some students (but more typically the adults who are the liberals in Ted Rall's allegorical framework) who were previously segregated or unexposed to the perspectives of people with disabilities. If the cartoon were drawn by somebody who is a recognized member of the disability community, such as John Callahan, then the public response to unattractive representations of disability would have been completely different.

When you combine the censoring of Ted Rall's political cartoons on mainstream news websites with the noted preference of people with disabilities for George W. Bush in the recent election, the actions of the Washington Post and the New York Times to send a chilling message about what is an acceptable use of disability in contemporary political discourse: only positive, 'uplifting' depictions need apply. Rall's cartoons do stir emotions, but one wonders if the same collective angst might be better be channeled towards full funding of No Child Left Behind? Why not? - because Ted Rall does not find enough mainstream defenders. He is a radical leftist (or a radical who finds himself slightly left of center on the political spectrum) and a polemicist -- opposition to his perspectives will find broad support in the context of post-election recriminations and the rush toward the political center. Cross-disability cohesion on touchy topics like No Child Left Behind is much more difficult to construct.

Dave Astor, " Drops Ted Rall's Cartoons," Editor & Publisher: America's Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry, November 18, 2004.

Ted Rall's Second Response to his Critics - Tuesday, November 16, 2004. This kind of public statement, posted to his blog, is certainly not what Ted Rall's critics were looking for. He's built his career, and can't easily change what he is - a proud, blue state cultural elitist.

from Ted Rall's blog,

More on Last Week's Toon - A write-in campaign by advocates for the disabled (they took offense at last week's cartoon in which I compared the results of the presidential election--wherein a bunch of uninformed morons in the red states demonstrated their ability to get their way at the expense of people who actually pay attention to current events) continues One of the hazards of this profession is that it requires fearlessness mixed with perfection. Draw 200 cartoons a year that people enjoy and you'll get few if any thanks. Certainly no one conducts a write-in campaign of praise. Draw 1 that goes astray--intentionally or otherwise--and everybody calls for your head. No wonder so many cartoonists don't take risks in their approach or in their politics. People are negative; they only react negatively. When I wrote earlier that I intended to research the subject of mainstreaming in the public schools--now called "inclusion." I will. But I'm confused. If your goal was to educate me, to convince me that I was wrong to depict disabled children the way I did with a view towards (presumably) gaining an ally in the media...why try to censor me? If I had to draw that cartoon again, I'd take a different tack. I regret hurting people who I have nothing against. I do want to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,
and I think I failed in that with this cartoon. Not to mention that the cartoon failed--too many people got bogged down in the analogy and the main point got lost. No one bats 1.000. I sure don't.

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