Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stay on Target: Fallacy Follies

One only has to skim the media for excellent examples of hyperbole in regards to Palin’s association with rhetoric being a lightening rod for criticism. What’s cynically amusing is not just the fallacy in reasoning on display (classic correlation equated with causation) but how effective editorial cartoons are in pushing buttons... and clouding rational thought.

Art by Steve Benson (2011 Arizona Republic/Creator's Syndicate)
By virtue of the fact that the work of Steve Benson, Pulitzer-winning cartoonist for the Arizona Republic, elicits such controversy and visceral reactions it's apparent that his skill speaks for itself, let alone the technical draftsmanship of his linework and graphic ability.
The panel posted above is one of a recent series which Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of - ironically enough - "Reason," (who espouses the belief that “editorial cartooning is the lowest of all art forms”) launched an all-out attack on Benson. While his style of critiquing reminded me of some of the pettiest, ignorant comments overheard in many a beginning drawing class, he in particular seemed to be resentful of somebody somehow assigning responsibility or blame for the Tuscon shooting with Sarah Palin.
The equating of one with the other isn’t the point: the sublime beauty of this is in how any such implications are a complete projection on the part of the reader, who brings to the image their own set of assumptions and bias. When a viewer makes the connection and connects the dots on their own that are laid out before them in a drawing, the association is much stronger, and the point made much more powerfully by the juxtaposition of issues and events. It also arouses the indignation of folks who obviously are a bit sensitive to any such suggestion of responsibility, and the guilt-by-association provokes a knee-jerk reaction evidenced by all the blowback.

“But we should still keep drawing people as cyborg-like gun-ladies of course because free speech is really important, especially when it's directed at hate-mongers who are really deep-down responsible for the actions of a insane lone gunman who had no connections whatsoever to them." - Gillespie
Similar sensitive sentiments cropped up from a concern troll on a related post over at Wickersham’s Conscience, which featured one of my panels as an illustration of the link between language and responsibility. Said cartoon was labeled as blaming, inflammatory, uncivil, a cheap hit, dirty pool, smear tactics, unfair etc., along with the usual demand for any evidence linking Palin with Gifford’s shooter, which unto itself ought to be exhibit “A” in seeing what you want to see. This disconnect is echoed in the statement that the attempted assassination of a politician at a political event somehow "isn't political," or even better, that shooting people somehow doesn't have anything to do with guns.

The sniping carries over into the comment threads on another related post on The Daily Cartoonist: again, it's great chum in the water, as the opinions for the most part consist of pen-pointing over charges of hypocrisy. Benson himself attempts to rally against other cartoonists who ought to know the difference between correlation/causation but fail to make the connection, and instead resort to painting him with the tiresome and predictable “hater” label. 
“Cartoonists go after political idiots because they deserve it, not because cartoonists supposedly have some kind of deep hatred of the idiots.” - Steve Benson

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