Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Stale, Simplistic & Just Not Funny"

"Exhibit B" by Matt Wuerker, Slate Magazine

Actually, to be fair, Slate's Technology columnist Farhad Manjoo is rather funny, just not the way he intended when he wrote a dismissive criticism of editorial comics. Focusing on the recent Pulitzer winning work of cartoonist Matt Wuerker, Manjoo exhibits symptoms of the culture-wide Attention Deficit Disorder that pervades on-line awareness - briefly attracted to bright, shiny objects that flitter across the computer monitor. Admitting that he doesn't even know what he is talking about ("I rarely look at political cartoons") Manjoo thinks that the Pulitzers should recognize crowdsourced infographics and listicles instead of editorial cartoons because, as a medium, cartooning is "backward" and "timeworn" relics from the age of print. One wonders when he will logically extend this criteria to include the use of words or even letters, and thus cease entirely any further publication of these myopic commentaries.

In a classic face-palm, he claims that cartooning suffers from a “static, space-constrained, caricaturist mind-set," and yet appears to base his entire argument on the observation that editorial cartoons don't ever appear on his mental radar because they aren't important or popular enough to get posted on his Facebook or Twitter feeds, and therefore aren't worth being taken seriously enough, at least for a Pulitzer. This digital navel-gazing is perfectly fine on its own, but basing a blithe rejection of an entire medium on one's personal obsession with ephemeral eye candy is circular
reasoning at its best, and more than a little solipsist. It reminds me of the time I once heard a young woman in a class discussion state that she just didn't bother to talk with anybody who doesn't have a computer with an internet connection, as they would be so uninformed of  current events and socially disconnected that their opinions wouldn't be worth her time. I mentioned that I knew of many folks in Alaska living without electricity or running water who in fact have more wisdom and a deeper perspective on what really matters in life than anything she could evidently offer.

The ensuing comment thread in Manjoo's article is worth perusing as well, as not unlike the iconic ape scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, opposing groups of opinions line up to screech at each other. Wuerker's own rebuttal, "A Picture is worth a Thousand Memes," makes the point with a couple panels that eloquently sum up an appropriately dignified response. At least a handful of major websites are now devoting prominent placement to the work of cartoonists, such as Boing Boing (Brain Rot and Tom the Dancing Bug) and Daily Kos, along with Politico.

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