So the elections are less than a week away and the critical factor in this year's election is that, while elections generally hinge on voter turnout, off-year elections are particularly turnout-dependent and we're not even pretending to do anything more than get our people to vote and keep your people from being able to vote.
Ebola is neither a threat nor a crisis, but, as Mike Keefe notes, stoking fear is a strategy, and, as David Sipress says, it's more important to appeal to voters than to create sensible policies. It's a lovely moment when two factors come together right before an election.
And the best part about unscientific, illogical fearmongering is that you don't have to justify it. You just throw it out there and, when someone points out that it makes no sense, you respond like OJ Simpson's defense team: "Prove it."
And "proving it" results in detailed analyses that nobody wants to plow through, like this detailed, excellent story about how, yes, by god, Texas restrictions are in fact suppressing the votes of hundreds of thousands of poor and minorities.
But, to be fair, we should present the opposing viewpoint: "No they aren't."
Now, lets compare those arguments:
"Yes they are" -- 2,054 words
"No they aren't" -- 3 words
Obviously, the "no" argument is clearer and more concise and, best of all, more easily digested.
Occam's Razor. There ya go!
And when that fails, we go to link wars, in which we fling links back and forth, because, just as the Devil can quote Scripture to justify his cause, so, too, the infinite resources of the Internet can prove that Voter Fraud is real, that everyone in America has photo ID, that George Bush planned 9/11 and that the moon landing was faked.
Don't believe me? Go down to the gas station and ask Elvis!
The part that confounds me is this:
When something appears on a news site, nobody references it after about the third comment -- they simply scream and babble back and forth at each other, and what they are saying in no possible way reflects the content of the story allegedly being discussed.
But over at Facebook, nobody reads the comments, so that, if someone posts Bill Gates promising to give $5,000 to anyone who likes and shares, you find underneath a patchwork of people pointing out that it's bogus and people saying "Thanks! Sharing!"
And god forbid anyone should read the comments under their own posting, realize they've been suckered and delete the whole thing.
Anyway, I guess we'll find out next week who managed to rally the troops this time, but, boy, it sure is easier to get'em to pick up torches than textbooks, isn't it?
Always has been.
Speaking of books
We have a convergence of two of my favorite commentators: Jeff Danziger has put out a massive (608 pages) collection of his cartoons and Jen Sorensen has written an excellent review of it.
Let me explain the term "excellent," because you don't see a lot of excellent reviewing over in this corner of the book market. But, while she likes his work and has praise for the book overall, Sorensen doesn't engage in one of those all-too-common buddy-buddy smoochfests you see among cartoonists.
Nor does she approach it with adolescent snark, as if the job of a critic is to tear apart everything and that "attitude" trumps "analysis." That's all too common these days as well.
No, this is a for-real critique and it damn well ought to be, given that the book retails for $70 to $85 bucks.
Even with the stature of a Danziger and the quality of a Fantagraphics publication, I don't want to know whether Jen thinks he's a helluva nice guy. I want to know whether she thinks I should shell out for his book.
And, you know what? It ought to be that way even for a $12.95 book.
Let the unchecked praise of pals be confined to the backcover blurbs and let the snark be the job of pajama-clad cellar-dwellers.
When a cartoonist I respect takes on the work of another cartoonist I respect, I want to walk away respecting them both.
Which I did.
And on that topic
If you're into comic books, you may already know this, but Johanna Draper Carlson's blog "Comics Worth Reading" is a reliable source of good criticism within the comic books world.
She posts often, which means that she sometimes hits books of minor significance, I suppose (being a comic strip type myself, I'm out of my depth in her universe), but she seems pretty clear on whether she's talking about a must-have, a check-this-out or a here's-something-odd.
Recently, she looked at this collection of Action Philosophers and, as with Sorensen's critique of Danziger, it was of interest to me because I find the concept appealing but am not sure I want to shell out for the particular piece.
I've seen this sort of thing before and it's somewhat in line with the comic histories, in that I think of them as an interesting ice breaker for someone who is not up to speed, but, having studied both topics in some depth, I'm not sure how much I would get out of it.
If it really is an introduction, then I don't need it. If it's going to shed new light on familiar faces, I might like that, but if you are presenting Fantastic Revelations, don't leave me like the straight man in a Geico commercial unless you've got one helluva punchline after I say, "Everybody knows that."
Yeah, I'm a tough audience.
That's why I appreciate a tough critic.
Haven't decided if I'm going to spring for it, but I feel she told me what I needed to know.
Juxtaposition of the Are-You-Kidding-Me?
Okay, it's not the same gag, but still, geez-louise ...