In response to another in a series of user posts complaining about the work of a wide variety of political cartoonists hosted on Dailykos.com, Ted Rall was branded a racist by an unknown editor of DailyKos.com and told that his cartoons would not be welcome unless he was willing to depict President Obama in a far more attractive manner. His response can be read here
Much of the DailyKos.com audience despises any cartoonist who isn’t a Yellow Dog Democrat. To explain quickly, a posting can get positive or negative votes. Enough negative votes will effectively delete comments, but positive votes can counter negative. Here we go into the madness Matt Bors seems to have inspired in some.
49 positive, 58 negative. This isn’t a poll. A negative vote at this site means you think the content is so hateful it should be hidden from the public. Only long time heavy site users are even given the authority to cast these negative votes. They are the core of the subscription buying user base.
Cartoonist Matt Wuerker was called a racist by several users. Now, they certainly didn’t gather much steam, but some of them were quite confident that this cartoon was racist.
Users asserted that this cartoon was “straight out of a minstrel show” Here’s the jumping off point for those attacks.
Eventually, Tom Tomorrow stepped in to defend him and quashed most of the personal attacks being launched at Mr. Wuerker. This brought the issue to a rapid close.
This is a Tom the Dancing Bug strip. They voted 49 to 68 to try to hide it from the public. They also claimed it was racist, both because The President was drawn as a child among other children, and because he was drawn with an adorable button nose.
Brian McFadden who does The Big Fat Whale also got his turn to be branded an enemy. They actually gave him so many negative ratings that the automatic ban feature, meant to deal with really horrible trolls and spammers, kicked in. He was banned from the site and Mr. Moulitsas had to restore his posting privileges. This was a paid cartoonist Mr. Moulitsas did not want banned!
Mr.Moulitsas in this instance actually wrote a front page post desperately trying to explain to his users what political cartoons are.
Some understood, some didn’t. No editor sent nasty messages to any of these other cartoonists. They’re all still paid to post there. Their work wasn’t censored. We can assume they didn’t want to raise the kind of stink Rall has raised.
Mr. Moulitsas wasn’t on Thanksgiving break when these other incidents happened. To his credit, when he was first challenged by users about Rall’s drawing style he told people to move on and ignore cartoons they don’t care for in much the same way he stood up for all of the above artists.
This holiday weekend he left someone else to mind the store for four days and returned to a fait accompli. He had to decide whether to cut off an employee at the knees for a bad call or roll with trying to get some mileage out of disparaging a man who rubs many the wrong way. Many of these users still harbor grudges resulting from several years of feeling that their complaints concerning staff cartoonists have been ignored.
That’s why he responded to no one in the press until Monday, by the way.
He wasn’t making the decision. He was enjoying a long weekend. One of Mr. Moulitsas’ editors is now gleefully posting about how much this kerfuffle is driving up traffic and bringing out lurkers. Knowing that Mr. Moulitsas is desperately pumping out emails begging users for five dollar “donations”, it seems reasonable to wonder what role a desire to please potential donors might have played in his decision process.
Any journalist covering this story should not only ask “Is Mr. Moulitsas right to call Ted Rall a nasty racist bigot and bizarrely claim Rall doesn’t draw anyone else the way he draws Obama?” They should also ask if the Dailykos.com user base is adult enough to understand what political cartooning is. They should question what lengths Mr. Moulitsas will go to in order to float his foundering ship. One can only hope that getting his own hand back on the tiller will be his first priority.