Little Nothings

January 25, 2010 by  


Ted Rall

January 25, 2010 by  

Haiti News Coverage Turns Sublimely Ridiculous

Ah, “1984.” As the cartoonist Matt Bors says, it’s “the dystopian novel that keeps on giving.”

Orwell’s main character worked for a government ministry that controlled the future by changing the past. Its most effective tool: the Memory Hole. Pieces of history went in—poof!—never to be heard from again. Afterward, it was as if those particular events had never happened:

“The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.”

American news producers and editors have long been masters of the Memory Hole, purposefully omitting the most relevant information stories that would otherwise make the whatever the current regime is look bad. “President Hugo Chávez,” reported The Washington Post in a typical example of spin from 2005, “has recently accused President Bush of plotting to assassinate him.” Going on to slam Chávez’s supposed “bluster and anti-American showmanship,” the Post left something out: Chávez’s accusation was true.

Still, no one could have anticipated the soaring brazenness or the cynical linguistic savagery U.S. state-controlled media would deploy while “covering” the invasion of Haiti.

[Given that it took at least four days after the earthquake before the U.S. military permitted relief supplies to land at the Port-au-Prince airport, turned away planes from such NGOs as Doctors Without Borders, and that Defense Secretary Robert Gates refused to release aid until a full week had passed, one can hardly call the deployment of 10,000 troops a relief operation.]

Vanished from news accounts of Operation Haitian Freedom—poof!—was the United States’ century-long raping and pillaging of the country, including several CIA-backed coups that installed vicious dictators and a brutal occupation by U.S. Marines that lasted several decades.

There were hundreds of candidates to choose from in awarding this week’s Haiti Memory Hole Prize, but the winner is The Oregonian, the daily newspaper in Portland, Oregon. On January 15th the paper published an editorial titled “A muscular paternalism for Haiti” with an incredible thesis:

“If the nations of the world had devoted to Haiti only a fraction of the diplomatic and military energy they have spent over the past five decades on nearby Cuba, the country would be far more advanced and able to aid in its own recovery today.”

In other words, Haiti’s problem isn’t that the U.S. expropriated 40 percent of its GDP from 1915 to 1947. Or that the U.S. installed the father-and-son Duvalier team of “anti-Communist” dictators, who looted the Haitian treasury of more than $1 billion. Or that the CIA deposed Haiti’s popular, and only democratically-elected president, not once, but twice—because he had the gall to push through an increase in the minimum wage for Haitians who work in sweatshops owned by U.S. companies.

Those events couldn’t be responsible for Haiti’s plight. Not even a little bit. Because, if you rely on The Oregonian for your news, you’d never know that that stuff happened.

“Perhaps the scope of the current disaster will at last shock these countries, including the United States, to conduct a muscular intervention into Haitian affairs,” editorialized The Oregonian.

“At last”? What do they call a 20-year-long military occupation? Half a dozen military coups?

Like most of the world, Haiti would have been better off if we really had “neglected” them. How much of our “help” can these poor people stand?

At least The New York Times acknowledged “Haiti’s long history of foreign intervention, including an American occupation” in its coverage. But like other papers that ran sickening—and treacly cartoons falsely depicting a friendly (white) Uncle Sam patronizingly deigning to assist clueless dark-skinned Haitians in their time of need—the most pertinent details had disappeared into the Memory Hole.

Here’s an unexpurgated section of the Times’ background coverage:

“President Woodrow Wilson sent American Marines to Haiti in 1915 to restore public order after six different leaders ruled the country in quick succession, each killed or forced into exile. Opposition was intense, but it would be nearly two decades before the Marines would leave, in 1934.

“When President Bill Clinton ordered troops into the country in 1994 to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted as president by a group of former soldiers, Haitian critics raised that earlier intervention.

“A decade later, Mr. Aristide was forced out of office, and he accused the United States of orchestrating his ouster.”

Wilson said he invaded Haiti to restore public order. The real reason, historians widely acknowledge, was to transform the country into an economic vassal state, a Caribbean colony.

It’s true that Clinton brought Aristide back to power. But his predecessor, George Herbert Walker Bush, had ordered a CIA coup that removed him in the first place.

Finally, Aristide wasn’t “forced out of office” by some mysterious random power. The Times’ editors knew that. After all, their own newspaper ran a page-one story on March 1, 2004 titled: “Aristide Flees After a Shove From the U.S.” So when Aristide “accused the United States of orchestrating his ouster,” he was “accusing” the U.S. of doing what The New York Times reported that it did.

True, this information is available to anyone who cares to spend a few minutes Googling it. The point is, few people have the time, energy or inclination to second-guess everything they read. Like Winston Smith in “1984,” they start to wonder whether they misremembered events as they were originally reported. Maybe we really have always been at war with Eurasia. Maybe we really did invade Haiti in 1915 merely to “restore order.” Or maybe, if you live in Portland, this is the first time the U.S. or any other country has ever bothered to pay attention to Haiti. Who knows?

What I want to know is: Why do editors and producers do it? Why do they leave out the basic facts? It’s not like they get a call from Big Brother ordering them to spin or delete historical facts from their coverage. They do it voluntarily.

What are they afraid of?

(Ted Rall is the author, with Pablo G. Callejo, of the new graphic memoir “The Year of Loving Dangerously.” He is also the author of the Gen X manifesto “Revenge of the Latchkey Kids.” His website is tedrall.com.)


Naomi Nowak

win a copy of graylight

January 25, 2010 by  

hi, just a quick note … i’m having a raffle at my blog (here!) for a free copy of graylight. i did it for house of clay and it was fun, so i thought, why not. put your name down if you like :)


Big Khan back to press and still gets reviews

January 21, 2010 by  

Playback:stl says of The Big Khan “Very highly recommended. Kleid‘s treatment of characters is pitch perfect. One of the book’s great strengths is its pacing and tone, conveyed by the frequent use of silent panels.”

AND with all the great buzz and reviews this book has now sold out its 1st printing! The second printing has just come in to keep up with demand.

Ted Rall

NY Press on “Year of Loving Dangerously”

January 21, 2010 by  



Welcome, Brooke

January 21, 2010 by  

I am very excited to introduce Brooke Allen here, see her post below. Even just a student still, she shows incredible talent already and her energetic drawing style coupled with an uproarious story will make her intro book A Home for Mr. Easter a hit, I just know it!

Take a look at the previews we’ve posted. I’m tellin’ ya her book is irresistible. Just got all the pages and I’m relishing them, snickering openly in  the subway while people stare at me for reading such stuff in public. Nyeh, nyeh.

Brooke Allen

Hello NBM!

January 20, 2010 by  

A Home For Mr.Easter Fig. A1

So here I am, my first post about my first book and I’m paralyzed with enthusiasm so I guess I’ll attempt to break the ice with an introduction:

Hey NBM Bloggers and kindly readers I’m Brooke and there’s my up n’ coming book’s cover above (see Fig.A1) “A Home for Mr.Easter” that Terry’s been nice enough to publish. If you love unicorn’s, bunnies, deer, fruit roll-ups, riding horses and you’re not a 7 year old girl then this book was made with care just for you.

I look forward to posting and getting to know you all!
Three cheers for comics!!!


Ted Rall

Please support Stephanie McMillan

January 20, 2010 by  

As I am trying to do with my proposal to return to Afghanistan, “Minimum Security” cartoonist Stephanie McMillan, who is one of the best political commentators around and certainly the best cartoonist devoted to environmental issues, is trying to raise money to fund her project, which is a children’s book co-authored with the environmental polemicist Derrick Jensen.

There are only 11 days left for her proposal, and she is only $928 away from the goal of $6000 for printing costs. Please consider kicking some cash her way. Click here!

Stephanie says: “I’m afraid of seeming tacky to ask for more support now when our focus on support is (and ought to be) on Haiti, but if I don’t make it to the end, then we don’t collect any of the pledges and will lose the $5072 pledged so far. So if you can, your contribution would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!”

Ted Rall

SYNDICATED COLUMN: David Dinkins Redux

January 19, 2010 by  

Obama Will Drag Down Democrats in November

I’m a bit late, but this is the time of year when pundits issue their predictions for the coming year. Normally I stay out of the political prognostication racket. It’s as thankless as writing for Arianna Huffington.

Like when I predicted that Howard Dean had the Democratic nomination all sewn up. Nicely played. It’ll be in my obit.

I dare not die.

Do readers remember that I was the only one to call the Afghanistan War lost back in 2001? That I was the first to note that Bush’s handling of Katrina would mark the beginning of the end for his presidency? That I was the first American pundit to criticize Bush after 9/11? Nope.


2010 could end up being a big year politically. So, with nothing more than my already wounded pride at stake (damn you, Howard Dean, you coulda been a contender!), I’m placing my bets.

First and foremost, the economy will continue to sour. There may be small, brief up-ticks from time to time. But the overall picture will keep trending downward. Credit markets won’t loosen. There will be more bankruptcies. More foreclosures. Higher unemployment, both official and real.

I’m a pessimist for one simple reason: none of the structural problems have been addressed. No one has done anything to put more money into the pockets of consumers or businesses. More bailouts and stimulus might help, but Congress won’t approve them after the last time, when bankers used the loot to buy new yachts. Not that they would have signed on during an election year anyway.

Things won’t get better because they can’t get better.

Obama’s job approval rating, which has already fallen faster than any president’s in the history of opinion polling, is tied to the unfolding fiscal apocalypse. Unless there’s another 9/11, his numbers will plunge toward the Dick Cheney Zone.

It’s fair, mostly. Obama could have done a lot to ease the economic pain: direct federal assistance to distressed homeowners, nationalize insolvent banks rather than bail them out, giant New Deal-style federal employment projects, all funded by immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, he kept Bush’s policies (and personnel). After the voters had rejected them.

Turns out we were wrong about Obama. He’s not smart. He’s not wise.

He’s just calm.

There’s also a racist component to Obama’s problems with the electorate. Obama is much like David Dinkins, elected in 1989 as New York City’s first black mayor. Dinkins, an affable Democrat, made the mistake of thinking that African-Americans were his political base. They weren’t. White liberals were.

At the time I overheard many variants of the following conversation: “New York has a lot of blacks. They’ve never had a mayor. Why not give them a chance to run the city?” Dinkins screwed up—not spectacularly—but he made a lot of boneheaded moves, such as ordering that white teachers be laid off first during the recession.

Hell hath no fury like a white person scorned.

“Never again,” I heard countless white liberals say after that. “They [blacks] had their chance.” White anger at Dinkins was out of proportion in response to his poor performance; if he’d been the same lousy mayor—but with white skin—he wouldn’t have been as reviled.

We’re seeing that now. Obama is a terrible president, just another Bill Clinton, one unwilling to seize the opportunities afforded by the global economic meltdown. White voter remorse, however, is a bitch. Americans hate Obama more than they would hate Clinton (for example)—because he’s black.

Racist buyer’s remorse will hurt Obama in the polls…and lead to Democratic losses in the midterm elections.

Conventional wisdom says that the Democrats will lose seats in the House and Senate in November. But no one is predicting a 1994 bloodbath. The GOP, goes the thinking, is too disorganized and fractured to wipe the floor with incumbent Dems. Also, writes Nancy Cohen in The Los Angeles Times, “what was most important about 1994 politically won’t make or break the 2010 elections. Congress changed hands in 1994 because the Christian right recruited new voters and white Southerners shifted en masse to the GOP.” That won’t happen in 2010, she says. “Neither evangelicals nor white Southerners can swing this year’s election, because they are the Republican Party.”

Generally, I agree with Cohen’s take. But I think Democratic losses will be more severe than the experts expect. Voters are being forced to flop back and forth between two parties they hate, but their contempt for the Democrats will be particularly toxic. Republicans don’t (and didn’t) promise anything more than the same old tax cuts for the rich.

Obama’s Democrats, on the other hand, ran as agents of hope and change. It wouldn’t be as bad for them if their party’s standard bearer hadn’t failed so spectacularly, managing to live down to John McCain’s denigrating portrayal of him as an empty suit.

Nothing pisses people off more than being promised the big and then failing to receive even the small.

(Ted Rall is the author, with Pablo G. Callejo, of the new graphic memoir “The Year of Loving Dangerously.” He is also the author of the Gen X manifesto “Revenge of the Latchkey Kids.” His website is tedrall.com.)


Ted Rall

Ted Rall on eBay

January 19, 2010 by  

I’m preparing to list two cool items on eBay. Both are musts for the crazy over-the-top Ted Rall fans…if there are such a thing.

The first is a highly limited (under 30 copies), numbered, copy of the rare hardback edition of “Wake Up, You’re Liberal!” (2004). I just found the box under a bunch of stuff in my studio and figured someone would probably want it.

The second is arcane but significant: My entire collection of music on cassette, which includes hundreds (probably about 300) of great punk, hardcore, rock, New Wave and synthpop tapes recorded from LP or CD between my high school years (1978-1981) and the late 1980s. Each cassette is carefully handlettered by yours truly and contains the music that influenced my cartoons when I was developing as a cartoonist. From a music collector’s viewpoint, there is a lot of music here that never made it to CD.