'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Oh, The Tone ... That Damned Tone

As of March 1st, the New York Times' website no longer features the work of leftist cartoonist Ted Rall. As quoted in Editor & Publisher, the decision was made because "some of his humor was not in keeping with the tone [NYTimes.com tries] to set". Rall's position is that his strip was pulled because of political pressure from conservative groups, from a post on Rall's blog:

My trouble with the Times website dates back to the "terror widows" controversy. That cartoon, which appeared in March 2002, became the target of a coordinated email attack by right-wing "warbloggers." These pro-Bush bloggers, coasting on a wave of post-9/11 patriotism, sent out emails to their followers (helpful souls forwarded some to me) asking each other to deluge the Times and other papers with complaints that purported to come from their readers. The Times, under the mistaken belief that hundreds of their readers had complained about the cartoon, dropped that particular piece. [ ... ] It seems that the warbloggers consistent campaign of email harrassment has finally taken its toll over at Times Digital. Because they're annoyed by receiving so many email complaints about my work--all of them motivated by partisan politics--the Times has decided to drop my cartoons entirely. [ ... ] The fact of the matter is that what the Times has done here to me--and to you--represents a dangerous precedent for a free press (or, in this case, an online press). They've sent the message that political pressure works. It's one thing for an editor to decide that a cartoon no longer works for editorial reasons, or that it's not as good as it used to be. It's quite another to cancel it simply because you're tired of being deluged with hate mail. Dealing with feedback is an editor's job. If you don't like the hate mail, delete it.

Also, Clear Channel Communications has decided that it doesn't like Howard Stern's tone, at least in markets in which the general election is going to be close, Pennsylvania and Florida, and has pulled his show from those markets. Coincidentally, the decision was preceded by Stern -- who had liked Bush's tax cuts and supported the Iraq war on air -- having a political conversion experience by way of Al Franken leading to, for instance, Howard opining as follows:

If you read [Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them], you will never vote for George W. Bush. I think this guy is a religious fanatic and a Jesus freak, and he is just hell-bent on getting some sort of bizzaro agenda through -- like a country-club agenda -- so that his father will finally be proud of him ... I don't know much about Kerry, but I think I'm one of those 'Anybody but Bush' guys now. I don't think G.W. is going to win. What do you think about that?*

(thanks to the Bone for the tip about Rall)

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