A response to Andrew Sullivan

The pundit's charge against Salon cartoonist Carol Lay is just plain wrong.

Published December 14, 2001 12:27AM (EST)

In an item on his personal Web site headlined "Salon's new low," Andrew Sullivan asks, "Would you run a comic strip that treats the murder of president George W. Bush as a) desirable; b) a joke?" (I would link to it but Sullivan's Web site uses frames in such a clumsy way that linking to individual items is impossible.)

As a rhetorical question, this might serve as an interesting debating point: How far do the bounds of free speech reach, and so forth. But Sullivan is under the delusion that Salon has actually run such a comic strip -- in Carol Lay's latest "Story Minute" posting on our site.

All you have to do is actually read Lay's comic to see that Sullivan is simply wrong. (If you don't want to, you may rest assured that what happens in the comic -- in a nightmare sequence -- is the following: A President Bush who has been magically converted to the cause of oil conservation is suddenly shot by faceless assassins. The violent act is presented as a Bad Thing, as well as a dream within a dream; when the narrator says she "liked how [the nightmare] started out," she's obviously referring to Bush's new conservation stance, not to his murder.)

There are only a couple of reasonable explanations for Sullivan's bizarre and contra-factual complaint. Either he's the kind of poor soul who believes that cartoons and cartoonists -- despite the long tradition stretching back to Daumier and embracing, among contemporaries, the likes of Garry Trudeau and our own Tom Tomorrow -- have no right to address the volatile issues of the day in their uniquely populist and authority-questioning medium. Or, perhaps, the opportunity to hang some heavy charge of traitorous malfeasance on Salon's head was so tempting that Sullivan simply couldn't be bothered to notice that it was based on a gross and stupid misreading.

By Scott Rosenberg

Salon co-founder Scott Rosenberg is director of MediaBugs.org. He is the author of "Say Everything" and Dreaming in Code and blogs at Wordyard.com.

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