Thursday, March 1, 2012


Sometimes a cartoon panel really hits the mark. Brian McFadden’s Theocalypse Now from last Sunday’s Review Section (NYT, 2/25/12) is right up with the work of the great Weimar satirists and journalists like Karl Kraus and Joseph Roth in capturing the tenor of our troubled times.  Raging unemployment, debt and a government whose lackluster response to growing problems eventually spawned a hokey, but lethal millenarian solution solution called The Third Reich. Germany which had produced Goethe and Schiller not to speak of Luther and Guttenberg was now being led by a mob which looked for scapegoats and whose solidarity was created by an attack on thinking itself. Here is a l950 quote from Isaiah Berlin on totalitarianism reprised in the current Foreign Affairs: “This is an attitude which looks on all inner conflict as an evil, or at best as a form of futile self-frustration; which considers the kind of friction, the moral or emotional or intellectual collisions, the particular kind of acute spiritual discomfort which rises to a condition of agony from which great works of the human intellect and imagination, inventions, philosophies, works of art, have sprung, as being no better than purely destructive diseases—neuroses, psychoses, mental derangements, genuinely requiring psychiatric aid; above all as being dangerous deviations from that line to which individuals and societies must adhere if they are to continue in a state of well-ordered, painless, contented, self-perpetuating equilibrium.” The Rick Santorum like figure in this edition of The Strip says things like “climate change is a hoax,”  “God gave us dominion over the earth to do with it as we please,” “creationism and prayer should be taught in every school,” “down with birth control and everything else that makes sex fun.”  Cartoon balloons of course or one of the most effective ways of capturing almost all campaign rhetoric, but the cartoon medium is tremendously effective in allowing McFadden to zero in on the leveling quality that characterizes Santorum’s strident appeals to his Tea Party following. Theocalypse Now or Santarmaggedon?

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