Political Animal


March 15, 2012 9:15 AM Comic Relief

By Ed Kilgore

As I’m sure you know by now, Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau is doing a series on Texas’ ultrasound law that some papers are choosing not to run; others are moving the strip temporarily to their opinion pages (which, of course, is where some papers run it regularly). The reproductive rights site RH Reality Check has been keeping a runnng tab on the papers (eighteen so far, with the LA Times being the most prominent) banning or censoring Doonesbury, and is providing simple ways to post the offending panels to those publications’ Facebook walls or comment threads.

I have to admit I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading Doonesbury (probably about the time I got out of the habit of reading print newspapers), and have forgotten how scathing the strip can be. Its depiction of the “Shaming Room” Texas women seeking an entirely legal abortion must endure is an excellent and simple conveyance of the state law’s basic intent. Since graphic representations of sometimes complex realities has always been the basic function (other than simple entertainment) of cartoons, I think it’s a perfectly valid preoccupation for Trudeau. If a few newspaper readers have to explain to their kids—or even to themselves—why Texas lawmakers are behaving this way, it might well be a good thing.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Darsan54 on March 15, 2012 9:25 AM:

    It's a pity newspaper like the Detroit Free Press can't recognize the valuable discussion such a strip generates. Also, Trudeau is a genius at implying more than he shows. Nothing would be in graphic distate.

  • kevo on March 15, 2012 9:29 AM:

    Trudeau has always dabbled in the sane, while many of his contemporaries in the media world have traveled down that slippery slope toward fluff and banality!

    Match Doonesbury panels with typical reporting during any of the last three Republican presidencies, and a clearer view of the crazy in each case can be found in Trudeau's characters and story boards than in the pages of those publications that have periodically chosen to ban the follies of Mike Doonesbury, his family, and his friends! Hands down! -Kevo

  • schtick on March 15, 2012 9:31 AM:

    Gee, political/editorial cartoons have restraints on telling the truth, too, eh?

    crapcha....similar tradsay....I agree?

  • Marc on March 15, 2012 9:39 AM:

    Thank the powers for cartoonists like Trudeau and comedians like John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, they almost always go directly to the heart of matters.

  • Extreme Moderate on March 15, 2012 9:56 AM:

    Thanks Ed!!

  • Ron Byers on March 15, 2012 9:56 AM:

    Trudeau is performing a valuable service in exposing what the agenda the right wing is advancing in states across the nation. Regular citizens never hear about the organized winger agenda because local media is bought off and the national media is both bought off and profoundly clueless.

  • R on March 15, 2012 10:09 AM:

    The Oregonian, for example, says that the comics "went over the line of good taste and humor." So why are they still running The Lockhorns?

  • T2 on March 15, 2012 10:18 AM:

    Doonesbury has been banned in papers several times. no biggie. A ban simply means that whatever the topic/slant Trudeau is taking is the correct one.

  • Steve P on March 15, 2012 10:24 AM:

    "I have to admit Iíve gotten out of the habit of reading Doonesbury (probably about the time I got out of the habit of reading print newspapers)"

    Well EXCUUUSE ME, Professor Spengler ("Print is dead"), but someone of us can't start our day without seeing how Milford is doing in the playdowns.

    Try this is you're allergic to newsprint:

    If nothing else, maybe you can figure out what the hell happened to Judge Parker.

  • SYSPROG on March 15, 2012 10:53 AM:

    Thanks Ed. The Spokane Review chose not to run the strip due to 'controversy'. Yes, by GOD, we shouldn't discuss lady-parts while we're taking them AWAY! What I LOVE is that Doonesbury regularly runs in the classified because it's 'kinda liberal'. It was the AD manager that decided against it. The Seattle Times is running it but moved it to the OPINION pages...

  • zeitgeist on March 15, 2012 10:55 AM:

    Darsan54, your point about Trudeau being more subtle is part of what I find fascinating about this week's strips: I can't recall a time he has been this unsubtle. It is out of character, which may reflect just how outrageous he thinks the transvaginal ultrasound laws/bills are.

    And Ed, it is worth following online. Trudeau's very finely-balanced treatment of military issues in the past few years, from closed-head injuries to sexual harassment on base, to social readjustment back home have been some of the best strips of a long and amazing career.

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on March 15, 2012 12:11 PM:

    Once again, comedy delivers where common sense is stymied.

    Also a nod to Al Franken.

    tatiool available (we'll find out shortly)

  • TCinLA on March 15, 2012 12:48 PM:

    Given that the neighborhood advertiser formerly known as the Los Angeles Times is owned by a Jewish Nazi from Chicago, who has been imposing his right wing extremism on the paper since the day he took over, why would anyone be surprised at what is happening on this issue? Further proof that "the press is free to he who owns one."

    Outside of Steve Lopez, most of the staff left there are so thoroughly third-rate it's amazing they can sign their names the same way on consecutive attempts. But then, it's the paper of record in a city run by a crew of Village Idiots. (news flash: "Villaraigosa" is Spanish for Village Idiot; another LA politician I regret ever voting for and won't for any other office, no matter how he's bamboozled the California Democratic Party, which is so bankrupt they re-elected Governor Moonbeam)

    But they're really good at producing quality fishwrap and litterbox liner.

  • Just some guy on March 15, 2012 4:38 PM:

    A friend of mine thinks I should watch that zombie show "Walking Dead" but since I live in Austin, I get the reality show "The Walking Stupid" whenever the lege meets. It's lots scarier and capable of creating real horror.

  • beejeez on March 16, 2012 12:02 AM:

    Mr. Kilgore, you sound proud of not reading a daily paper. How unfortunate someone in your positions doesn't seem to see the value in doing so.

    Yes, yes, with the interwebs all things are possible, and I wouldn't trade them even up for the old information models for a moment. But among the things the interwebs make possible is going through life without ever having your own prejudices and realm of knowledge challenged. This, however, is utterly impossible for readers of traditional, professionally staffed, mainstream newspapers. Or it was, while they existed, anyway.

  • tanstaafl on March 16, 2012 2:51 AM:

    lighten up beejeez. If Ed is typical of political bloggers, he probably reads more newspapers than you do. He just reads them online.

    Meanwhile, for anyone that wants to follow Doonesbury without finding it in a print newspaper, try http://www.doonesbury.com/

  • Suzii on March 17, 2012 2:03 AM:

    And props to the Salt Lake Tribune's Pat Bagley, for getting around the bars: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/53719887-82/bagley-cartoon-doonesbagley-facebook.html.csp