15 September 2017
Richard Van Ingram
Last summer, at the RNC Convention as I drew a group of young men with Trump Vanguard flags – and heavy wooden poles – that I titled “The New Hitler Youth,” I got interviewed by at least 7 major news outlets, from NPR to The Financial Times of London, and some folks shooting documentary footage. I doubt a damn bit of it was used or ever will be. C’est la vie.
Soon, Roger Stone was standing about two feet to my left (pacing) and that fruit loop from Infowars came, stood 5 feet in front of me and stoked up the all-white crowd with a stirring speech about: “globalist conspiracy” of “Illuminati” (i.e. the Jews and Freemasons); taking “our” country back (from whom, other Americans? to where – 1860? for what – another Civil War?); and other home-spun fascist/Nazi bullshit.
In all my interviews, in the first minute of talking, I made my only important point: Donald J. Trump is a nihilist. Empty, devoid of any real ethical values or belief in any, he is a simultaneously a black hole sucking in attention and “fame” at any cost and a blank screen onto which various groups of people are projecting their fantasies, wishes, and fears – him offering vague calls and dog whistles to each group, even opposed groups, and seeming to promise them all the impossible fulfillment of their prejudices and darkest desires.
Because he was using them and they him, a deal among scam artists all waiting to stab one another right after they wreck everything in sight.
If there were cutting room floors anymore, all my words would be there in the debris. My diagnosis was too cerebral(?), not vernacular enough, not filled with insults or interesting stuff for a camera. Just some random bearded old idiot sitting on the sidewalk in Cleveland drawing a cartoon of soon-to-be little brainwashed Nazis who menaced people with their wooden sticks while actual extremist authoritarians wandered the sidewalks and gave rabble-rousing speeches.
Now, that latter bit was good for screen and radio; me, not so much.
But before that day, I swear I never heard anyone diagnose the “Trump phenomena” as nihilistic in constitution.
Now, it’s “the thing.” Because I was correct, to that degree. Others would see it later, as in this column in the New York Times by Maureen Dowd: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/19/opinion/sunday/trump-neo-nazis-and-the-klan.html
Read it. It’s good, But Dowd, being optimistic and from another generation (Boomer) than my own (front-end “X”), is just a bit too sanguine. She thinks this era will pass and ‘all this” racism and hatred will go with it. Ironically, she says this right after talking about, after the end of WWII, Klansmen doing the same shit as the Nazis in her hometown.
Just as they keep doing now, just as they taught their kids and grand kids and great-grand kids and people who have never worn a sheet or use their crude speech… yet believe the same things, nonetheless. And might even be insulted if you brought that to their attention and called it by name.
Bad beliefs and old lies, once brought into the world, do not die – they await resurrection when people fear or are uneducated or mis-educated and live on tall-tales and deadly myths instead of history and humility of some sort, desire for truthfulness and have an habitual self-doubt. They practice mercy. Practice justice… strive for a life in the service of these and are satisfied with nothing less.
That is a tall order at this moment just as it always was.
Whole states or regions with churches that openly discriminate and preach coded messages that are racist misinterpretations, making God responsible for justifying and approving their idiocy and hatred of other human beings….
Ms. Dowd, that is not going away. Not automatically. We never got past it, even after 1864, WWII, the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, laws… it lived on, vampire-like, hidden in the darkness of our culture’s soul, our souls, our language, stereotypes, images. We never owned up to this darkness invented by white people and used as a bludgeon against anyone defined as not “white” enough. And with this bludgeon powerful men and women lorded over all of us, white and darker than white, not-Christian or not-the-right-kind-of-Christian for centuries, some enslaved in chains, some enslaved by fear and awe of “power.”
And now it’s wholly alive again, resurrected by living people, white people, fearful and propagandized, terrified, full of foolishness led by a fool who is headed… nowhere.
Germany’s Dritte Reich didn’t arise or go away automatically… and, in some sense, never died even after it, too, was led by a fool Nowhere. Its spirit just migrated here to the USA, attached to those moronic, already existing Klan-ish beliefs, vampiric, now alive again in its walking dead state. When it was driven out of Germany at the end of World War II, it took millions atop millions with it in blood, fire, fury, and absurdity.
We will be fortunate indeed to throw this set of undead beliefs back into a graveyard hole for awhile without a similar destruction here and around the world again.
20 August 2017
Richard Van Ingram
[Personal nonsense – with broader implications in the USA. Maybe.
Charlotte, Virginia, USA witnessed the iceberg tip of the neo-Nazi/Fascist/KKK movement today and last night, the one Donald Trump played to get into office and paid off by giving important positions to its adherents: Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller, Bannon, Gorka, etc.. Trump, of course, had nothing to say specifically condemning these terrorist White Nationalists and their rampage. What he said was open-ended enough, the “Alt-Right” (i.e. Nazis) openly says on Twitter “he loves us.”
I expected nothing better.
Anyway, I make political cartoons and underground comix. I teach philosophy… when there’s work. I’m controversial because I believe in liberal democracy, neo-Stoicism, am a sort of existentialist in the Ortega y Gasset vein… which, in the USA, now, is enough to make one so out of (goose) step with people that run things, I have a difficult time finding a teaching position. 52 years-old, excellent teaching record, excellent work record, no criminal record, better educated than many that I compete with… but, no thank you.
Misfortune? Could be. Fate goes as it will. Fortuna’s wheel spins. We’ll see.
In the meantime, I send out political cartoons… hard to get published in the States, now. Newspapers are dying, they’ve shrunk, space is at a premium. Most get their cartoons from a syndicate — and getting syndication is not easily done, no matter how good one is.
But I popped one over to my hometown in Georgia – why? I’m an idiot. Nostalgia. Curiosity. Who knows… just to see. In the end,
I even offered the damn thing for free. So, this is what happened thus far:]
As a friend said the other day, “Didn’t you leave Dahlonega?” Dahlonega being where I was born, raised, and after university, trapped within for an extra 16-17 years.
My response, in part, was, “It didn’t leave me…” as in, it haunts me. For a plethora of reasons, few worth mentioning, all personal. When I talk about Dahlonega, I speak with a broad brush – mainly about its worst elements, its racism, hatreds, parochialism, escapism, false history. I rarely talk about the good people, the nurturing and encouraging people – there are many and many were very good to me and for me.
Many good examples of living well and caring. Many good changes. And NGC, then NGCSU, now NGU really kept me alive, opened the world to me. That place and the professors and friends were the mercy of HaShem, the Divinity on me.
Yes, I used to write editorials in the local paper – 2001-2006 when I was banned for making about 23-25 vociferous right-wingers angry.
It doesn’t matter. Really. I got away with editorial murder – I wrote essays, not editorials. I pushed the limit every time as I figured each editorial would be my last. Until it was, to the relief of the weak and angry.
This year, from Texas, I have now submitted 2 editorial cartoons – one about Roberta Green using a pro-Klan billboard on an historical building to blackmail the city council into letting her demolish it and create an eyesore. That one did not fly as it was too “mean.”
I submitted the Stephen Miller one this past week – as I knew what would erupt in Charlottesville, VA this weekend days ago. I got a “heads-up” message.
Nope – that didn’t make it either, this time for a completely non sequitur “reason.”
Hell, it doesn’t matter my stuff won’t go in The Dahlonega Nugget. I don’t matter – I’m just a guy who thinks and makes things that are hard to see and read. Unpleasant. The part of truth I see is unpleasant. It’s my gift.
Unfortunately, no one wants to risk anything on spreading “unpleasant” around. Maybe we’ll lose customers! Maybe we’ll get angry calls! Maybe we don’t agree with this!
The First Amendment gives me no right to be published in a private paper… or anything else if the editor doesn’t approve, care, or give a damn. Or perhaps I’m just no good. I’m unsure. Them’s the breaks.
So, this is what i wrote instead – the editor did say i could write a letter to the editor. This is well under the 500 words.
So, if you’d like to follow the mini-drama of a nobody who accomplishes not much, start at the bottom, work your way up. This is the e-mail exchange. Really, just for my personal records and memory.
I’ll stick the cartoon on at the bottom as a reminder.
On Saturday, August 12, 2017, 6:28:24 PM MDT, Richard Van Ingram wrote:
[If you won’t run the political cartoon, run this as my letter to the editor. Thanks.]
I submitted a political cartoon of Stephen Miller, 31 year-old White Nationalist, racist working as a White House “adviser,” pretending the immigration policy which he helped design is not racist in effect and origin.
I dressed him in a Gestapo uniform with SS Nazi and Klan symbols – both for irony and to openly display what he believes.
Yet, you chose not to run it or any other political cartoonist aside from the water-thin stuff from “Powell” that holds a monopoly on the editorial page. I’m certain you have to pay him. I offered to let you run my carton free of charge. You may even run a disclaimer – I don’t care. I speak for myself, not the paper; I always did.
It’s not as if you cannot run two cartoons and even shrink mine down. It is a matter of choice on your part.
Instead, you said I may write a letter to the editor (as anyone else). Your choice – you are the editor.
So, this is the letter. My request is a response, in the paper, detailing your policy and rules for submissions of political art. If such is completely forbidden, tell us why – what’s the standard? Is there one? Is it reasonable? Ad hoc? Consistent?
In light of the Nazi terrorist riot in Virginia Friday and Saturday (11-12 August), my carton is relevant. That was on purpose. I keep up with these groups, what they plan. I knew that the rally in Charottesville, VA was going to happen – they advertized it.
The cartoon spoke directly to the occupation of our White House by fascist and Nazi advisors. Sycophants. Miller is likely to become Communications Director within the next week or so. If people had cared or paid attention well before this violence, we may have minimized the influence of these groups or slowed it.
Pretending this shift beyond far-right into racist fascism, pure immorality, is not actually happening gives it power. Satirizing and calling out its idiotic beliefs might help others think twice before drinking the Nazi-flavored Kool Aid, no matter what it calls itself.
But if no one sees the message, that vague opportunity never occurs. If it doesn’t come from me, it should come from someone. No, I’m no one special, but I do stand up against things I am sure, by reasoning and history, are wrong. Maybe others will send you even better cartoons. If you don’t recognize this as speech, just like a letter, explain why.
Richard Van Ingram
On Thursday, August 10, 2017, 8:29:44 PM MDT, Richard Van Ingram wrote:
You’re welcome for the congratulations. You earned it.
As for writing a letter: Perhaps.
Jim Powell has had that spot in the company’s papers for quite a few years. Is he someone’s nephew? His work certainly has nothing about it to challenge or annoy… which I suppose is the point.
This is a different answer than what you told me last time when you said you’d be happy to consider running political cartoons by someone not named “Jim Powell” — and, yes, he already had that “slot” filled at that time. Logically inconsistent, but doubtless effective in delaying any possible second attempt on my (or anyone else’s) part.
Your paper, your decision.
My cartoon will shrink – easily – to fit an area of a column of 500 words. You may use it free, copyright remains mine. But I imagine space isn’t the actual issue. I really can’t waste much energy imagining what that issue might be: beyond my control.
Pictures are far more powerful and visceral than words… this kind of drawing, at any rate.
And, presently, I’m unsure I have words, 500 or less, for readers in Dahlonega. I’ll let you know tomorrow. You’ll run ’em or not if I write ’em. Them’s the breaks.
Thanks for the time.
On Thursday, August 10, 2017, 3:20:44 PM MDT, Matt Aiken <email@example.com> wrote:
Good to hear from you and thanks for the congrats. I appreciate the submission but when it comes to editorial cartoons we’ve filled that slot with Jim Powell. Would you consider a letter to the editor instead? You’d have 500 words to play with if so. If interested feel free to send it my way and we’ll save you a spot.
On Aug 9, 2017, at 4:28 AM, Richard Van Ingram wrote:
Congratulations on having the editorial page recognized. That page is the heart of a newspaper – any of them. That the quality has returned under your leadership speaks volumes.
Yes, I was skeptical when last you told me you were running the paper differently; I am happy to have that skepticism put to bed. A rare occurrence in this age.
Having said that, I asked last go ’round (during the Roberta Green fiasco) whether I might submit other editorial comics for consideration. You said to do so. I understand at the outset what I do may not be… acceptable. It never was. But I am of the belief my “hometown” could do with a message from its red-headed stepchild once in a while, the philosopher who also draws, is published elsewhere, and lives in a wider world both in terms of ideas and familiarity with a variety of humans.
At least, when I draw political cartoons and comix, they’re funny and brief (unlike my essays). Yes, i am vicious, but the pain passes quickly.
So, here’s a submission. You can reduce the thing and it will still look good in print, but I work large (as is usual) and send the large versions.
Let me know what you think.
11-12 August 2017
Richard Van Ingram
“Trump TV” as a thing is actually up and running – state sponsored propaganda for The Leader, our Big Brother. Don’t know German? “Führer” means “The Leader,” “The Guide,” the only person with “the real truth” – anything to the contrary is a lie, aka “fake news,” even if absolutely true. Because “real truth” is what The Leader says and expects and demands – and you’d best conform to.
If this traitorous bastard is not standing at that narrow bridge over the Rubicon, he has already crossed it, leading probably half or more of U.S. Americans with him by belief, fear, apathy, or inertia.
A propaganda arm of any government turned openly and with full force against its own people to keep the Leader in power, to bypass free media inspection and reporting, is, by definition, an active symptom of tyranny – at least in the making.
You thought I was joking when I wrote my parts of “GOP NAZIS” and all the essays over the years before Trump and afterwards. Or you didn’t look and see what I said at all. Which is fine – I’m not the best messenger. Certainly, I’m no one, and not famous so why would you, in this age of celebrity, have known what I said or given a damn if you’d heard it?
But I am one messenger and one last vestige of an American citizenry that had faith in that Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and their expansion and protection – the protection of actual human beings, all of us. I’m what a “regular” U.S. Citizen used to sound like.
This present “tissue of bullshit,” to quote William S. Burroughs, is not that (protection of our rights and liberties) at all. And it deserves no better than utter contempt and condemnation. The use of the values of liberal democracy to undercut and destroy liberal democracy and its values always was the weak spot in our form of government and society if enough people lost faith in our form of government and could care less about “society.”
“Enough,” more than enough people in the USA and Europe have lost faith in liberal democracy and civil society; it hasn’t ever been a stable thing in the US. We went through a Civil War over it; a hundred years of Jim Crow “laws” and lynchings, bombings, the KKK, an American Nazi Party, various white nationalist/separatist organizations, domestic terrorism, mass xenophobia before and after 9/11… all alongside small steps in the direction of a genuine and humane civilization: universal suffrage for men and women from any and all backgrounds, public education, free speech and privacy expansion, LGBTQ rights, the recognition of black and Latino people as actual human beings, open borders, refuge against tyranny and violence, a decline in anti-semitism, destruction of “laws” against “race mixing,” and so on.
We almost had a public health care system for a moment. Just a moment.
For every advance, a reaction in the opposite direction until, now, a major attempt to roll it ALL back, even the notion of liberal democracy and a republic itself, res publica, the “public thing” that benefits all as an ideal, even when not fully a reality.
THAT decline did not happen in a vacuum. That happened because enough people lost faith in such – and don’t even understand what these things are, how precious, how delicate, how easily ruined from within.
In fact, I don’t doubt 9/10ths of Americans reading these words (if they bother to read anything) even give a damn to find out what they mean. They (we) are angry and emotional, passionate, enthusiastic people and such people as that do not think; they act. And when they act, they destroy. Because creation and preservation can only arise from a calm, thoughtful, care-full consideration as a pre-occupation, pre-activity, a guide for reasonable, self-restrained action later.
If I am doing anything, as I’ve often observed, it is this: Watching and commenting and theorizing for people who are not yet here. People who may find something, anything of worth in the debris of my thoughts as I have little hope for the people presently in the grip of self-imposed or self-accepted delusions. And none of this will survive if you do not remember it and repeat it to others later, by word of mouth, and discuss these ideas. My words will go away soon and my name is written on wind.
These, my countrymen, are not a people who will turn inward and doubt themselves and their beliefs for one moment as that requires effort and results in wonder and not a little fear and humility and a search for solid, rational answers, not the ready-made answers floating in the culture or subcultures that misguided them to begin with. That fed them lies and tribal, parochial myths in place of truth… which is always cosmopolitan in character… that makes one a citizen of the world.
I don’t live in such a place and time. I’m just leaving fragments of a map that might allow others, one day, to go search for that place and moment themselves.
6-7 August 2017
Richard Van Ingram
Links to some evidence:
There it is.
The cover of “SUBVERT COMICS #1” 1970.
In or just before 1976, that’s the first underground comix image that captured my attention and imagination. Never let go of me. Spain, “Spain” Rodriguez.
I always owed him an immense thank you. Still do. Maybe he knows, wherever one moseys off to after this life is done.
Nine or ten years-old. That was my age. Lack of parental guidance — lack of real parenting — can be a really wonderful thing if turned to one’s advantage. Freedom to look at what one damn well pleases as a young person, especially if that young person is artistic and curious, is a gift from HaShem. It was in my case, on the whole.
To paraphrase HST in a different context, I would not recommend this way of life to anyone, but it worked for me. Certainly, do not place your child in such a circumstance on purpose — not now.
Yeah, I was pretty fuckin’ weird for a kid in good and bad ways.
Wasn’t interested in alcohol; less interested in drugs, even dope (i.e. weed). Just didn’t appeal to me, though I had no problem with them to whom it appealed as long as they weren’t assholes. I really hung around, at that time, with next to no one. No, actually, no one at all. I was a loner at that time.
I’m unsure I preferred it that way or not; just worked out that I wasn’t looking for friends at that time. Ah, but don’t waste a moment feeling sorry for me. Don’t need or want that. Things could have been much, much, much worse.
What I had in my favor in the small town of my birth was a resource — a public college, ROTC college, fully funded, strong liberal arts school. Which meant a library. A really well-stocked library. Not huge, but for a ten year-old, plenty. It seemed inexhaustible to me. The stacks were aisles and aisles of mysteries. Not mystery novels, but genuine mysteries — books on every conceivable subject.
And there I was, every day after school, and most all days and half the nights during the summer, wandering the aisles. I knew how to use the card catalogue, but found that just wandering and remembering the regions of the shelves and subjects covered was better. I was on no mission. Just looking for books, books of any sort, anything interesting.
Not “kid books.” Lies and shit, for the most part that stuff was. I began reading at 3, had it down by 6. Past that, it was just using my time to read whatever came into my hands and looking up whatever I didn’t understand. And looking stupid enough that adults couldn’t censor my activities — easily done. If one looked up “innocent moron,” there would have been my photo. Mistakenly categorized. Exterior appearances did not quite line up with interior realities.
So, in the art books, I found a history of the comix; Les Daniels’ history, in fact. Grabbed it up and flipped through to discover an entirely new world… no color plates, but who cared? The history ranged from Golden Age to the “new” Underground Movement that was underway, complete with full issues and healthy excerpts to go with the very helpful prose. And I had a community card — the students who ran the desk would let me check out anything I had guts to walk to the counter. And I walked some pretty hefty stuff up there, some titillating and erotic stuff, violent US Ranger and Special Forces manuals, books on art forms I’d never seen or heard of, classics — and this history of comix.
Looking through more thoroughly, I was introduced to male and female undergrounders. Gilbert Shelton’s Wonder Warthog was hilarious, as were The Freak Brothers. There was Robert Crumb — I recall his story Meatball in there, Victor Moscosco, Kim Deitch, Trina Robbins.
Ah, but Spain.
That cover of Subvert: black and white (in the version I found); violent; to the point (literally); the thought of the return of the Nazi SS in a near future… and Trashman. That was the material in the history — and too damn little of it! — that I inhaled, contemplated, kept returning to after looking at the cartoon nipples and pubes, women, sexy stuff, psychedelia, and absurdity of the other artists. Nope, back around to Trashman, The 6th International, the notion capitalism breeds fascism — Marxism (of a sort) as antidote to oppression.
Shit, I was poor. I bought what I wanted by picking up Coke bottles out of ditches: comics, magazines, paperbacks, and candy, in that order. What the hell was this “International” bit? Why would Nazis come back? I mean, we fought against those sons of bitches just 20 years before I was born – now “communist” was the dirty word, “Marxist,” “socialist.” But not so much in the world of Trashman.
Spain showed a revolutionary sort of average guy, a car mechanic (my old man ran an auto parts store and all I saw and heard about were mechanics, some of whom were pretty cool – so that was easy to see) who became a revolutionary against the fascist/capitalist takeover and exploitation of people who were just trying to live in peace… people who fought back… violently, in the face of ruthlessness.
(No, I’m not recommending actual violence — these violent acts in the comix were symbols of overt resistance to injustice, refusal to knuckle under, to give in, to crawl. I needed that message, being encouraged by everything around me to crawl, conform, give in. It took a long while to work out the deeper meanings. I’m still doing so. But I got THAT much from the images and fictional dystopian stories.)
Comic books with a message… not to beat one over the head with, but as part of the strange tales that unfolded. I went from wanting to be Orion or Captain America to Trashman in about one day. Later, I decided they weren’t all that damn different, in their way. Kirby was doing Captain A and the Falcon back then; it all seemed fairly seamless — one set of stories for kids, the other for adults. Both commentaries on freedom and justice.
Later, I started reading Marx the summer of 1979 along with Hunter S. Thompson… just to understand. Couldn’t find any more Spain Rodriguez for a few years. Did start turning up Gilbert Shelton books in Atlanta at comic book conventions once a year.
So I kept checking out that history of comix at the college, mainly to glimpse Spain’s work. I don’t think anyone else touched that book between ’76 and 1980-’81.
Yep. I didn’t become a Marxist — but I did come to appreciate the truth and insight in some of Marx’s analysis of capital (e.g. the surplus labor theory of value). The more I went into the world to do less than appreciated work, the more I saw how the economic system actually functioned in practice.
A visit from Trashman would have been appreciated more than once, but Trashman is a symbol, not an actual human.
Years passed. I got degrees, I studied and study more. I teach philosophy when I can find a job. I write and draw satirical comix, most political, all liberal to (non-Marxist) “left-ish” leaning, all with a creeping element of horror… as that’s how best for me to represent the world symbolically.
If it hadn’t been for Spain, I might have just aimed at making silly-assed comix or even attempted to go utterly commercial, industrial, never allowing a serious thought to pass my mind in the meantime.
Nope. Not how it happened. For better or worse, or, as is the usual case, both, that cover by Spain awoke my imagination, my curiosity, changed my approach to comic books entirely.
Go read some Spain. You could do much worse here as night genuinely falls and the monstrosities of the Amerikkkan Reich stir in the mansions of the powerful and in the greedy, hate-filled streets and forests and dry, half-alive deserts.
28 July 2017
Richard Van Ingram
[This is a continuation of the preliminary set of notes called “Trump and Bannon Alone Are NOT the Problem” – if you wish to read that, it is here: http://www.richardvaningram.com/?p=473
However, there is no necessity in doing so to understand what I will say here. Clarity will be my aim.]
“You know we got to sit around at home
And watch this thing begin
But I bet there won’t be many live
To see it really end
‘Cause the fire in the street
Ain’t like the fire in the heart
And in the eyes of all these people
Don’t you know that this could start
On any street in any town
In any state if any clown
Decides that now’s the time to fight
For some ideal he thinks is right
And if a million more agree
There ain’t no Great Society
As it applies to you and me
Our country isn’t free
And the law refuses to see
If all that you can ever be
Is just a lousy janitor
Unless your uncle owns a store
You know that five in every four
Just won’t amount to nothin’ more
Than watch the rats go across the floor
And make up songs about being poor…”
Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention
from “Trouble Every Day,” 1966
How did Donald J. Trump wind up in office?
The American voters put him there.
Yes, he lost the popular vote by 3 million; but our system is not a direct democracy. Because he won the states with the most Electoral College votes,
he wound up in the White House.
Never mind the Russian espionage that greased the tracks and slid him in. Never mind he and his administration and untold numbers interacted with and collaborated with Putin and his mobster oligarchy to achieve this end. Never mind that US Americans were bombarded with literally unbelievable propaganda across social media and through actual, legitimate news services that did not perform due diligence concerning the truth of the information and stories they spread.
No, shift your attention to the very people who read, saw, and believed the unbelievable: The voting public. And of that public, only 25% or so bothered to go to the polls; some gave up on the process; some refused to vote for Trump but would not vote for Clinton – meaning, they did not see Trump as any sort of genuine threat. And plenty believed and continue to believe whatever, whichever story — wholly fictional — that appealed to their gut beliefs and unexamined prejudices.
How is this situation a new thing in the world? — in the USA, at any rate.
It isn’t. It is not new, simply qualitatively worse.
Historically, as time and human affairs are a continuum, more akin to a river than a string of pearls, each isolated and distinct, it is a difficult thing to point to any particular region of events and say, “Ah! There. It began there.” It is possible to unravel strands of events back to momentous changes, though usually small and unnoticed at the moment they occur. “There,” we say, “is the cause.”
Yet this is problematic. It seems that human affairs (if not all affairs in this world) are the outcome of multiple causes — some more important, perhaps, than others, but all play some role; and which perspective one chooses, what questions one asks will tend to reveal a cause or cluster of causes while obscuring or hiding the others… allowing us to pretend “as if” they are not there.
(But that is another, epistemological and ontological, tale. I mention it simply to put the reader on guard against overly simplified explanations of this and any phenomenon.)
Where did the public, the citizenry of the USA go wrong? They did go wrong — I take this as given seeing what is running this country now and how it got into power. There was no coup, no military takeover, nothing akin to these. Instead, liberal democracy was employed to defeat the very idea of liberal democracy.
When Stephen Bannon says, in his pseudo-intellectual way, that he is up to “dismantling the administrative state,” he means: “destroying liberal democracy” – our republic, the res publica, the “public thing” of law, of civil liberties and civil rights, of protection of the minority against the unbridled will of the majority, whatever that “minority” may be: intellectual; non-European ethnic; non-fundamentalist Christian religious; non-wealthy white male; non-Eurocentric cultural.
He and the Trumpists are up to wrecking the notion of responsibility, social and political. And every other virtue… which, oddly enough, are the heart of the good inheritances preserved within Western culture.
Trump himself (more on this later) could probably care less one way or another about this. Playing on the prejudices of the white population got him power. Being a cheap nihilist who values nothing except self-aggrandizement by any means necessary, Trump was happy to appeal to neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, neo-Klan, and other “alt right” groups as represented by Bannon. He also appealed to as many other groups and their particular hopes and fears as well, some (if not many) diametrically opposed to one anther.
The people bought it. They each heard what they wished to hear, ignored everything else.
One can and should see Trump as a sort of screen upon which each group projected whatever they wished for most fervently. In return, he and his spokespeople reinforced the diverse and opposed wishes by speaking vaguely, lying outright, and by reinterpreting what was said and claimed to match each groups’ desires.
In return, each group paid attention to whichever messenger told them what they wished to hear and blocked out the messengers and interpreters who presented an opposed message to a differing group. Everyone was promised whatever they wanted, no matter how impossible, within very few limits.
That was the activity; I think it is well-established now and noticed even by traditional political commentators from both American right and left.
How, then, did the public become disoriented in this fashion, to the point they put the most incompetent, careless candidate possible into office?
Could be that the set of moments we are looking for as a starting place (but not origin) occurred a bit before or after ’75, but 1975 will do.
By 1975, the Baby Boom came of age and the Boom outnumbered their earliest children, Generation X, tremendously; and Gen X was still underage, in control of nothing.
Those in control were mainly of the now so-called Greatest Generation which, at the time, the Boom could not hold in lower esteem. This changed, but at that moment, the Boom lost all faith in most things the WWII Generation valued, good or bad.
Among these things was government in general and the Federal Government in particular, and not without reason.
I could talk about domestic spying by the FBI and CIA in the 1960s and early ’70s. I could talk about the Vietnam War and the lies that escalated it and were tied up in keeping it running… for what, in the end, turned out to be no real purpose whatsoever. When Vietnam fell to the NVA, no other “dominoes” followed. Except in the ruins of Cambodia, which were ruins because of our illegalities in Vietnam, opening a vacuum to be filled by the insanities of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, and their “Year Zero” which we conveniently ignored.
No, the obvious place to look is Richard Milhous Nixon, the paranoid bully, and his administration that rigged the 1972 election, among other things. Chased from office under an inevitable impeachment and prosecution, his vice-president, Ford, immediately pardoned him, placing him simultaneously in the category of guilty by admission and untouchable by law.
Now, here the people, the majority of whom still supported Nixon even as he left, saw their “hero” brought low ostensibly by leaks, the legitimate media (which began to be called “liberal,” as in politically slanted to the left), and “radicals.” So the right wing went further right and saw that even the conservatives in Congress turned on their hero, in the end — there came the loss of faith in Congress.
The left and liberals lost faith in government down the line — governmental power was used, illegitimately , to lie to the people, oppress protesters and minorities, and send an entire generation off to die for no good reason.
As a whole, the Boomers “dropped out” again. Became egocentric. Stopped caring for the country in general, taking responsibility for it. Every evil or failure was the failure of someone or something else — usually called “government.” The hippies became the Me Generation devoted to the Hustle (in every sense) and an extreme sort of hedonism and consumerism.
By 1980, they voted Ronald Reagan into office. Reagan who, as governor of California, hammered away at “hippies.” How strange!
But not really — Reagan told them what they wished to hear: “Government is not the solution to our problem government IS the problem.” He announced this as his administration began dismantling all the governmental programs and regulations that made the Boom the most privileged, healthy, and educated in our history. The Boom, in turn, was more than happy to give up on the future of anyone besides themselves.
The Me Generation became Yuppies and began chasing the almighty buck. They moved into management. As a group, they became the “I got mine, fuck you” generation — the children of Ayn Rand and other pop-philosophy, pop-psychology, fundamentalist religious movements. With the advent of the commercial internet, the Californian Ideology emerged, again, heavily influenced by Ayn Rand. The belief was that, using the web, atomistic egos, each motivated by her own utterly selfish interests would cause order to spontaneously erupt, making government obsolete.
This was “The Invisible Hand” of Adam Smith and laissez-faire capitalism turned into an absolute principle of human and political reality, not simply economics (where it isn’t true, either, in any case).
2001, 11 September, New York.
On this day, after America watched a terrorist attack live on television, complete with unedited footage of desperate human beings hurling themselves out windows of the World Trade Center and exploding on the concrete below. Then the things collapsed — something that they were allegedly designed against.
This gave rise to several things:
1. The USA abandoned its commitment to civil liberties and rights in the name of “safety,” which is a myth of the worst sort.
2. Right-wing hate radio began spreading rumors about 9/11 being an “inside job” of some sort; “Truthers,” as they became called, spread baseless rumors that the government blew up the World Trade Center, not the jets and terrorists. Further, they began saying no Jews died — they were warned not to show up to work that day, which is factually untrue and ridiculous. The intention of this latter lie being to spread the neo-Nazi paranoid message that “The Jews” control world history and power — a conspiracy theory contained in the Czarist Russian forgery, “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”, a booklet from about 1900 that has been proven many times to be utterly false but which always has an audience with the fearful, prejudiced, and propagandized.
This was the beginning of a new era of conspiracy theorists and propagandists such as Infowars and Breitbart… but the internet was soon swarming with lesser known neo-fascist, Klan, and Nazi speakers smelling their moment for a power grab.
3. It was declared by the American right-wing that history had changed — that we are in a “new world” calling for a “new approach” that includes declaring wars before the fact of threat, kidnapping, illegal indefinite imprisonment, torture, murder, spying on US citizens with or without legal permission, and other acts contrary to the spirit and letter of The Constitution, Bill of Rights, Common Law, and over 200 years of interpretation and application of law in our country.
“Safety” not law, not effort, not responsibility, and never virtue. The ends justify any means.
The majority of the people enthusiastically and angrily went right along. They threw away their liberties, protections, and those of others without a second thought and attacked and marginalized anyone who spoke out to the contrary.
“You are either for us or against us.”
About 72% of Americans supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, 23% opposed it, according to some polls. Of that 72%, about 52% now claim they were part of the 23% in 2003, oddly. Americans, it seems, cannot even own a mistake, even a massive one — they rewrite their own personal histories. Example:
The “housing crash,” which was the outcome of 37 years of market deregulation, Ayn Rand/libertarian belief in an infinitely expanding, self-regulating market, and fraudulent banking practices on a nigh universal scale.
Common people were left holding the bag, including ownership of houses beyond their means to afford without credit, loss of employment, and being stuck with paying off multi-billionaires and millionaires on Wall Street with tax money to keep the banks solvent and market running. No real conditions to help homeowners or people who lost everything in the stock market crash (after decades of being forced to place retirement funds in 401K stock investment schemes) were placed on the bail-out. So no help was forthcoming.
This was the conservative farewell of the Bush Administration… yet people largely blamed the next president, Barack Obama as the racist reaction to the election of a “black man to the White House” began.
Donald Trump jumped on this bandwagon, fueling the “Birther” conspiracy movement — the groundless assertion that President Obama was not born in America, not an American, and so Constitutionally, an illegitimate president. All nonsense, proven to be so again and again.
But plenty of people, white people, Boomer white people, preferred that tall tale to the prosaic reality and their elected officials on the right and harder-right got into office feeding the overt and covert racism. Pure, hateful fiction replaced reality — and the people, having lost all faith in liberal democracy, government, law, helping one another, and half-terrified of nigh everything put the most ridiculous collection of politicians into office in 2010, 2012, and 2016. The unifying theme: We will destroy the federal government and give the power to the states. Pure Klan-secessionist nonsense we fought a Civil War over in the 1860s and definitively settled… for awhile.
The capstone was the election of Trump. The ultimate representative of the nihilistic, xenophobic, immigrant-hating, ultra-nationalistic, white racist streak that feels free to walk about in public again in all states, not just the Deep South. Some think this is the “last gasp” of the old disorder, the end of the rule of a majority white, European, nominally Christian upper class. I think this judgment is premature in the extreme.
Beginning in the 1980s, our public education system was slowly dismantled. The general education required to raise a minimally responsible set of citizens to, at the very least, vote responsibly and informed was wrecked. Vocational, overly specialized education for “useful employment” became the order of the day, not an education geared for historical background knowledge, clear thinking, judgment, and distinguishing false from true, doubtful from trustworthy.
It is no wonder to me that the vast majority of students who come to even good colleges and universities have absolutely no knowledge of history, even recent history. Math, yes. Some science, maybe. But plenty of them are functionally illiterate — they can read a page out loud perfectly well, but as for interpreting it meaningfully, not so much. Nor do they care or believe such is important. The function of their hoped-for degree is an entrance ticket to a good, high-paying job, and that is all.
And the average attention span is next to nonexistent if the classroom is not kept as entertained as possible and everything broken down into bits than can be regurgitated on a test… preferably multiple choice.
The rest of the citizenry cannot get into college; hardly anyone can afford it with the destruction of the Federal Grant programs. So they pick up their education off mass media — whatever mass media repeats the rumors that square up with their ingrained prejudices and never challenges them to doubt themselves and their beliefs.
A “self-organizing” populace, indeed:
…Otherwise known as a “mob.” And all a mob can do is go along in the general direction everyone else is going because “they” say to do so. Who are “they”? No one in particular. Common opinion. Yesterday “they” loved the Iraq War; today “they” hate it and even lie about their support for it. Because it’s “the thing to do.”
Not following along makes one seen as an “outsider,” even an “outlaw,” Dangerous. Perhaps such a person is a threat to our safety, is the general thoughtless thought. Isolate them, ignore them; eventually, doubtless, attack them. Direct action — violence, the “solutions” of fascism — not indirect action and tolerance, which are the values of civil society and liberal democracy… which are quaint, delicate things we can no longer afford in this new, muscular age of action and destruction.
Donald J. Trump and Company are simply the utterly common, vulgar, valueless destructive mob writ large. “He speaks his mind!” — as if he has a mind or clear thoughts. “He sounds like one of us!” — which is absolutely true — and the sure sign we are as deep in trouble as a society and people as we have ever been. He and they (the GOP and the people who support them) are here to destroy, not create, not preserve, and certainly not to learn.
Do not look to me for answers beyond this point.
Not that I don’t have suggestions or some understanding. But no one is listening. People do plenty of talking and hearing; but there is precious little consideration and listening, My voice, added to that cacophony, will be just one more noise added to the din at this moment.
“People say,” “they say.” This is an age of gossip and lies and the cheapest of fictions substituted for truth. And of a populace unequipped to preserve or even value a constitutional republic, a liberal democracy: the default preference is for action based on gossip and lies that sound pleasant, for cashing everything in right now; not for the effort required to truly be a citizen, an individual apart from, yet a part of and responsible for her community both now and for a future she will never see.
Nothing I say will matter in the face of that. So, I do more showing than telling.
25-25 July 2017
Richard Van Ingram
“As learned commentators view
In Homer more than Homer knew.”
from “On Poetry,” 1733
Before responding to the review in question (hence, the title of this little waste of time), I’d like to say an honest thanks to Rob Clough for actually taking some time to look at the book. No one else bothered to do so, not in any critical sense, and what he said, inasmuch as it is accurate — and, to be sure, there is plenty of truth in what he wrote — is useful for me.
Alien eyes on your work and an honest report back what was experienced and judged is worth more than gold to an artist. There is no anger or recrimination in what I’m about to say (however slightly sarcastic it may sound). In fact, I highly recommend his blog, HIGH-LOW and many others do as well. It received an award for being a top 75 comics blog and I have absolutely no argument with that: he earned it.
The link to the review of LOSER COMIX #2 and other books, 20 March 2017, is here: http://highlowcomics.blogspot.com/2017/03/short-mini-reviews-dzender-tyamamoto.html
By all means, read it and his other reviews. I do so.
As you can see, gentle reader, I quoted Swift at the start, so one could get some notion that I don’t completely agree with the review. In fact, it is mysterious to me how it came to be reviewed by Mr. Clough at all. he reviews mini-comics; this is NOT a mini-comic. And I didn’t send it to him.
LC #2 was published in 2014 — it is now 2017 and I’ve moved far beyond the approaches in that set of works… most of which were made prior to 2014. So, who knows why anyone would send him old, (in some senses) obsolete work that doesn’t fit the category of books he reviews?
Perhaps as a favor; perhaps as a sort of insult. Who knows?
And who cares? I don’t. It’s simply odd.
But it does call for some sort of response as that is now hanging around on the internet and people read it and may have walked away with an impression that, while partially true, is partially problematic. As I am interested more than bothered, I thought I’d say a few words… with pictures to illustrate my points.
I will quote liberally from the review as this, too, is a review and I make absolutely nothing from these essays… in spite of the donate button. Internet = “free,” it seems, so, there you go.
Mr. Clough writes:
“Loser Comix #2, by Richard Van Ingram. These are underground comics in the tradition of Robert Crumb and Skip Williamson, full of heavily-rendered drawings that parody pop culture and politics. This issue was the end result of a Kickstarter campaign and it shows, with high production values and full color throughout. ”
Yes, these ARE underground comix in that tradition, especially that of Skip Williamson. Less Crumb whom I find extremely talented yet overrated. He believes his own press and feigns a sort of self-deprecating humility in his works. As for sexual weirdness, S. Clay Wilson was so bizarre as to be hilarious – Crumb is a pale imitation and, often, not hilarious but disturbing. Either way, none of my books thus far contains much sexual weirdness, not that I am opposed to such — it’s just not my shtick.
Feh. Actually, I am for more influenced by Spain Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton, Jaxxon, Dave Sheridan, and any number of others. The list is very long.
Yes, I often crosshatch. No, I didn’t learn it from Crumb – he didn’t invent the technique. I’m influenced by Hogarth and Goya’s print work; I have a degree in printmaking as an intaglio and relief printer (and an advanced degree in philosophy, but who cares?). At this point, I’m pushing 52 years of age. I learned to draw with pens as a very, very small child, not pencils. 50 odd years with pens in hand. So, there we go.
The book was printed after a Kickstarter campaign that was more successful than I could dream — so I did have good printing. As an object, the thing looks good.
[First tip – this drawing was made in 2012. One can clearly read the date – as one can on all the work in the book. Many of the things in this book were years old by the time they saw print in ’14. Welcome to poverty and indie-publishing. But keep that fact in mind as we go: It’s somewhat important.]
Mr. Clough writes:
“There’s a plague story that’s a thinly-veiled political allegory that has some genuinely funny lines and a densely inked, horrific quality to the art. Van Ingram’s visual sense is perhaps a couple of steps ahead of his ideas,….”
Well, yes, there is such a story — chapter one of “RETURN OF THE PLAGUE.” I’ve never published the rest of it, so it remains to be seen whether and what I have here is an allegory, thinly-veiled or not, and whether or not, taken all together, what one has is a deeper set of symbols with much more than a simple or simplistic political meaning. I think that’s a reductionist reading that comes from skimming, not really paying attention to the references in the piece, and not mentioning that it is one chapter, not the whole story. In fact, I’m afraid one of the drawbacks, if not the main drawback in Clough’s review is that he skimmed the comic and didn’t really read it.
Yes, this may be my fault — perhaps my writing is horrible or trite. But as comix are primarily a visual medium and the meaning comes from synthesizing any words with the images, I’d hope my visual sense is primary. Whether it’s ahead of my ideas – as the visuals are the concretization of the ideas — I find difficult to accept. We’ll see.
[First, a splash page. Yes, there’s a nude. We’ll get back to that.]
OK. There’s “RETURN OF THE PLAGUE” Part One.
On the down side –
a) I experimented with fonts. Some are too small; others not easy to read once printed. There are a couple of mistakes when I typed, and I didn’t catch them, either.
b) The whole thing – this story and the entire book – was an experiment. A variety show; different styles, different approaches; different techniques. I keep the styles and techniques consistent, as you will see, within each story or vignette, but there is no overall unification in approach.
c) This was on purpose, but I’m not sure it was good judgment. I wanted to see, by feedback, what viewers wished to see more of and what they wished to less of in future work. I have no idea, myself, without asking and showing. But it does make the book a sort of 1960s-’70s variety show of comix.. by one person. This is an inherent weakness.
On the up side –
a) This story is far more subtle than the obvious surface reading. A closer reading would reveal:
b) There are three major themes at work. 1) The nature of reality as mediated through beliefs (and technology, which is a sort of reified belief system) – e.g. why is this woman viewed as an enemy because she had a cough? 2) The power of false and true stories we tell ourselves, the nature of lie and truth, the difficulty of interpretation, the necessity of doubt, dogmatic certainty as the origin of atrocity and dehumanization. 3) Death is our universal fate. How best to live in the face of it?
c) The title is a tip off. What is this “Plague” that is returning? It’s a reference to Albert Camus’ novel, THE PLAGUE. Also, the old man is the captured Heavy Metal Kid — a reference to William S. Burroughs… and his theme of “The Word Virus.” This is referenced in the newscaster’s narration at the beginning of the story.
These would be played out as the story unfolds in future chapters, but the basis is all there as hooks… if you think about what I’m doing. Which would require reading and thinking, not skimming the story. Whether I pulled that off is one thing; whether the reviewer gave it a fair shake is another. Decide for yourself.
I’m not a “conceptual artist” which, itself, is a disease in contemporary art — the substitution of a mysterious backstory to justify an impoverished presentation. In fact, such artists just need to write down the backstory as an essay and leave off the visuals as that’s really all there is.
I’m not doing that, so one sees what is there symbolically and metaphorically or one doesn’t. In this case, the failure is either in the viewer or in the artist, or both. I remain unsure after the review.
Mr. Clough writes:
“Van Ingram’s visual sense is perhaps a couple of steps ahead of his ideas, like the Loser Tarot. It’s a funny concept that’s beautifully-illustrated, but the actual ideas “The Ex-Wife”, “The Republican” are on the bland side.”
If those were the only two images in the satirical tarot, I might completely agree. Yet, they aren’t and, taken together, they are a sort of story in flashes of encounters; nor are they the entire set: it’s an ongoing project I began in 2004 (though I didn’t mention all of that nor need to do so):
A Tarot deck is many things at once; a satire of a tarot deck could be many things. In this case, it is, as is traditional, a journey; the journey of The Loser into the world and all the things The Loser passes through and is changed by, must face, in the journey of experience. That’s just basic tarot interpretation. “The Loser” is, in part, me as a symbol for my generation, Gen X, (I am on the prow of that generation). It uses some autobiography as a jumping-off point for universal and topical situations and experience… and private, absurd jokes. I was raised in the US American South so images like “The Republican,” while stereotypical, are also ubiquitous and true. Bland? Show that thing to a white trash Republican and tell me how bland the reaction is. Good luck.
Mr. Clough writes:
“The Peanuts parody Chunky Brown is tedious at best, turning Charlie Brown and Linus into loser hipster types, Lucy in [sic] a capitalist femme fatale (in one panel, her nipples poke through her shirt for no discernible reason) who sends them to work at a used bookstore. ”
First, the title of the Peanuts parody is Chunky Brownuts. Again, a sign someone skimmed and did not really read the “tedious” thing. The title has been Chunky Brownuts has been since about 1980 and is written plainly everywhere in the book. Secondly, there are four Chunky Brownuts stories in here in four styles, the latter two stories featuring the talking dog and his overgrown, anxiety-ridden rooster side-kick.
The Lucy-ish character does have nipples in one scene — she’s an adult, a femme-fatale, and this is a damn underground comic! “No discernible reason…” for nipples?! I’d love to see Clough talk about Crumb, Williamson, or nearly any other undergrounder. Plus, Lucrezia (Lucy) is an archetype of laissez-faire capitalism (and a reference to Lucrezia Borgia, the poisoner) — it’s all a swindle that draws one in by looking appealing and then spits one’s corpse out after extracting all value. As obvious as can be. Nipples, indeed. Plus, by this point in the book I’ve featured two nude women. Suddenly, this bothers the reviewer?
We’ll look first, talk later.
That’s Story Two. If that title isn’t large enough for a blind person to see, I don’t know what to do.
[Actual major flaws here: I should have lettered it with a nib. The art could be much better – I was looking for a style and dropped back to how I drew in the 1980s… in high school. Out of self-serving nostalgia. Bad move.]
Story Three. Notice, I switched focus to Skip Dog and Weirdstock. Are these the “hipster losers”? Most hipsters I observe have money to waste on all manner of stylish things: Hence, “hipsters.” At best, these guys are slackers. Losers to be certain, but read the title of the comic book. I advertised nothing but.
[These are the offending nipples. I apologize on behalf of Deity for creating us as mammals with interesting body parts and shapes I see little reason in pretending don’t exist.]
[Oops. More cartoon nipples. Beware.]
Here we go: Is this just an autobiographical bit (and autobiographical comix are too, too often tedious as hell. If you aren’t a Justin Green maybe you should avoid them)?
As Clough writes, “…[They go] to work at a used bookstore. That latter development was clear [sic] Van Ingram’s way of getting back at his awful used bookstore job, which was probably cathartic for him but not especially relevant for the reader.”
It’s partially autobiographical, but it’s much more about intelligent adults working retail – or any other job – while being treated as serfs by authoritarian little Napoleons who’ve Peter Principled their way into managerial positions.
Is that relevant to any reader in the USA? Beats me. Clough doesn’t think so and is rather dismissive about it; perhaps it’s been awhile since he had to go take a shit job. Or has just forgotten the experience, or had a better one. They do exist. But pleasant experiences don’t make for drama or humor.
“Tedious”? Maybe… maybe not. Again, the reviewer didn’t get the title correct and conflated four stories. This suggests it just wasn’t his cup of tea, he skimmed along, and gave a superficial response more than a critique here.
I’m unsure. But I am sure there’s more here than he strongly suggests. It may not be any good — “good” in this medium has much to do with effectiveness. You judge.
Mr. Clough writes of this story:
“There’s an accurate but tedious bit of social commentary about a yokel voting against his own interests by supporting Republicans.”
First, I’m from the South, born and raised in Southern Appalachia. That “yokel” is a cartoon representative of the people I grew up with – and my sympathies in this comic are with him, oddly enough. He believes in his country, sacrifices his kid to war, works like a dog – because he’s taught hard work eventually “pays off”; his sick wife is exploited by a super-wealthy church, they can’t afford to live like humans… yet he has been propagandized by a party of fucking liars who’ve sold him an empty bag of promises and cliched slogans all his life. And he believes because he is a good person. He’s trusting. He doesn’t believe the flag and bible waving bastards would screw him over and use him for slave labor and could care less if he lives or dies.
Secondly, if The Stinkin’ Rich Dough Boy isn’t a prediction of the coming of Donald J. Trump & Company, I’ll give you a quarter. He’s also a commentary on the materialist direction of The USA since Reagan and the rape of average working people. His story is also a humorous primer on the 2008 economic collapse and the aftermath.
I did this in 2010 or ’11. It was previously published in another magazine and received good reviews.
But it, too, is “tedious.”
At the mention of that word in Clough’s writing for, like, the tenth time, I was ready to send him a thesaurus.
Finally, Mr. Clough writes:
” Van Ingram works best when he works briefly, like a hilarious strip about Richard Nixon seeing the future and the Partridge Family sending a message from 3013 to 1973, thanking them for their help in ousting Nixon and establishing a utopia. A serious strip about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson wouldn’t have been out of place in World War III Illustrated, and here Van Ingram’s dense but colorful style and page design perfectly encapsulates the desperate quality of his text. Van Ingram has a great deal of talent, and it’s clear that he’s trying to find the best way to use it.”
Here, I have nothing to disagree with at all. In fact, it’s flattering.
These were, chronologically, the last pieces I did before printing the book. Factually, the Ferguson incident fired me up, to say the least. It pointed the way for most of my work since 2014.
Why Did I Care Enough To Write This?
There is a unifying theme to this book, which is, at best, a potpourri; at worst, it is a hodgepodge. That theme is antipathy to injustice, intolerance for intolerance.
It’s not a book to be read at one sitting — it’s dense. It has diverse approaches. It flips from one perspective to a radically different one. It has intense sections and lighter sections, darker and more humorous ones… it is all horrific, in some sense.
And maybe that’s why Mr. Clough, with limited time, wound up skimming most of it (which is my guess): Perhaps he attempted to read it all at one sitting as one does a mini-comic. It’s not a normal comic in that sense and, obviously, NOT a mini. It demands some time and attention and consideration. Whether it deserves such is another judgment; maybe it doesn’t and, if not, that is its failure.
Since then, I’ve changed my approach. This was my first serious foray into comix since 1995 — the entire approach and market and audience has changed radically since ’95. So radically, I’m bewildered. I’m also older and isolated. So, this was an attempt to sound out an audience as much as anything. Comix is not a matter of “build it and they will come.” In some sense, one has to attract an audience, but to do that, one has to understand the audience.
Attention spans and background knowledge are not what they were, once upon a time. I thought my audience would be in its 20s; turns out, it’s largely 45 and over. Surprise. And folks in their late teens and into their 20s-30s are not the most politically/socially/philosophically interested bunch, as a group, it seems. They talk, they protest: they do not read.
The line, “Here we are now, entertain us,” was prophetic; and a pure Gen X epitaph for a new generation yet to come of age. But it has arrived. It is Gen Y, The Millennials, a generation with interests that differ from my own, a different historical mission and outlook, a generation as multitudinous as mine is minute.
My work is vaguely entertaining, but only for a niche audience. I don’t attempt to please everyone, can’t. While my work is pop culture, it won’t be popular pop culture. Making this book taught me that. It’s aptly titled. Proudly.
19-20 July 2017
Richard Van Ingram
Many of my books can be read, free, at:
It never happened. Most things don’t.
He stopped in at what passes for a gas station in America, now. Had to pee – long drive in the heat and a steady diet of soda will do that for you. It was a mini-mart sort of affair: some groceries, soft drinks, beer, candy — all overpriced. Convenience is something for which one will pay and pay, and pay some more.
As with most things.
First thing was this when he walked in: a guy, looked as if he hadn’t bathed in days, permanently grey, scruffy face, hair slicked as if he’d wandered out of the 1950s right from a Brill Creme ad aimed at mechanics — this fellow cut him off with a sort of wide headed greenish broom affair. And no wonder. The man’s tea shades were flat black and the lighting in the store was fluorescently next to non-existent.
Talking, talking, talking while he worked, diligently moving the invisible dirt around.
Maybe one of those phones people jam in their ear.
Our friend’s second, and true, thought in these situations was always, “…or schizophrenia,” though. Not that it worried him. Instead, he stepped around the broom-man and proceeded towards the men’s room… only to be cut off at the pass at the end of the narrow lane of shelves by the broom again.
He’s gonna walk right in front of me, slow, all the way down that damned hall to the men’s room.
And, yes, he did. Jabbering all the way, only to stop at the cooler door, inexpertly snap it open, stick his head inside and yell, “Anybody in here drinking it up?! Heh, heh, heh.”
The other man, bladder unyielding in the face of attempts at humor, demanded he slide by the comedian, go into the men’s room, and release the torrent.
Guy’s not wearing the corporate smock.
Great. He didn’t see anyone at the counter, either when he came in. Broom man didn’t work here. Maybe he killed the cashier. Maybe there were looters poking around in the back and this guy was the lookout.
He’d seen beaucoup drunks at this joint and witnessed a couple of brawls. It happened. Anything was possible, though not likely enough to sweat over. Finishing up, he went to wash his hands. The soap in the dispenser was thin, watery, an odd amber color. For a moment, he imagined Brill Creme standing on top of the toilet pissing away into the liquid soap giggling like a child.
Too late – his hands were sudsy-ish, so he rinsed them in the spit-warm water and turned to the air dryer. Broken. Covered in deeply etched graffiti, none legible, skillful, or towards any point other than as evidence some anonymous person had been there to mark territory.
He shook his head and hands and wiped them on his jeans. Exit back into the store to the soda cooler.
At the counter, Brill Creme was chatting up the cashier – maybe – who was a worn, thin woman, the brown corporate smock hanging from her frame three sizes too large. He stepped between the broom man and the counter, set down the soda, and produced three bills from his pocket.
“How are you today?” he asked with some sincerity. Are you being robbed? Is this fool here aggravating you? Or is he some drunk you’re making work off a stolen beer. Or worse, your husband who’s just hanging around taking sips off the Aqua Velva bottles when no one’s looking?
Her weary, dark eyes betrayed no emotion at all, but she managed a bit of a smile.
“Fine,” she said, passing him the change.
Back out into the heat, back into his beat up Toyota lacking air conditioning. He cranked her up, twisted the lid off the Diet Coke and took an unsatisfying swig before rolling out into the 6:37 PM Saturday evening traffic. South Texas was not a busy place at such times, not in the direction he was headed, but the speeding, reckless drivers had to be watched.
Time to mow the lawn. Time to listen to Pete Townshend on the headphones and walk the lawnmower around the uneven back yard, watch the grackles descend to pick off newly revealed bugs and such.
12 June 2017
Richard Van Ingram
Added extra fun:
The US “President” is a kleptocratic thug; son-in-law Jared Kushner is hand-in-glove with him. Both are tools of Putin who is arming the enemies of liberal democracy.
All other talk is noise to hide these basic realities and allied facts… a soap opera to mesmerize you while the thieves are picking your pockets and dismantling your democratic republic, Constitution, laws, precedents, protocols, and preparing for a right-wing clampdown.
30 May 2017
Richard Van Ingram
[Who is Andrew Lack? He runs NBC News and MSNBC for Comcast. Powerful position – he decides what gets shown and what gets cancelled, regardless of ratings. The problem: Lack will likely not renew Lawrence O’Donnell’s (of The Last Word on MSNBC) contract which is up at the end of May 2017 – two weeks, as of this writing. Not due to low ratings – The Last Word has been finishing at #2 right behind Rachel Maddow who is now #1.
Why, then? Only Lack knows for certain, but the outcome would be: Donald Trump, who has a running feud with O’Donnell for calling him out for promotion of racist birtherism beginning in 2011.
Additionally, Lack seems, consistently, to be pushing more and more right-wing personalities onto MSNBC and pressuring the liberal points of view off. A fair report can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lawrence-odonnell-msnbc-future_us_59162d8ce4b00f308cf5534a?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004 .
What’s the point?! I am a citizen of the USA and the freedom of the press and independent, meaningful commentary is the main outside check we have on government, politicians, and the wealthy who influence policy – in short, power. Putting O’Donnell off the air is a sign of a trend and not a good one, one in the direction of “adjusting” to the rule of a man and sis followers who are destroying liberal democracy; not simply here in the USA, but in Europe and elsewhere. What citizens do, what are our responsibilities and right is to speak out, by voting, by writing our representatives, by peaceful protest, activism, by educating ourselves, and by writing those powerful people who control our media.
Not a US Citizen? In this case, it does not matter. You can tell someone who runs a network what you think as well. You are a client of such as much as I am and that is what matters. If you wish to write Andrew Lack. do so here: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/10285339/t/contact-nbc-news/ ]
You were awarded Peabody awards, among other things, in your long career. Those are indeed something to live up to, not rest upon — for us who depend, in part, on television for news and meaningful commentary, the networks and cable news you control are of vital importance.
With the open attacks on First Amendment rights and an independent media we heard from this administration and controlling party, the task of a free media is to push back, not back down.
One way to do this is to continue to support your reporters and commentators who do this daily and have done so, especially in the past two years.
No, you are not “the opposition party.” Neither are you the “give the people what they want to hear” party nor the “appear less threatening to opponents of civil liberties” party.
One understands: in part, you are in it for the money. The news division is alleged to be separate and distinct from the entertainment division; but that was already a difficulty in the age of Murrow and only became murkier. The news division is in it for the truth, or ought to be, and the commentary section is as well — to offer perspectives on the truth. Whether or not this angers those in power, including investors.
Otherwise, such doesn’t serve the function of an independent public check on power in a liberal democracy. Hence, advertising and entertainment pay for the news, ideally. That, or we wind up with “infotainment.” Which is worse than worthless as such is a weak alloy of provocative fictions and some facts, difficult to disentangle and encourages the viewer to NOT even attempt to tell reality from a story, an imaginary narrative.
We have plenty of that on the radio; and that is the raison d’etre of FOX News.
It is bad enough that you have brought over personalities such as Greta van Susteren who are tainted by the FOX model and who certainly go out of the way to invent excuses for the inexcusable based wholly on a right-wing ideology.
Worse is you seem to be considering not renewing Lawrence O’Donnell’s contract.
Just assume such a decision would run clean contrary to every positive thing just stated about the function of a free media in a liberal democracy.
Including you living up to those Peabody awards.
Renew Lawrence O’Donnell’s contract. Period. This is not the time to cut the teeth and claws off MSNBC or any other form of news and commentary. Otherwise, just rename what you do FOX-esque “infotainment” and we will tune in elsewhere or spend even more time with good papers and other sources of actual news and free, responsible perspectives.
Richard Van Ingram
15 May 2017